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Penn State Football’s 2017 Breakout Players

Our staff has made their cases for individual breakout players for this upcoming football season. Which one has the best shot of making an impact?

NCAA Football: Penn State Blue-White Game Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few weeks, the staff here at Black Shoe Diaries have each chosen an individual Penn State football player to profile as this season’s breakout player. Now that the series has come to a conclusion, we’re leaving it up to you fine readers to determine the 2017 Black Shoe Diaries Breakout Player.

Ryan Bates (sophomore offensive tackle)

What bscaff said: “Bates began his freshman campaign splitting time at left guard, and finished it as a “no help needed” left tackle in the Rose Bowl. Through the last half of the year, Bates was Penn State’s best offensive lineman on a squad that averaged 490 yards and 45.5 points per game...we get to look smart well ahead of John Q Public by proclaiming Ryan Bates as a 2017 breakout player, since he’s already, silently, broken out on film in 2016...As a guard, Bates possesses the agility to get to the second level of the defense, and “engage” linebackers...Bates is smart. He can sniff out ET stunts, and stomp a mudhole in TJ Watt, whom the Pittsburgh Steelers recently handed $9.3 million to play football for them...Feet. And. Hands. Bates has a special pair of each. Wide base, straight back, great balance, never reaches, stays patient.”

Cam Brown (sophomore linebacker)

What Dena said: “In the Michigan game, where the linebacker unit was utterly decimated with injuries and needed all the help they could get, Brown didn’t disappoint...By the end of the Minnesota game, where he notched nine tackles (six solo), Brown was already ranked second on the team for tackles, an impressive feat for a true freshman...Brown’s season didn’t go unnoticed by the team, with coach James Franklin and multiple players mentioning his name throughout the season and touting his pass rush ability, height, wingspan, agility and speed.”

Torrence Brown (junior defensive end)

What Ross said: “Brown’s experience should help to set him apart both as a technician on the field, and as a leader. He’s not the most explosive of the bunch, but has shown an ability to get to the quarterback, although his sack totals decreased last year despite increased playing time. Torrence has proven capable of tracking down fumbles, and forcing them, with 3 fumble recoveries and 2 forced fumbles in 18 games played...While he may not be the most hyped of the potential impact players at defensive end, I expect he’ll be the most consistent producer and an anchor on the outside for the Wild Dogs...If teams decide to attack the outside of the defense, which I expect will be the case, Torrence Brown will be among the first players called upon to step up and force play back into the interior.”

Irvin Charles (sophomore wide receiver)

Kevin Givens (sophomore defensive tackle)

What Chris L said: “Kevin was the ultimate tweener in high school, having played as both outside linebacker and defensive end, weighing in at 205 pounds. He redshirted in 2015, during which time he put on healthy weight - by the time he made his debut in 2016, Givens had packed on 70 pounds, and lined up at the 3T position, where his athleticism was put on full display...Throughout the year, Givens became known as a high-energy defender who was unafraid to move in space to make a tackle, not unlike one Anthony Zettel...Given how productive he was as a third-string tackle, it’s a near-certainty that his already stellar 2016 numbers will increase.”

Jonathan Holland (sophomore tight end)

What Chris T said: “Holland will likely be used alongside Gesicki at times this season, and also possibly as the lone tight end in blocking situations. With Chris Godwin moving on to the NFL, there will be a need for a couple of players that are able to catch the ball over the middle in tight windows. Holland looked good doing that this spring...With [Nick] Bowers red-shirting two seasons ago, then missing last season with an injury, it is Holland that has the game experience, if only on special teams and during the spring game.”

Juwan Johnson (sophomore wide receiver)

What Eli said: “Now that Chris Godwin is onto bigger and better things, it will be Johnson’s turn to have the “out of nowhere” season that has become a staple of Penn State football for the past five years. His height and speed put him in great position to succeed from the get go, but it’s his work ethic and focus on the details that will allow him to have the season most expect him to...the chatter surrounding Johnson has been about his time in the weight room, his focus on doing he little things, and his meticulous study of the game...Johnson has been learning from the top performer at Penn State in the past two seasons, and is now ready to put everything he’s absorbed over that time to use on offense...Johnson’s combination of measurables and intangibles will be on full display this upcoming season.”

Michal Menet (freshman offensive line)

What Clay said: “Coming out of high school, Menet was remarkably technically sound. Offensive linemen can be difficult to project as prospects as they often rely on superior size to dominate the high school level. This wasn’t the case with Menet. Menet has some of the best technique I’ve ever seen out of high school prospect. His initial punch is impressive he’s got great bend...At 6-foot-4, he projects to one of the guard spots but could kick out to tackle in a pinch...If Menet wins the spot, which many believe he will, don’t be surprised if he puts in a freshman All-Big Ten type performance that we saw from Bates last season.”

Shareef Miller (sophomore defensive end)

What Jared said: “Miller gained valuable experience early, as a regular part of Penn State’s deep defensive line rotation...While his numbers may not be eye-popping, his impact was undeniable. Miller regularly caused problems for opposing linemen, often getting into the backfield and harassing the quarterback into a bad play, or containing a ballcarrier to make him change course for a much shorter gain. it’s quite obvious that Miller has the burst of speed and instincts necessary to become a playmaker at defensive end. He also has a massive amount of potential as he enters just his second year of eligibility in 2017...He very well could put it all together this fall, with double digit sacks and All-Big Ten honors as a legitimate possibility.”

Amani Oruwariye (junior cornerback)

What Lando said: “In 2016, Oruwariye appeared in only 11 games, but made an immediate impact in the team’s first game [with a pick six that] stretched the Nittany Lions’ lead to 23-13...Oruwariye might not be a typical stat-stuffer, but he possesses several skills that the Nittany Lions will need in the 2017 football season. First, he has long arms and legs...Second, he has great vision and ball skills, attributes that are obviously necessary for a defensive back...Many young defensive backs rely too much on their speed or acceleration to create turnovers, but Oruwariye trusts his instincts and uses his environment to make an impact-a clear sign of a veteran. Finally, Oruwariye possesses versatility, something that is always needed in the defensive backfield.”

Nick Scott (junior safety)

What Cari said: “After the 2015 campaign, it was announced that Scott would make a move to the defensive side of the ball...Scott’s athleticism served him well in a back up role...he returned to the field as a special teams ace, finishing third on the team in special teams tackles and returning kicks for much of the season...Scott has been a player that Franklin name dropped multiple times during spring practice, and looks ready to compete for, if not dominate, the starting role alongside Allen; indeed, if anything it’s been his position change, not talent, or heart, or will to win, that has held him back. Now that he has more firmly solidified his football mindset into a defensive one, much of the press accounts from the spring indicate Scott has come a far way in the offseason.”

Shane Simmons (freshman defensive end)

What Aaron said: “The Penn State coaches want Simmons to be more than just a passing-down specialist, and that meant redshirting the explosive, 230-pound athlete so that he could focus on the weight room in 2016. The result is an added 20 pounds of muscle that will hopefully transform Simmons into a more versatile player who can not only blow past pass blockers but hold up against the run as well...the odds are that Simmons will start out as a third-down guy in the fall, but if he’s able to showcase his athleticism and learn the defense quickly, the sky is the limit.”

Lamont Wade (freshman cornerback)

What Patrick said: “Wade isn’t the biggest player in the world. He’s only 5-foot-9 maybe pushing 5-foot-10, and he doesn’t have a long wingspan to combat his lack of length either. But outside of that, Wade checks nearly every box. He’s already one of the strongest cornerbacks on the team, something that should be helpful when coming up in run support to make a tackle. He’s just as quick as he is fast, running a 4.4-second 40 in the spring. And like [John] Reid, he has a high football I.Q. and displays the instincts to be at the right place at the right time....Despite being in the limelight since he was 14 years old, Wade still plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a crazy competitor who’s at his best when he’s matched up against the best.”

Robert Windsor (sophomore defensive tackle)

What Garrett said: “All Windsor did [in 2016] was make a great impression, eventually being named All-Big Ten Freshman Team Honorable Mention and being a part of some of the biggest plays of the season for Penn State...Along with size you cannot teach, he showed a good understanding of leverage and advanced hand-fighting skills, a teaching strength of defensive line coach Sean Spencer. He helped solidify a Penn State run defense that despite missing at least one starting linebacker most, if not every game, was good enough to beat run-heavy teams like Wisconsin and held a potent Ohio State rushing attack to just 168 yards on 40 carries...if Windsor does end up being the breakout player, it will be due to the fact that he starts making offenses double team him...If Windsor can get just a little stronger from last year, all while continuing to develop under Coach Spencer, he could give Penn State 30-35 dominant snaps up front...He showed a great motor last year while fresh, and that motor, coupled with his great size and developing skills, will give a Big Ten that lost a lot of good interior linemen fits.”


Who will be Penn State’s breakout player in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Ryan Bates
    (32 votes)
  • 6%
    Cam Brown
    (41 votes)
  • 2%
    Torrence Brown
    (19 votes)
  • 4%
    Irvin Charles
    (29 votes)
  • 6%
    Kevin Givens
    (44 votes)
  • 0%
    Jonathan Holland
    (5 votes)
  • 23%
    Juwan Johnson
    (154 votes)
  • 3%
    Michal Menet
    (26 votes)
  • 10%
    Shareef Miller
    (71 votes)
  • 0%
    Amani Oruwariye
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Nick Scott
    (15 votes)
  • 15%
    Shane Simmons
    (99 votes)
  • 15%
    Lamont Wade
    (100 votes)
  • 0%
    Robert Windsor
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    other (explain in comments)
    (13 votes)
659 votes total Vote Now