For many fans, Penn State football is a year-round event because of recruiting. They hear of the these highly-rated prospects day-in and day-out throughout their recruitments, but then once said recruits get to Happy Valley, the focus on them gets shifted away because of impending redshirt years. With the Blue-White game coming up, it’s a prime opportunity for those coming off their redshirt season to reestablish themselves in the spotlight, and to show that the hype as a recruit wasn’t all for naught.
Here are five rising redshirt freshmen to watch for during this year’s Blue-White game.
WR JUSTIN SHORTER
Did I predict that Justin Shorter would lead Penn State in receptions last year? Maybe. Did he only end up with three receptions? Maybe. But in my defense — and I’m not sure if you all realized this — but Shorter was dinged up throughout much of fall camp. Again, breaking news here, but Shorter was dinged up.
Spin zone: Penn State was able to redshirt Shorter, which means I get to include him in this article. At 6-foot-4, 232 pounds, Shorter is an absolutely massive wide receiver, but he has the speed, acceleration, and overall athleticism to be the deep threat (that’s taller than 5-foot-9, no offense KJ) Penn State’s offense was missing last season. Provided he doesn’t get dinged up again, expect Shorter to quickly remind people why he was the No. 1 wideout in the 2018 class.
TE ZACK KUNTZ
I’ll have more on Zack Kuntz (and the rest of the tight ends) during the tight end preview on Friday, but the basic gist: Kuntz is very tall, very athletic, and very coordinated. He’s still slender as all heck, but even if he won’t provide much as a blocker, there should be a way to utilize his unique gifts as a receiving tight end. Hopefully, those will be on full display on April 13.
DT JUDGE CULPEPPER
After enrolling for May-mester last year, Culpepper now has almost 11 months with the program, which is quite substantial since he was making the move from high school tight end/defensive end to college defensive tackle. While he could still add another 10 pounds or so to his 287-pound frame, Culpepper should be much more prepared for life on the interior of the defensive line. He should get plenty of work next Saturday, giving us a better idea of just how close he is to cracking the defensive tackle rotation.
DE JAYSON OWEH
Staying on the defensive line, defensive end Jayson Oweh might have the highest ceiling of anyone on the team. He has elite size 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and combines that with an absurd athletic ability (4.45 forty, sheeeeesh) — I mean, they don’t come more talented than Oweh. For him though, it’s all about technique and picking up the nuances. His speed rush looked pretty dang good against Kent State, but I’m interested to see how much he’s added to his repertoire in the months since, and how much he’s progressed making the small plays when defending the run.
CB TRENT GORDON
You want to talk about someone who probably isn’t getting enough hype, let’s take a look at Trent Gordon. After enrolling early last winter, he was able to carve out the four-game redshirt role, which probably exceed most people’s expectations for Gordon during his first year. Now a rising redshirt freshman, Gordon should be in a prime position for that fourth cornerback spot behind John Reid, Tariq Castro-Fields, and Donovan Johnson, meaning he’ll see a good bit of the field not just next Saturday, but during the 2019 season as a whole.