To finish up media day, Penn State allowed the media to take in about 30 minutes of practice on a cloudy but warm summer evening in Happy Valley. Here are some takeaways and notes from our limited time on the practice field.
PASS CATCHERS VS THE SECONDARY
We started off practice with some one-on-ones between the wide receivers and tight ends and the cornerbacks and safety down by the goal line. All-in-all, the secondary had a better time of things.
- Former Florida State cornerback AJ Lytton got the better of Norval Black.
- Parker Washington beat Keaton Ellis, though it was tightly contested.
- Ji’Ayir Brown broke up a pass to Brenton Strange — and Tyler Rudolph let Brenton Strange know that he lost.
- Tyler Warren went against Jonathan Sutherland, and had him beat but the throw was a little late. Wasn’t able to see which QB was throwing to him.
- Tariq Castro-Fields got the better of KeAndre Lambert-Smith on a slant route.
- Jahan Dotson vs Joey Porter Jr. was the main event, with Dotson catching the pass — but I believe he was likely out of bounds. Which by the way, you really gain an appreciation for the refs when watching this guys live in-person. I was maybe 5 yards away, and I couldn’t tell if he got his foot down.
One of the major competitions going into the fall camp is who will start at the guard spots on the offensive line. James Franklin mentioned a number of names during his press conference so it’s clear things are still completely up in the air. But at least to start practice, it was Juice Scruggs (right guard) and Anthony Whigan (left guard) who joined the first team of Mike Miranda (center), Caedan Wallace (right tackle), and Rasheed Walker (left tackle).
The second team guards were Sal Wormley (right guard) and the Harvard transfer Eric Wilson (left guard), while Des Holmes worked with the third team at left guard.
Does it really mean much who was first team or second or even third team when Franklin said that none of the spots are close to being locked down? For the most part, probably not. But something to remember.
I walked over to take a look at the defensive line, which were working on staying low off the snap of the ball. Unlike the offensive line, they weren’t lined up in first team or second team groups — really just a mish-mash of players, whether they be defensive tackles or defensive ends.
- John Scott Jr. isn’t as vocal as former defensive line coach Sean Spencer, but he’s a loud guy and the rest of the defensive line is loud too. PJ Mustipher talked a lot. Hakeem Beamon talked a lot. D’Von Ellies talked a lot. Duke transfer Derrick Tangelo talked a lot.
- Jordan van den Berg, who committed and enrolled at Penn State just a couple weeks ago, is certainly quick off the snap. He “won” quite a few of his heats. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 292 pounds — which I’m not sure I totally believe the latter. Regardless of his current weight, he has a great frame to add mass. Was easy to see why Penn State took him and was happy with him enrolling right away.
- I put “won” in parentheses up there because while it didn’t start out as a competition of who could get off the ball the quickest, that’s what it eventually turned into thanks to Beamon and Ellies chirping each other.
- Amin Vanover (6-foot-4, 263 pounds) and Smith Vilbert (6-foot-6, 263 pounds) are some long, lanky dudes. Brent Pry mentioned during his press conference that Vilbert is finally turning the corner from basketball player to football player, but he certainly still looks like a forward. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the 270s this time next year. Massive frame.
- I like D’Von Ellies build. He lacks the length (just 6-foot-1) of some of the other guys, but he’s a stout 303 pounds. Thick lower body.
- Quarterbacks were working on taking snaps under center (no sign of a fullback though), which I know is a welcomed sight for some. They were doing pretty basic drills overall when the media was there. Focused on taking the snap, having the proper footwork when handing the ball off, etc. Towards the end right before we were kicked out, they added in some deep throws, but the throws were to a ball boy so really not much to take away in that respect.
- The kick return unit got a bit of work. Back taking kicks were Jaquan Brisker, Parker Washington, Jahan Dotson, and Caziah Holmes. The running backs were hanging around that area, so Devyn Ford might be in that group too, but I didn’t see him field a kick.
- Noah Cain is thicc. Every Penn State running back post-Saquon gets compared to Saquon physically which is just unfair for the tree trunks Saquon had, but Cain is up there.
- Speaking of physically impressive, Theo Johnson does not look like a guy going into his second season of college football. Just comparing him to fellow 2020 tight end signee Tyler Warren — who is 6-foot-6, 252 pounds — and you wouldn’t believe they are in the same class. Would expect to see Johnson on Bruce Feldman’s annual “freaks” list before his career is over.