Penn State hasn't rested on its Big Ten championship this spring, coach James Franklin said, but also needs to differentiate itself on the way to a bigger trophy.
The Lions on Wednesday completed the fifth of their 15 spring practices, the last of which is the annual Blue-White scrimmage April 22. Franklin said that the team improved through the first four sessions and that he hasn't seen "that word" — complacency — surface during drills.
However, Franklin added that "better isn't good enough anymore" when discussing his team's future. Last year, Penn State began spring drills without a single player on the roster who won a Big Ten title.
Franklin extrapolated that to this spring, noting that none of his players has won a national championship nor "beaten certain teams in our league" (such as Michigan). As a result, he challenged the players to "keep elevating."
"We have to find a way to go in a direction we haven't been before," Franklin said. "What are we doing to differentiate ourselves to scratch, claw and chase the people that we're trying to chase? ... [To get] where we want to go, we have to practice at a level that nobody has seen before."
Captains' vote: Penn State last week named quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda and safety/special-teams player Nick Scott as its 2017 captains. The team traditionally votes on captains prior to spring practice and again during training camp.
Those three players were announced as captains prior to spring practice, though, because they received overwhelming vote support from teammates and coaches.
Franklin said that the team could name additional captains before the season begins, based on future voting. The coach is a proponent of having two captains representing offense, defense and special teams.
Who's next at safety?: Marcus Allen will have a new starter alongside him at strong safety, Penn State's most competitive preseason spot.
Two leading candidates to replace Malik Golden are Scott, a redshirt junior, and redshirt sophomore Ayron Monroe. Penn State also has redshirt sophomores John Petrishen and Garrett Taylor competing at the position.
Both Franklin and Allen cited Scott as having among the team's most productive offseasons. Allen called Scott an athlete "who can jump out of the gym" and is elusive with the ball in his hands. Part of that comes from his history at running back.
Franklin said Monroe is "so much more confident in how we do things," and Allen predicted a high ceiling for the safety.
"His athleticism is crazy," Allen said of Monroe. "You guys should see him this year. He's definitely on the rise."
Freshman Wade in the mix: Lamont Wade, a freshman cornerback who enrolled in January, has made an impression during spring drills. Franklin said that he hasn't seen Wade hit the early wall that some freshmen find unavoidable when they first start practicing.
As a result, Wade will have a chance to compete for playing time at a deep position this fall.
'He's got tremendous confidence, as we all saw in high school, but sometimes that goes away when you get to college," Franklin said. "It hasn't gone away [for Wade]. He has a lot of competitive confidence."
A more-competitive Blue-White Game?: Because of the way rosters were divided, the first three spring games of Franklin's tenure haven't been very competitive (twice the score was 37-0). That's the result of Franklin largely grouping his first- and second-team players onto one roster.
Part of that was protecting the health and depth of those scholarship-restricted rosters. Franklin said he intends to change the plan April 22.
"I don't want to go ones and twos vs. everybody else," the coach said. "I want ones vs. two and have, for the first time, a really competitive scrimmage. That should be fun and exciting."
WHEN: 3 p.m. April 22
WHERE: Beaver Stadium
IF YOU GO: Admission is free but parking will cost $20 for those without season tickets.