This past Saturday’s 63-10 win for Penn State provided a strong look at the future of Penn State football. As head coach James Franklin alluded to in his press conference on Tuesday, 11 total Nittany Lions saw their first collegiate action on with seven of those being true freshman.
With the seven new faces seeing the field for the first time, 14 of 21 players from Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class (excluding walk-on Rafael Checa, and then also Nana Asiedu and Jordan Miner) have seen the field.
K Rafael Checa: The coaching staff couldn’t ask for much better out of Checa through his first three games this season. For a true freshman, Checa has been consistent in his kickoffs and has rarely made a mistake.
TE Pat Freiermuth: Freiermuth was more heavily involved in the passing game on Saturday, and he continued his strong run blocking performances in the run game. With the way things are trending, don’t be surprised if Freiermuth is the outright starter at tight end by the end of the season.
LB Jesse Luketa: Through three games, Luketa has looked solid. He’s only gathered four tackles, but Luketa is growing well into his role.
DT PJ Mustipher: Like Luketa, the numbers may not back it up, but Mustipher has shown a ton of potential. Expect to see more and more of No. 93.
LB Micah Parsons: Parsons was expected to be a major contributor from day one, and he’s certainly lived up to the hype, being tied for second on the team in tackles with 16 on the year.
K Jake Pinegar: Pinegar hasn’t had a ton of opportunities to prove himself outside of extra points, which can be a cause for concern as we enter the meat of the schedule, but so far so good for the Iowa native.
RB Ricky Slade: Slade had a tough week two against Pittsburgh, but he found the end zone once again against the Golden Flashes. He’s going to have his struggles, but the future is still bright for the former five-star prospect.
DE Nick Tarburton: After seeing time against App State and Pitt, Tarburton didn’t see the field at all against Kent State. As James Franklin alluded to after the game, Tarburton is someone they’d still like to redshirt, but if the injury bug bites at defensive end, he could be called back into action. “Wait-and-see” approach seems like a good word to use here.
The New Faces:
As mentioned above, seven new true freshman saw their first glimpses of action this weekend. Some of these players will have green lights this season, while others will still preserve their redshirt.
WR Jahan Dotson: One of the star’s of fall camp this year, Dotson made his long awaited debut against the Flashes, seeing time on both on offense and special teams as a punt returner. He’ll most likely get time against Illinois, score permitting, but the coaching staff will have to decide what to do with the Nazareth, PA native going forward.
TE Zach Kuntz: The higher touted prospect of the two tight ends, Kuntz made his first catch against the Flashes which went for a length gain before being called back thank to Justin Shorter’s block in the back. He still needs to add mass, but his time will come to be a star in the offense.
WR Daniel George: It was a hell of a debut for George on Saturday. He was on the receiving end of the longest reception in Penn State history, as redshirt freshman QB Sean Clifford hit George on a double-move for a 95-yard touchdown strike.
CB Trent Gordon: This one was a little surprising, but the Texas native recorded his first career tackle while seeing a decent amount of playing time thanks to the blowout score.
DE Jayson Oweh: Oweh (arguably) had the best debut of any player on Saturday recording his first two career sacks. According to Franklin, Oweh will have the chance to prove himself against Illinois before the coaching staff decides what to do with the four-star recruit the rest of the season.
WR Justin Shorter: The five-star wide receiver from New Jersey finally made his debut on Saturday, but it was good to see the true freshman finally get on the field after being dinged up during preseason camp.
OT Rasheed Walker: Another surprising player to take the field on Saturday, Walker saw a couple late snaps at left tackle. But this seems like nothing more than rewarding a player for being ahead of the curve — Walker will still surely be redshirted.
So far this season, none of these seven players have seen playing time this season. Some of them may in blowouts but in all likelihood, these players will be your true red light players in 2018.
QB Will Levis
OG Bryce Effner
OG Juice Scruggs
DT Aeneas Hawkins
DT Judge Culpepper
LB Charlie Katshir
S Isaiah Humphries