So I think every blog does the “if you could take one player from another team in the conference, who would it be?” roundtable around this time of year. I decided to turn it up a notch. Instead of just one player from one team, what if it was one player from each team on Penn State’s schedule?
Few notes before we start:
- This isn’t necessarily the best player on each team, but rather, how valuable they’d be on Penn State’s roster. Like getting a kicker was imperative, whereas getting a quarterback was not.
- These picks build on each other. It probably won’t surprise you that I’m taking Nick Bosa so I took that into account when/if I’m taking another defensive end.
- I realize this is all nonsense which is why I wrote 1,500 words about it.
CONTENDERS: LT Victor Johnson, LB Anthony Flory, CB Clifton Duck
PICK: LT Victor Johnson
I’ve said it once, I’ll say it twice, and I’ll probably say it like eight more times between now and September 1: Appalachian State is good, folks. They got some ball players. Flory’s a really solid linebacker, while Duck is an extremely productive cornerback with 11 interceptions the last two seasons. That‘s not even to mention running back Jalin Moore, who might be the best offensive player in the Sun Belt. But the pick here is the 6-foot-5, 290-pound left tackle Victor Johnson.
A redshirt junior, Johnson is a two-year starter for the Mountaineers, and is coming off a season in which he was All-Sun Belt first team. Even though I like what Penn State has at tackle in Ryan Bates and Will Fries, bringing in Johnson means the Nittany Lions can move Bates down to guard, which will improve the line as a whole.
CONTENDERS: LT Alex Bookser, LB Oluwaseun Idowu, Nobody
PICK: LB Oluwaseun Idowu
Listen, I’ve been known to take a shot or two at Pitt, but they don’t really have much in the way of talent. Bookser is a solid tackle, but he’s not a tremendous upgrade (if one at all), and having just taken Victor Johnson, it doesn’t make sense to add another tackle. We’ll go with Idowu here, who had a productive 94-tackle, 11.5-TFL season last year. He’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-0, 225 pounds, but he should provide depth at both outside linebacker spots.
CONTENDERS: LB Jim Jones and P Derek Adams
PICK: LB Jim Jones
I thought about going with the punter here and pretending he could just kick, but we’ll again go with a linebacker. At 6-foot-1, 232 pounds, Jones has legitimate linebacker size, and he has the stats to back it up to — 98 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 6 sacks. He very well could be the best linebacker in the MAC, and is one of the few Kent State players with the talent to play top-tier Power 5 football. Jones also has the ability to play inside or the Will, which is valuable in Brent Pry’s scheme.
CONTENDERS: WR Mike Dudek, DT Tymir Oliver, K Chase McLaughlin
PICK: K Chase McLaughlin
Mike Dudek would have been the obvious pick here, but his plague of injuries is just a little too worrisome to take on in my fantasyland. Add in that Penn State needs kicking help, and Illinois’ Chase McLaughlin is a competent kicker, and we’re going with the specialist here.
McLaughlin probably doesn’t have an NFL future, but he’s never missed an extra point, and he was 9-for-9 on kicks inside 40 yards last year. He’s a little shaky beyond that point, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to Penn State’s potentially disastrous kicking situation.
CONTENDERS: RB JK Dobbins, DE Nick Bosa, S Jordan Fuller
PICK: DE Nick Bosa
This actually wasn’t an easy choice for me. I love J.K. Dobbins, and by “love” I mean he absolutely terrifies me. I think he’s the best running back in the country, and I have been making sacrificial offerings of livestock to the football gods so that Urban will continue to give Mike Weber 100+ carries instead. But running back just isn’t that big of a need, especially when Nick Bosa is out there.
I also wouldn’t have minded taking Jordan Fuller, and putting him next to Nick Scott to shore up the safeties. I think I’m actually higher on Penn State’s safeties than most, but having an All-Big Ten safety back there would be pretty sweet. But, I mean, the obvious pick is Nick Bosa. Even with what Penn State has at defensive end in terms of talent and depth, Bosa is just on another level. Absolute freak.
CONTENDERS: WR Felton Davis, LB Joe Bachie, S David Dowell
PICK: LB Joe Bachie
After watching Felton Davis catch LITERALLY EVERYTHING last year during Sparty’s matchup with Penn State, I thought about going with Davis. Penn State isn’t hurting for options on the outside, but adding another proven pass-catcher like to Davis to Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins would shore up any concerns about the unit.
But, again, the answer here is linebacker. Joe Bachie had a breakout season as a sophomore last year, racking up 100 tackles and 7.5 TFLs, and the dude is only going to get better. I’m putting Bachie at the MIKE, letting him lead the defense, and feeling a whole lot better about the middle of the unit.
CONTENDERS: WR Nick Westbrook and S Jonathan Crawford
PICK: S Jonathan Crawford
Again, tempted to go with a wide receiver, but honestly, I don’t think Penn State’s offense needs much improvements so give me the safety! Crawford’s not the most well-known name, but he’ll be a four-year starter in Bloomington, and has totaled some impressive career numbers — 209 tackles, eight interceptions, and four fumble recoveries. He’s a big kid too, coming in at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, and seems like he’d be a great fit next to redshirt senior Nick Scott.
CONTENDERS: TE Noah Fant, DE Anthony Nelson, and S Amani Hooker
PICK: TE Noah Fant
Iowa has some nice options on the defensive side of the ball, but Noah Fant is the easy choice. Penn State has a bit of a hole at tight end, and Fant just so happens to possibly be the best tight end in the country. He’s a solid blocker, a good athlete, and an absolute terror in the red zone, hauling in 11 touchdown receptions last season. He’d give Trace McSorley another option offensively, and just as importantly, will help Miles Sanders and Co. in the running game.
CONTENDERS: DT Rashan Gary, LB Devin Bush, LB Khaleke Hudson
PICK: DT Rashan Gary
As much as I want to take Khaleke Hudson because it is a sin that Penn State slow-played him, Rashan Gary falls into the Nick Bosa “absolute freak” category. While Gary plays defensive end for the Wolverines, Penn State would move the 6-foot-5, 281-pounder inside, and let him wreak havoc at the 3-Tech defensive tackle spot. Gary’s sack numbers aren’t jaw-dropping — just 5.5 last season — but wracking up 11.5 TFLs as a 280+ pound defensive end is stupid impressive. Move him inside, let him get up to a more “natural” 300, and that number would only get better.
CONTENDERS: OT David Edwards and OG Beau Benzschawel
PICK: OG Beau Benzschawel
No offense to Jonathan Taylor who’s already one of the best five running backs in the country, but if we’re stealing someone from Wisconsin, it’s one of its All-Americans upfront. Really, we couldn’t go wrong with either left tackle David Edwards or right guard Beau Benzschawel, but Benzschawel is the pick. He’s started 36 games in a row, and is probably the most complete offensive guard in the country.
Not that Penn State’s offensive line really needed much more help, but again, the value here is too much to pass up. With the selections of Victor Johnson and now Benzschawel, the starting O-Line now looks like this: Johnson-Bates-McGovern-Benzschawel-Fries.
CONTENDERS: DT Kevin Wilkins and LB Trevor Morris
PICK: DT Kevin Wilkins
Not going to lie, not a lot to pick from in Piscataway. Trevor Morris could have provided more depth at linebacker, but we’ll opt for defensive tackle depth instead with Kevin Wilkins.
Wilkins has been a solid defensive tackle for the Scarlet Knights, totaling 44 tackles, but more impressively, 7 TFLs last season. He isn’t going to start at Penn State, but with the way Sean Spencer rotates the Wild Dogs, adding another 6-foot-2, 295-pounder on the interior will only bolster the unit.
CONTENDERS: RB Ty Johnson and DE Jessie Aniebonam
PICK: DE Jessie Aniebonam
Big Ty Johnson guy right here, but again, the defensive end wins out. Aniebonam was out for the season last year after fracturing his ankle against Texas, but he was a terror in 2016, totaling 9 sacks and 14 TFLs.
You know how in basketball, you can never have too many 6-foot-8 combo forwards that can hit threes, make simple passes, and switch defensively? Well, that’s the case with edge rushers in football. Even with Nick Bosa, Shareef Miller, Ryan Buchholz, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Shane Simmons, give me another dude that can just get after the quarterback.