Penn State Football Practice Notebook - 9/8/21
Following a defensive-led win in Madison, Wisconsin, Penn State turns its sights toward its upcoming opponent — Ball State.
The Cardinals may not be a big-time, powerhouse program like Wisconsin, but they are a very good football team and even won the MAC last season.
The Nittany Lions are preparing this week as they do for any other game — with practice and a 1-0 mentality.
Here are three takeaways following the Nittany Lions’ practice Wednesday evening.
Arnold Ebiketie is the real deal
Anyone who watched Penn State take on Wisconsin in Week 1 can tell you, with certainty, Arnold Ebiketie was a huge addition for James Franklin’s defense, and Franklin echoes that sentiment.
“We were very fortunate to get him,” Franklin said.
Franklin also noted that after Ebiketie’s arrival to Happy Valley, they have been working to put on weight.
Ebiketie is listed at 256 lbs on the Penn State roster, compared to the 240 lbs Temple listed him at last year.
Senior wide receiver Jahan Dotson had yet to see Ebiketie play until Saturday, however he had heard of him beforehand.
“It was crazy because he lived up to the hype,” Dotson said. “He’s one of those guys, one of the best guys on the field every time.”
Keandre Lambert-Smith is on the rise
Penn State’s offense has a plethora of weapons; whether it be Dotson, Noah Cain or Parker Washington, to name a few, there is always the threat of a big play when the Nittany Lions have the ball.
One name Penn State fans may still be getting familiar with, though, is Keandre Lambert-Smith.
Last season, in nine games, Lambert-Smith only hauled in 15 passes for 138 yards, but against Wisconsin he was on the receiving end of four passes for 71 yards.
Franklin noted that he is playing more level-headed this year and is avoiding peaks and valleys better than he did in the previous campaign.
“He’s still playing with emotion, passion and confidence but he’s more level,” Franklin said.
On top of the increased maturity Franklin mentioned, his fellow wide receiver, Dotson, noted the mentality of all the wide receivers has assisted in his better play during the infant stages of the 2021 season.
“Every time the ball’s in the air, one of us, it’s [one of the receivers],” Dotson said.
The success for Lambert-Smith early on doesn’t come as a surprise to Dotson, though.
“I knew he had it in him,” Dotson said.
A packed Beaver Stadium will make a big difference Saturday
For the first time since 2019, 107 thousand fans will pour through the Beaver Stadium gates, and for Dotson, that’s what he is most looking forward to about the team’s first home game.
He expressed excitement for not only himself, but for his teammates, some of whom will get the experience the Nittany Lion faithful live and in person for the first time.
“Being that this is my senior year, one of the best fan bases in the country, this is a major opportunity for me and for my teammates,” Dotson said.
Franklin mentioned a few minor challenges that come with being at home such as worrying about ticketing, but also noted there are some big advantages as well.
“Defensively, obviously the huge advantage is them not being able to have a cadence,” Franklin said. “[That] is one of the reasons, not only for talent and the way we’ve developed, that we’ve been pretty high in sacks.”
The home-field advantage is likely to be in full effect for the blue and white when Ball State rolls into one of the loudest atmosphere’s in college football Saturday.
“Being out there with the fans, it’s louder than any place I’ve ever been in the country,” Dotson said. “I can’t wait.”
Zech Lambert is a fourth-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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