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James Franklin Outlines Penn State's Bye Week Plans

Franklin says the Lions are using their bye week strategically to prepare for Michigan and beyond.

Penn State coach James Franklin took practice inside Tuesday, after which he met with reporters during a schedule-adjusted bye week.

The No. 10 Lions will practice twice more before getting a two-day break ahead of their Oct. 15 visit to Michigan. Meanwhile, Franklin and his staff will make some recruiting visits while gameplanning this week.

Before heading out, Franklin offered some bye-week updates about the Lions, including one major personnel announcement.

Smith Vilbert Will Be Unavailable This Season

Franklin said that defensive end Smith Vilbert, who did not play through the first five games, will not play this season. Franklin did not specify a reason. Vilbert continues practicing with the team.

Vilbert, a redshirt junior, was a rising player on Penn State's defense last year. He capped the season with a three-sack performance against Arkansas in the Outback Bowl that offered promise for 2022.

Penn State's Freshman Redshirting Strategy Clarifies

Six true freshmen have burned their redshirts by playing in five games this season. Franklin said that might be the list, unless specific needs arise.

The freshmen who have played in five games are running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, receiver Omari Evans, linebacker Abdul Carter, defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton and defensive tackle Zane Durant. In addition, quarterback Drew Allar and safety Kevin Winston Jr. have played in four games each and likely will burn their redshirts.

"We've kind of made up our mind that, if they haven't played in four games up to this point, we’re going to try to be strategic about these last couple games and redshirt them if we can," Franklin said. "That doesn't mean that we don’t feel that some of these guys could play if we needed them, and we will. But at this stage, we've kind of put guys in a category that you’re playing or we're being as strategic with the last couple as we possibly can. The value at this point if we stay healthy would be to save them for another year."

Fifteen of the 25 players in the 2022 recruiting class has played so far. They can participate in four games and still preserve their redshirts.

Franklin Discusses Ball Security

Was Saturday's game an outlier or cause for concern? Penn State lost four fumbles, all by the running backs, in unfriendly weather conditions against Northwestern. Franklin said after the game that he wouldn't use weather as an excuse but also noted that the team practices ball-security drills daily.

"After something like that happens, obviously you coach it a little bit harder and you hope the players do a better job with it," the coach said.

Penn State's Bye Week Schedule

Franklin and several coaches, including him, will leave for recruiting trips after practice Wednesday. The coordinators will remain in State College for Thursday's practice before hitting the recruiting road. Everyone returns Saturday night to begin Michigan game week Sunday.

While the coaches are out of town, Franklin's group of analysts will scout not only on Michigan but also the following two opponents in Minnesota and Ohio State.

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Defensive tackle Coziah Izzard made his 2022 debut against Northwestern. Franklin called that a "big boost for our defense and our defensive line."

Jake Pinegar and Gabe Nwosu will continue rotating on kickoffs. Pinegar moved into the role the past two weeks after beginning the season handling just field goals.

Quarterback Sean Clifford addressed the team this week, telling players to make sure they have a "very specific plan for how they're going to handle the bye week," Franklin said.

Penn State visits Michigan on Oct. 15. Kickoff is scheduled for noon ET on Fox.

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