Fans and Students Make Return to Beaver Stadium for Spring Practice: Takeaways from the Day

Story posted April 17, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Andrew Field

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — 7,521 fans and first-year students looked on at Beaver Stadium as the Penn State Nittany Lions took the field for their annual Spring Practice on Saturday. It was the 12th practice for the team as they’ll have three more to finish out the spring.

It was a day of many first for the students standing socially distanced in the stands as many chants and songs were taught to them by Blue Band Director Dr. Gregory Drane. Drane wasn’t alone however, and had some help as head women’s basketball coach Carolyn Kieger, PSU Mic Man and Dean Devore (Penn State’s PA Announcer) helped teach songs like “Seven Nation Army”, “Let’s Go State” and many more throughout the day.

Before the team went in the tunnel to get ready for the practice, Penn State head coach James Franklin got on the microphone to address the students in attendance.

“We’re going to work like crazy to make these next four years unbelievable for you,” Franklin said.

Onto the practice, which was formatted as a game but also had punting and kicking drills mixed in along with possessions that started at different hashes and yard lines.

Kalen King was a standout performer on the defensive side of the ball. The true freshman corner took first-team reps and had two interceptions, taking one for a pick-six. He consistently played around the ball and was making plays all day.

Franklin spoke after the game about the qualities he sees in King.

“He’s physically ready,” Franklin said. “We’ve seen it all spring.”

Franklin noted the maturity of King and his knack for constantly being around the ball at all times.

On the offensive side of the ball, Penn State did go under center a few times during the afternoon. The first time it happened, Sean Clifford fumbled the snap, regained control and threw the ball out of bounds. The other time was an end-around play when Christian Veilleux was in at quarterback, and the play lost yardage.

It’s interesting to note, since this is the first time the Nittany Lions have done this in years and all jokes and comments aside, it could potentially be a part of first-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s offense. At the very least, it was the offense trying something different out.

Either way, it is something for everyone to keep their eyes on come fall whether the Nittany Lions add this new “wrinkle” into their offense.

Franklin commented on the offense as a whole throughout the spring and how he perceives the players adjusting to Yurcich’s system.

“I think we’ve laid a really good foundation,” Franklin said. “I like where we’re at, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.”

All three quarterbacks: Clifford, Ta’Quan Roberson and Veilleux saw significant action. All of them had success in the air, and Roberson in particular excelled in both the air and ground game. But all three had slip-ups and mistakes along the day, some of which were a result of King’s plays on the defensive end.

Backup running back Tank Smith stole the show from the running back room, scoring two touchdowns, while Keyvone Lee, Devyn Ford and Caziah Holmes all took reps. Ford returned a kick for a touchdown early on in the game that brought the crowd to its feet as Beaver Stadium roared (less loudly than usual) for the first time in over a year.

Jahan Dotson had a quiet afternoon, but the wide receivers saw significant production from Parker Washington, Daniel George and KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

Former Penn State football players Miles Sanders, Marcus Allen, KJ Hamler, Yetur Gross-Matos and Pat Freiermuth all attended the game.

Even former punter Blake Gillikin made his presence felt with a shirt that said: “Punters are people too.”

The importance of the students and fans was evident as Franklin stressed the need to have everyone back in the stadium this coming fall as long as they do what is needed, like getting vaccinated.

“I want to thank the fans for coming out,” Franklin said. “After last season [the crowd] felt like 75,000.”

 

Andrew Field is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email aaf5329@psu.edu.