Penn State football can’t shake the slow starts through five games this season — the team has been outscored in the first half by 38 combined opponent points — so this week (and through the rest of the season), head coach James Franklin is shaking things up.
Franklin introduced a drill he calls the “chaos period” that forces his first-team players to open practice with the same intensity expected in a game. The only difference, he said, is that in practice they aren’t fully tackling.
“So I have it scheduled ahead of time, whatever it may be, whether it’s third down, one versus ones, whether it’s opening drive of the game, whether it’s red zone, whatever it may be,” he said Tuesday. “And then (defensive coordinator) Brent Pry needs to just call it on the field; coach (Joe) Moorhead needs to call it on the field, (like a) game-like situation.”
The drill is especially important for the coordinators, who don’t know what Franklin has drawn up beforehand. The head coach began implementing the chaos period on Tuesday.
“I thought yesterday was good, we did an opening drive period,” he said after Wednesday’s practice, adding that there were some penalties but they were defensive. Wednesday, he said the team struggled a bit more when the drill was implemented in a third down situational series against a Maryland (who Penn State hosts this weekend) scout look.
Penn State is 15 for 60 in third down conversions this season.
“That wasn’t as clean as we’d like it to be,” he said of the drill. “I thought yesterday was good. Today wasn’t as good in our first time doing (chaos period) third downs. We just need to discuss that a little bit more.”
Cornerback John Reid smiled when he was asked about the chaos period after practice.
“It’s early in practice,” he said. “You get done stretching and getting your blood flow, and as soon as you get done stretching, boom. Right into it. It’s literally like simulating coming out in that first quarter…It’s fast-paced, the offense is fresh, no-huddle is fresh and they’re running tempo. You gotta be ready.”
Franklin said the players have adjusted well, but his hopes are for the coaching staff to make the biggest strides.
“It’s hard to prepare because they don’t really know what it is,” Franklin said. “It’s more for the coaches. The players, it’s not like they know what we’re going to run in practice anyway. It’s more the coaches than anything else, which is why I think we need to clean some things up on third down by using all-purpose plays instead of game-plan specific.”
Proposed changes to satellite camps: On Wednesday, the NCAA announced proposals to tighten the summer format of satellite camps from two periods of 15 consecutive days to a limit of 10 days, not necessarily consecutive.
Penn State traveled throughout the month of June and either attended or hosted more than 15 camps. Michigan, on the other hand, either traveled to or hosted almost 50 in the one-month span.
Franklin said he’s in favor of the shorter period.
“I was like, the poster boy for satellite camps (two years ago). I don’t know why, but I was,” he said. “Somebody else has become the poster boy for satellite camps now. That’s fine with me. And it’s gotten out of control, like a lot of things in life and a lot of things in our profession. It’s gotten into extremes again, and I don’t think that’s what anybody wants.”
Franklin would also prefer if colleges had to host the camps themselves, but should teams travel to other camps, he said, he thinks high schools with heavy recruiting pipelines should not be able to host.
“I don’t think it should be with third parties, recruiting services or things like that,” he said. “I think it should be on college campuses with college staffs. If you want to go somewhere else and do it, great. But it should be run by colleges. I think we’re asking for trouble with those things.”
The NCAA also proposed an early signing period for recruits and the allowance to increase staff from nine assistants to 10.
The council will vote on proposed changes in April. If passed, they would go into effect immediately in that recruiting cycle.