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Success With Hyperlinking Is Talkin’ Bout Practice

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Spring football practice kicked off this week, and the team is hard at work to replicate last year’s Big Ten Championship.

NCAA Football: Penn State Spring Game Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Over at Penn Live, the staff does a deep dive of some of the position battles that headline spring practice - among them, wide receiver, safety, center, and defensive line. For wideout, the names they list to watch are redshirt sophomores Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles and senior Saeed Blacknall; replacing graduating senior Malik Golden at safety seems to be redshirt sophomore Ayron Monroe’s spot to lose. The anchor of the offensive line looks like a battle between sophomore Connor McGovern and walk on redshirt sophomore Zach Simpson, not previously-thought heir apparent redshirt freshman Michal Menet.

As for the line, the coaches are talking up a pair of redshirt freshmen: Shaka Toney (whom everyone’s been raving about, even during his redshirt season) - and Ellison Jordan, who’s coming off of injury but could be a force right this year, and impressing the coaching staff.

"A kid who has really been doing some good things and he’s kind of been under the radar because of his knee is Ellison Jordan," Galt said. "He had that ACL that we had repaired in the summer and I think he’s 9 months post-op so he squatted 405 for 9 (times) today on a repaired knee. He’s going great. Done a really good job in winter workouts, he’s competitive, he’s a really good kid."

Added Franklin: "We haven't really seen him do anything since he's been on campus, because he came in with an issue. So being able to see what Ellison is going to do this spring and whether he's going to have an opportunity to factor in, he's a guy."

Unlike PennLive, Victory Bell Rings thinks that redshirt senior DaeSean Hamilton is the likely successor as the top wide receiver target for quarterback Trace McSorley next year.

Who needs to make an impression this spring? According to Land of 10, it’s redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Zembiec, redshirt junior running back Mark Allen, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Brandon Polk (flying under the radar now that he’ll be back from injury), redshirt sophomore tight end Nick Bowers, redshirt sophomore defensive end Ryan Buchholz, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jarvis Miller, and Monroe.

My takes on this? With McSorley having solidified himself not only as QB1 but a legitimate Heisman contender, Zembiec must battle not only redshirt sophomore Tommy Stevens for the backup job, but also true freshman Sean Clifford when he gets on campus this summer - so he’ll need, frankly, a remarkable spring to break that ceiling. Allen cracked the 3/4 deep last year, but with universally lauded junior phenom Saquon Barkley and sophomore five star Miles Sanders ahead of him, even if he has a great spring with the others on the bench - he’ll still see only back up time, when PSU needs him to spell those two and redshirt sophomore Andre Robinson, or when the Lions are up big.

Polk is a good pick - few are talking about the slot wide receiver after a fairly productive freshman campaign, and then the injury that sidelined him last year and saw others garner more press. Bowers is a solid backup to senior Mike Gesicki and virtually has the #2 TE spot locked up awaiting the arrival in 2018 of the Zack Kuntz and Pat Freiermuth tandem, so he doesn’t really have a lot to prove either way - but both Buchholz and Miller have been lauded and it’s their time to step up, or be passed on the depth chart by younger players who’ve seen time already.

Lions247’s excellent Andrew Callahan has a ranking of the top seven moments from men’s hockey’s remarkable Elite Eight season. It’s worth reliving as we debate whether their feat was truly exceptional, or more expected - or both.

Quick Hits... Penn Live also has a good photo album of spring practice and media day... After being named captain, Nick Scott is finally finding his place at safety... James Franklin has added to his support staff (up next, perhaps - a tenth assistant?)...It’s just the beginning for Penn State Hockey...1989 Penn State graduate and volleyball letterman Chris Chase is getting inducted into the EIVA Hall of Fame... The Women’s Fencing team finished 7th at the NCAAs this year...Chris Godwin keeps climbing up draft boards—CBS now has him as the fifth best wideout in the class.