Penn State coach James Franklin discussed running back Noah Cain's return from injury, the potential for adding a quarterback from the NCAA Transfer Portal and the prospects for a spring Blue-White Game during his spring-practice press conference Monday.
Penn State opens spring drills Monday after completing what Franklin called a successful series of winter workouts. Entering his eighth season at Penn State, Franklin said he and his team are motivated to address the shortfalls of last year's 4-5 campaign.
Some takeaways from Franklin's first spring media session.
Running back Noah Cain's return
Cain, who sustained a season-ending injury in the 2020 opener against Indiana, continues with rehab and could participate in some drills during the second half of spring practice, Franklin said. The coach didn't offer a timeline on Cain's return to the field, however.
Cain averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a freshman in 2019 and was expected to be the lead back last season before being injured. His injury, coupled with the medical retirement of Journey Brown, forced Penn State to play two true freshmen at running back in 2020.
"We fully expect [Cain] back," Franklin said. "When that is, is hard to say."
Finding another scholarship quarterback
Franklin brought in five transfer players during the offseason and certainly is open to pursuing another. Specifically at quarterback.
The Lions begin spring practice with three scholarship quarterbacks, only one of whom has thrown a pass in a college game. Behind two-year starter Sean Clifford are Ta'Quan Roberson, a redshirt freshman who did not play last season, and true freshman Christian Veilleux, who also did not play in 2020 as his high school canceled its season.
Adding a quarterback with college experience would benefit the room, but Franklin said he's being cautious about the process.
"It's about going out and finding a guy that can come in and compete and has some experience," he said. "We'll see how that goes, but we're open to the topic and we're open to discussing it. But we have to make sure that we're bringing the right person in here not only from an academic fit but from a cultural fit and also from a competitive perspective as well. We're not just going to bring somebody in to bring somebody in. We have to make sure that it all makes sense."
Will Penn State hold a Blue-White Game?
Franklin said the athletic department and university administration continue to discuss options regarding a spring game. Penn State also is discussing the possibility of holding in-person graduation ceremonies this spring as well.
Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said recently that Penn State must balance a spring game with the "long view" of continuing to protect the university community. Franklin agreed with that perspective.
"For us, our entire focus is on what can we do to best position us for next year," Franklin said. "We want to try to be able to get back to as close to normal as we possibly can for next season, and I think a lot of things are trending in that direction nationally as well as within our state."
Franklin added that Penn State will conduct its permissible spring scrimmages, whether one is held as a public game or not. Like many coaches, Franklin sounded as though he prefers a closed scrimmage
"A lot of times, those [spring games] in such a public setting are pretty vanilla," Franklin said. "This would allow us to have a true 15th practice where we're putting everything out there from a competition standpoint. But there are still some conversations that are still being worked through, and we hope to make an announcement here sooner rather than later."
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