Baseball helps Penn State’s Hippenhammer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It might have been Mac Hippenhammer’s first touchdown as a member of the football team Saturday night, but it wasn’t the first time Hippenhammer had scored for a Penn State team in his career.

In fact, he scored for head coach Rob Cooper‘s Penn State baseball team this spring while also practicing with the football team leading up to the Blue-White game.

“I actually think his baseball experience was good for him. He got some playing time, whether it’s football or baseball or basketball, that experience is really good,” James Franklin said after Wednesday’s practice at the Lasch Football Complex.

Being a two-sport athlete at the collegiate level is a rarity with what’s at stake in collegiate athletics, but Hippenhammer makes it work at Penn State. Now, it’s paying off for the speedy receiver for the football team and the athletic utility player for the baseball team.

“I think playing any sport at the collegiate level helps, and when I played baseball, it gave me confidence transitioning from baseball to football actually playing a collegiate sport at that level,” Hippenhammer said.

And to Hippenhammer’s credit, he’s been able to handle all of the responsibilities thrown his way by either program with flying colors according to his football coach.

“He managed the baseball responsibilities, the academic responsibilities, and still getting some work for football really well,” Franklin said.

The confidence Hippenhammer has gained by playing for the baseball team and accomplishing what he has in the classroom with the increasing time demands for each sport have him on the right track and will only continue to help his skills on both the diamond and the football field.

“He’s always been a guy that the game of football makes sense to him. He’s one of those athletes where you can say something to him, and he can transfer it to the field,” Franklin said.

More from Franklin:

• On tight end Pat Freiermuth: “He’s very mature, he’s very physical. He’s been upper-250s, 260s (weight) since he’s been here. He’s strong, he’s powerful. He carries his weight the way you really want football players to carry their weight, their lower half. It hasn’t seemed too big for him, and he’s approached it the right way. Right now, the coaches have a lot of confidence in him. You’ll see his role continue to grow as long he keeps approaching the way he has so far. ”

• On Saquon Barkley’s first touchdown: “I only saw the highlights while the game was going on. We communicated. I sent him a message; he responded back. I only saw what was posted on the internet, which was good. I saw (Fox TV analyst) Joel Klatt sent me a message because he had made a comment Saquon couldn’t be an every down back in the NFL, then I messaged him I’d bet him dinner.”

• On animation on sidelines: “I think, more than anything, there were things I didn’t think we were doing well late in the game. And I think one of the things for us, it’s just kinda in my DNA, whether it’s the first quarter and we’re down by seven or its the fourth quarter and we’re up by 21, we’re not going to change how we do things. Put the ball on the ground a few times, we just were sloppy, and we have a standard of how we do things. Score doesn’t dictate that, weather doesn’t dictate that, we’re going to play up to our standards and our expectations. I want to see us finish well. I thought we did some pretty good things, but we didn’t finish the way we should’ve finished.”

• On drops and fumbles: “We put the ball on the ground a few times in terms of fumbles and drops, but also, we didn’t have ideal conditions. We should still be able to make some of those plays we didn’t make on Saturday. Besides that, I’ve been pretty pleased. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Juwan (Johnson). I’ve got a lot in DeAndre (Thompkins), so I think we’ll be fine.”

• On impact of Kevin Givens: “He’s an explosive guy. He’s got great lateral quickness. He’s really strong. We added one of the more explosive players on our team, we added one of the more experienced defensive linemen that we have, so obviously the combination of those things he’s going to have a big presence. We expect him to have a big year.”

More from Hippenhammer:

• On who he celebrated his touchdown with first: “I came to the sidelines and DeAndre, my big mentor, was the first to congratulate me. DeAndre’s just helped me grow as a receiver, and off the field, he’s helped me make the right decisions. He’s just took me under his wing and helped me with the process of everything.”

• On drops: “I’m not concerned about it, because I know we are way better than that, and I think we let the conditions get to us a little bit. I know we’re way better than that. I think it’s tough when you drop the ball, but I think for a good player, a well-rounded player, you gotta flush it and move on to the next play. It’s really hard to do that, but you just gotta control what you can control. You can’t go back.”

• On expectations: “I think the receivers, we have a really competitive group, and the young guys, they’re pushing. During camp, the young guys — Jahan (Dotson), Daniel (George) and Justin (Shorter) — were pushing for spots. Just like (wide receivers) Coach (David) Corley said, positions are open, you just have to compete.”

• On redshirting: “You just have to be realistic with yourself. Last year, we had Saeed (Blacknall), Ham (DaeSean Hamilton), really good guys in front of us, so you just have to be realistic with yourself and know there’s a lot of depth. They might not need you right away. It was good to sit behind guys like Saeed, who’s in the NFL, and Ham. It was good to sit behind them and learn from them.”