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Takeaways from Penn State’s Final Spring Practice

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Some #thoughts

Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State closed out its spring practice with another scrimmage in Beaver Stadium last Friday night. Despite the difficulty in getting tickets, I was stubborn enough to go through the process for nearly two hours and finally acquired tickets, which allowed me to be one of the few thousand in Beaver Stadium last Friday night.

Being the capital J-Journalist that I am, I have some takeaways from the event. You’ll see that I don’t have a run down of every position group, but there were some things that stuck out more than others.


PLAYERS NOT PLAYING

It’s not surprise with this being practice No. 15 and it not being a *real* Blue-White Game, but there were quite a few sit-outs for Penn State. I won’t go through all of them, but a lot of vets — Tariq Castro-Fields, Jaquan Brisker, Ji’Ayir Brown, Derrick Tangelo, Jesse Luketa, Noah Cain, and Des Holmes, among others — saw either no playing time or very little playing time.

QUARTERBACKS

Sean Clifford and Ta’Quan Roberson both looked solid. It certainly wasn’t a spectacular performance from either player, but a mostly clean game from both which is what you’d like to see. I obviously wasn’t at the other Blue-White Game on April 17, but based on updates from that game, it seems like both Cliff and Roberson played better on Friday.

I do want to say for Cliff, he had a very nice throw to Cam Sullivan-Brown on a corner route that put them right inside the 5 yard line. The coverage on it wasn’t super tight, but it was one of those throws that Clifford hasn’t consistently made throughout his career. So it was nice to see him drop it right where it needed to be on Friday night.

RUNNING BACKS

The aforementioned Cain didn’t play, but he was dressed and did go through drills with the rest of the running backs prior to the scrimmage. He (along with walk-on tight end Grayson Kline) also worked out with Dwight Galt on the sidelines, so while the foot isn’t healed yet for full contact, it’s a good sign that he was able to do anything this spring.

As for the running backs that actually played, Jon Lovett certainly has an extra gear that will be a nice change of pace from Cain and Keyvone Lee. I don’t know if Lovett is a sub-4.4 guy, but he’s shifty and quick in bursts. Definitely will have a role in the offense.

Speaking of running backs who are NOT running a sub-4.4, I continue to be a Keyvone Lee guy even if he isn’t winning many races. He’s listed at 6-foot-0, 238 pounds and he is all of that. Such a strong lower half. It’s tough to see him being stopped on 3rd-and-shorts. And with him, it’s not just the brute strength — he’s so patient. Probably because he knows defenders are going to bounce off his tree trunk thighs.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

Not too many notes here. No KeAndre Lambert-Smith so Cam Sullivan-Brown ran with the 1s instead. I am happy to report that Jahan Dotson is still Jahan Dotson, by the way. Long touchdown on the opening drive where he broke at least one tackle. Special player.

Just from a checking the boxes physically standpoint, Theo Johnson might be the most impressive tight end of the James Franklin Era, which is saying something. So big and moves so fluidly.

OFFENSIVE LINE

I didn’t watch the offensive line too closely, but they seemed pretty good all things considered. I thought the running backs generally had holes to run through, and they didn’t give up too many sacks. I know that’s not the most in-depth report, but for a scrimmage, you mostly just don’t want to the OL to be a glaring issue, which they weren’t.

DEFENSIVE END

I think the stock of the defensive end group should be up after the spring. Nick Tarburton is finally healthy, which has been his bugaboo the last few seasons. He won’t put up gaudy stats, but he’s a big, strong kid that moves well and knows the game. Basically, a less lengthy Ryan Buchholz.

Temple transfer Arnbold Ebiketie certainly fits in athletically. Quick first step; brings some real speed to defensive end. Like Shaka Toney did, I’m sure there will be a play or two every game that Ebiketie gets pushed 15 yards up the field, but you can’t teach his quickness.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

PJ Mustipher is listed at 326 pounds — up from his previous high of 311 pounds — and folks, he looks *all* of 326 pounds. Just a mountain of a man. Excited to see him flourish as the 1-Tech.

LINEBACKER

Curtis Jacobs gonna be a problem. It was just one scrimmage, but as far as exceeding expectations go, he certainly did. If I was giving out a Defensive MVP for the scrimmage, it would probably be Jacobs. He popped. No offense to Ellis Brooks or Jesse Luketa, but Brandon Smith and Jacobs are just different level athletes. Which sure, linebacker play isn’t all about athleticism, but the prospects of the Smith-Jacobs duo is exciting.

It looked like Ellis Brooks was wearing white cleats. Penn State’s away uniform is already the best uni in college football, but toss some white cleats on those things — hello.

SECONDARY

No Brisker or Brown so we had a lot of walk-on safeties getting some run. We did see Keaton Ellis finally play safety, which isn’t too surprising given what is at cornerback and Ellis’ skillset. Granted, Ellis didn’t play his best game on Friday night, but that’s too be expected when you’re just in the beginning stages of a transition from one position to another.