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Another Look: 2018 Blue-White Game

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I finally watched the Blue-White game and boy oh boy do I have some thoughts for you.

NCAA Football: Penn State Blue White Game Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

So I’m calling this post “Another Look” because that’s what I called the Rose Bowl one, and I want to be consistent. But to be honest, this is actually my first time watching the Blue-White game. I didn’t go into the game this year (tailgating and was pre-occupied with Game 3 of Sixers-Heat), and never got around to watching it until last night. So, being the blogger that I am, I decided to write down some random thoughts as took in what was the culmination of Penn State’s spring practice.

If you’d like to watch it now too since it’s Friday in the summer, and no one does work on Fridays in the summer, you can watch so right here.

FIRST QUARTER

  • Kicker wearing No. 97? Sam Ficken? Nope, sophomore walk-on Carson Landis. Judging by his first kickoff, probably not someone we’ll see a lot of this coming season.
  • Offensive line left to right: Ryan Bates, Steven Gonzalez, Connor McGovern, Michal Menet, and Chasz Wright. Those first three seem set, and it would be a minor upset if Menet lost the right guard job. At right tackle, I think we’ll see Will Fries in favor Chasz Wright. Fries’ improvement last year from the Iowa game to the Fiesta Bowl isn’t being talked about enough. With another offseason under his belt, I’m expecting another step forward from the redshirt sophomore.
  • Love the two-man running back package with Miles Sanders and Mark Allen. That was one of the things I thought we would have seen last year Saquon Barkley and Sanders, but good to see it could be utilized this year. Whether it’s Allen, Journey Bown, or true freshman Ricky Slade, Ricky Rahne has a stable of running back that he can get creative with.
  • McSorley fires a strike to Cam Sullivan-Brown who gets popped by cornerback-turned-safety Lamont Wade. Interesting year coming up for Wade, who will be vying for the starting safety spot opposite Nick Scott. It’d be hard to say who’s the favorite between Wade, Garrett Taylor, and Ayron Monroe, but if I were a betting man, I’d probably go with Taylor.
  • Touchdown, Mac Hippenammer. Excited to see what he brings to the table this year. Was one of those guys in high school who just operated so smoothly. Could see Hippenhammer — along with fellow redshirt freshman KJ Hamler — take hold of the starting punt return spot this year.
  • Taking a look at the second-team offense, and it’s pretty crazy the transformation of the depth Penn State has built on the offensive line the last few years. Dudes like CJ Thorpe and Mike Miranda would have been starters by necessity in their first or second year, but fortunately, Franklin and Limegrover have done a tremendous job rebuilding that unit.
  • McSorley was lucky that he didn’t have two passes picked off by Zech McPhearson — one he really under threw along the sideline on the first drive, and the other one he forced into the end zone on the second drive.

SECOND QUARTER

  • Mark Allen picks up the first down on a 4th and 3. Touched on it a bit earlier, but that second-team running back job will be intriguing to follow. Allen has always looked solid in the little time he’s gotten, but I have this weird feeling that it won’t take long for Ricky Slade to make his mark with that unit.
  • Reverse to KJ Hamler, and again, just a reminder of the absurd amount of talent Penn State has offensively. Hamler is going to have his fair share of “Oh, my goodness” plays in 2018. If he didn’t tear his ACL the summer before his senior year of high school, I think he would have been a consensus Top 100 recruit.
  • We’re just four minutes into the second quarter, and I’m pretty sure Brelin Faison-Walden has had three blitzes where he jumped the snap count, and yet none of them resulted in sacks. Either way, good to see Faison-Walden healthy. He’s just 208 pounds, so hopefully he added some more mass this summer because Penn State could really use some depth from their redshirt freshmen linebackers.
  • Had to look up No. 90 because I couldn’t remember who that was — was pleasantly surprised to see it’s former defensive end Damion Barber. Looks like he’s benefitted from the switch to defensive tackle. Definitely still has the frame to get bigger, but 6-foot-3, 278 pounds is big enough (for now) to at least provide some depth. Thought he showed some good things during the game.
  • Nick Tarburton making the move to defensive end right away was a smart idea in my opinion. When an 18-year-old has to slim down to 245 pounds to play linebacker, that’s nature’s way of saying he isn’t going to be a linebacker longterm. Give him a redshirt season as a scout team defensive end, let him pack on more muscle, and we’ll see a completely different player next year.
  • I honestly have no idea what to expect of Micah Parsons. I think it’s a lot to ask of a freshman who hasn’t ever played linebacker to be a productive college linebacker year one, but regardless, it’s fun seeing someone with Parsons’ talent rocking No. 11.
  • Also, unless someone wins a Heisman wearing it, never retire numbers. Seeing guys like Jesse Luketa wear No. 40, Charlie Katshir wear No. 45, and Isaiah Humphries wear No. 2 is what makes tradition-rich places like Penn State so special. There’s a standard when a linebacker wears one of those numbers, or when a safety picks No. 2 — let’s keep that in place.
  • No. 41, Dae’lun Darien, now officially at linebacker makes an assisted TFL. He’s a big kid at 6-foot-4, 224 pounds, and despite being a redshirt sophomore, he’s super young. He won’t turn 20 until September 2, which means he’s only nine months older than true freshman Micah Parsons. Still a lot of growth potential for Darien.
  • Finally a Sean Clifford sighting with 1:17 to go in the second. Not really going against the grain here, but Clifford probably has the best chance to takeover the starting quarterback spot in 2020 when Stevens moves on.

THIRD QUARTER

  • Jumping to the White Team’s second possession of the second half, and Journey Brown takes a swing pass for a nice gain. For those that don’t know, I’m the conductor of the Journey Brown Express. Realize he’ll probably only play a minimal role as far as carries go next season, but he’s the exact type of athlete I’d love to have at kick returner — 5-foot-11, 210 pounds and runs a sub 4.4? Uh, yes please.
  • Also while we’re here — has the Blue Band always played non-stop during the Blue-White game? I haven’t been to the game itself since 2015, but I can’t say I remember it back then. Either way, nice touch by Franklin (assuming it’s his doing) by making the game seem more real than it is.
  • Matt Millen mentions that CJ Thorpe is the chippiest lineman at practice, which is good to hear. At 6-foot-3, 322 pounds, Thorpe is a big boy, and it appears that it’s only a matter of time before he’s a full-time starter. Really bright future for the Penn State legacy.

FOURTH QUARTER

  • Jumping to the beginning of the fourth, and maybe it’s because he’s going against some smaller walk-ons, but Donovan Johnson looks bigger than I expected. Regardless, he made a nice break on the ball. Should keep things close with McPhearson for the fourth cornerback spot.
  • Zembiec with a 30-is yard run, though I think he would have been tripped up if the defenders would have been allowed to dive. He, and Clifford too, are better athletes than given credit for. Neither are McSorley or Stevens level, but they aren’t Hackenberg statues either.
  • Touchdown, White Team. Zembiec hits tight end Joe Arcangelo in the flats. Millen points it out, but Parsons gave him way too much space down on the goal line. But again, not that crazy that someone who hasn’t played linebacker before would struggle in coverage.
  • To expound on that, I don’t think it was necessarily the wrong move to start Parsons at linebacker. Penn State clearly has a big need there — both from a depth and talent perspective — while defensive end is legitimately three-deep. But I’m firmly in the “Parsons will be at defensive end by next year” camp, and if I’m wrong and he turns into a stud linebacker, so be it.
  • Clifford hits Brandon Polk down the sidelines with under two minutes left in the fourth. Anyone remember his jet sweep against Temple in 2015? We don’t talk about anything else in that game, but man, what a weird career so far for Polk. Should be more involved this season though.
  • Oh, hello — Clifford to Hippenhammer for the touchdown. Good toss by Clifford, but most of that was Hippenhammer beating true freshman Trent Gordon inside, and then the safety (Justin Neff) being late getting over. Nice play though for two guys in Clifford and Hippenhammer who will most likely connect again on a bigger stage in the future.