Mike Hull merely has heard the "Dawn Patrol" stories, one of which involves teammates carrying 50-pound weights above their heads for two hours.
Since he's been named academic all-Big Ten three times, Hull doesn't expect to see the grueling morning workout. Nor does he want to.
"I've heard some pretty bad stories," Penn State's senior linebacker said. "… If you're there, you're in trouble."
Dawn Patrol is one of head football coach James Franklin's corrective measures to encourage academic progress. Players caught skipping class or "not doing what they're supposed to do" are treated to a 5 a.m. Monday workout that trends toward grueling.
Players do "crazy things," that Hull said he wants no part of but that also serve as proper reminders. Franklin said players run, do pushups or engage in other "uncomfortable" activities. Franklin said that Dawn Patrol is something he doesn't want to inflict on his players. But sometimes they give him no choice.
"If you're not going to go to class and uphold your end of the bargain, then we need to reinforce some things," Franklin said. "Most of the time we don't have to do it, but there are a couple knuckleheads you have to do it with. Usually the fear of Dawn Patrol makes them go to class."
THE ATHLETIC FRESHMEN: Strength coach Dwight Galt recently called Penn State's freshman class the most athletic he has seen. Franklin expanded on that Tuesday, particularly regarding the group's speed.
During spring testing, five players ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds or faster. After the freshman class arrived, that number reached 11.
In addition, Franklin said that freshman defensive back Grant Haley ran the team's fastest 40 time, surpassing receiver DeAndre Thompkins. Further, tight end Mike Gesicki bench-pressed 385 pounds even before getting into the training program.
"With the freshman class, we said, 'Let's test them as soon as they get in to get a true baseline of where they're at,'" Franklin said. "And we're pretty impressed."
Another freshman who might contribute quickly is offensive lineman Chance Sorrell. The tackle, who was 252 pounds when he committed to Franklin, begins training camp at 296. Despite that, Franklin said Sorrell "still looks lean."
LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: Penn State had a leadership council under Bill O'Brien, but it has expanded with Franklin. Kicker Sam Ficken said about 20 players compose the group, including the entire senior class plus representatives from the other classes.
Franklin said he wants to distribute leadership across the team, so voids don't develop or some players become isolated. Ficken said Franklin encourages players to speak up.
"They want people to be vocal, step up and say what needs to be said," Ficken said.
REPLACING 'SPIDER:' Franklin said he's close to hiring a new equipment manager to replace Brad 'Spider' Caldwell, who retired in May after 31 years with the program. He wants someone in place soon, specifically to handle the intricacies of moving a football team to Ireland for the opener.
Franklin said he hoped Caldwell would agree to meet with the new equipment manager to offer his advice on the job.
"The first time I met Spider, I wanted to hug him," Franklin said. "You do not replace a guy like that. You just hire somebody who is really comfortable with who he is and how he runs his program."
GAME WEEKS: Penn State's schedule will change under Franklin, with the off day shifting to Monday. Players will hold light practices Sunday, mostly walk-throughs of mistakes from the previous game and base formations.
Franklin said he likes that schedule because it clears the previous game from the team's system. He plans to maintain that rigid schedule after the Lions return from their season-opening game in Ireland.
"We may be drinking Red Bulls on the field instead of Gatorade," Franklin said, "but we're going to stick to our routine."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun