As you might have heard, Penn State is bringing in a decent 2018 recruiting class. While most of the class won’t make an impact on the field for a few years, let’s take a look at the group of prospects who will have the chance to forgo their redshirt season, and instead will be thrown right into game action.
Listen, I’m not trying to throw unreasonable expectation on a kid who isn’t even on campus yet. But seriously, Justin Shorter very well could be Penn State’s No. 1 wide receiver next season. He’s that good. Size, speed, football I.Q., work ethic — Shorter has it all. He’s going to be an absolute stud, and will help out Penn State’s passing attack from day one.
Parsons isn’t committed yet, but let’s just pretend he is for this exercise. Similar to Shorter, this one is a forgone conclusion. For Parsons though, it’s not a matter of when he’ll play, but where he’ll play. He’s a better fit longterm at defensive end — that whole “getting after the quarterback” thing is important after all — but with Penn State’s lack of depth at linebacker, Parsons may start his career there. While he might be a little big (6-foot-3, 241 pounds) for the position, he’s definitely athletic enough, clocking a 4.66 40-yard dash, and a 4.34 shuttle time (compares favorably to former Northwestern LB Anthony Walker Jr.) in April 2017.
With Saquon Barkley soon off to the NFL, the running back job will be wide open heading into 2018. Miles Sanders might be the favorite to win the job, but even if he does, it’s likely that there will be more carries to go around. That’s where Ricky Slade comes in. Sure, he’s on the smaller side at only 185 pounds, but the kid is electric with the ball, and should definitely have a spot somewhere on the offense.
Okay, I admittedly might be jumping the gun a bit here, but I’m the biggest Isheem Young stan this side of the Mississippi, so I’m going to give him the Green Light. The Nittany Lions will be losing Marcus Allen and Troy Apke, and while there’s some pretty solid options behind them, I think Young puts himself right into the mix when he gets on campus. He’s already 200 pounds, and plays with the instincts and tenacity that a safety in Penn State’s defense needs to play with.
K Jake Pinegar
I can’t say I have too many thoughts on kickers, but expect Pinegar to take over kickoff duties immediately. He’ll also battle Alex Barbir for the placekicking job, too. Cool.
I’ve maintained for a while that I thought Tarburton had no shot at staying at linebacker, but I’ve changed my tune recently. The Nittany Lions need help, desperately, at linebacker, and Tarburton will be physically ready to play right away. Fortunately for Penn State, Tarburton will be enrolling early in January, meaning he’ll be able to partake in winter workouts and spring practice. That could prove crucial as the Nittany Lions look for a replacement at the MIKE for three-year starter Jason Cabinda.
Continuing with Penn State’s struggles at linebacker, Jesse Luketa will come in with the opportunity to see playing time. At 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, he already has good size, but honestly, could stand to slim down a bit. He’s not the elite athlete Parsons is — Luketa clocked in a 5.04 40-yard dash and a 4.51 shuttle — so getting down to the 230 area could do wonders for his quickness.
It’s not very often that a true freshman can be called upon right away at defensive tackle, but Mustipher might just be good enough. He has the size at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, and won’t need all that much technique work. He’s super quick off the ball, and does a very good job of using his hands to disengage blockers. Whether or not Mustipher plays, though, will come down to players on the current roster. Will guys like Antonio Shelton and Fred Hansard take that next step, and be able to hold off the talented freshman?
From what we know about Freiermuth, there’s a solid chance he could see the field next season. At 6-foot-5, 248 pounds, he already has a pretty good frame, and is a good athlete to boot. He’s also a willing blocker, which for young tight ends, is sometimes half the battle. The jump from Massachusetts high school football to the Big Ten will be steep, but Freiermuth checks just about every other box.
I’ve had discussions with other BSD writers (hi Cari and Clay) telling them I didn’t think Zack Kuntz had a chance of not getting redshirted. But after seeing his senior film, I’m changing my tune a bit. While he has a long way to go with his 6-foot-7, 220-pound frame, he’s done a solid job adding size over the last year. He’s also enrolling early, which will give him an extra six months in Penn State’s weight program as he continues to bulk up. More than anything though, he’s just so talented. Such size, such athleticism, such body control. I doubt he’ll be able to do much as a blocker, but line him up off the line or in the slot, and he has the chance to be a special weapon offensively. If he can help the offense next season, I don’t see the point in keeping a redshirt on him.