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Probing The Portal: Post-Holiday Refresher (12.28.22)

The Rose Bowl might be a week away, but the portal still remains a major focus for Penn State and the college football world at large.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 NIU at Kent State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been 12 days since the last time we probed the portal, and with it being a dead period (AKA no visits), this seems like a good time for a little reset. Who has Penn State offered? How many still remain available? What positions have received the most focus from Penn State? Let’s get into it.


Thus far, Penn State hasn’t offered a quarterback. This isn’t all that surprising given that Drew Allar is very much expected to start this upcoming season, but with the transfer of Christian Veilleux, it’s shaping up to be a very young room. Allar and Beau Pribula are just second-year players, while Jaxon Smolik will be a true freshman. Obviously, any quarterback they bring in would simply just be a veteran depth piece similar to what Hunter Johnson was for Clemson this season.


On a similar note, Penn State has yet to offer a running back, which should be a good sign that Keyvone Lee plans to return to Happy Valley for another season after the Rose Bowl. Provided that Lee comes back, that gives Penn State its top three running backs returning, which nullifies any need (or honestly, ability) to get a running back from the portal. Should Lee decide to play his 2023 season elsewhere though, you could see Penn State start to send out some feeler offers for depth running backs.


Alright. Hopefully you have a couple minutes because wide receiver has been the large focus for Penn State in the transfer portal. All of the following had offers but have ended up elsewhere:

  • Jimmy Horn Jr. (USF —> Colorado)
  • Dorian Singer (Arizona —> USC)
  • Rara Thomas (Mississippi State —> Georgia)
  • Tre Harris (Louisiana Tech —> Ole Miss)
  • Devontez Walker (Kent State — UNC)

While the following have had offers since before 12/16/22 and still remain uncommitted:

  • Dante Cephas (Kent State)
  • Donte’ Thornton (Oregon)
  • Kaden Prather (West Virginia)
  • Devin Carter (NC State)

Since then, Penn State offered two more receivers prospects:

Freddie Roberson, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds (Senior — Eastern Washington)
Stats: 44 receptions, 773 yards, 17.6 YPC, 7 TDs
Hometown: Seattle, WA

Tez Johnson, 5-foot-10, 150 pounds (Junior — Troy)
Stats: 56 receptions, 863 yards, 15.4 YPC, 4 TDs
Hometown: Pinson, AL

So the Nittany Lions are very much in search of wide receivers; at least one, if not two. At this point, Dante Cephas remains the only prospect to have visited campus for an official visit, but that should change after the Rose Bowl when the dead period ends.


Even with Brenton Strange off to the NFL, the Nittany Lions are sitting very well at tight end from a production, talent, and depth perspective. Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren are definitely ready for larger roles, while Khalil Dinkins, Jerry Cross, and incoming true freshman Andrew Rappleyea should all push for rotation snaps.


Penn State has taken some swings at offensive tackles, offering Rhode Island’s Ajani Cornelius and UTEP’s Jeremiah Byers, but neither of those worked out. Rhodes is off to Oregon and Byers is headed to Florida State. In all reality, it’ll be tough to land a starting quality offensive tackle given that Penn State is returning both the starting left tackle and right tackle. There’s just not a totally clear path to playing time which, if you are in the portal, you’d obviously prefer.


Defensive tackle has been similar to offensive tackle, with Penn State offering two prospects: Braden Fiske (Western Michigan) and Elijah Jeudy (Texas A&M). Like offensive tackle though, both have gone elsewhere — Fiske to Florida State and Jeudy to Nebraska.

Defensive tackle is a bit higher of a priority than offensive tackle with PJ Mustipher out of eligibility, but it’s slim pickings in the portal for viable DTs. Not a whole lot of B1G-caliber 300+ pounders just waiting around for an offer.


Since the end of the season, the defensive end depth was given a bit of a blow. Nick Tarburton declared for the NFL Draft, while Rodney McGraw and Davon Townley each entered the transfer portal. Signs that Penn State might need some portal reinforcements? Eh, not really. As currently stands, Penn State could be looking at a three-deep of:

Adisa Isaac — Chop Robinson
Dani Dennis-Sutton — Amin Vanover
Zuriah Fisher — Smith Vilbert

So yeah, not much of a need for defensive end.


Heading into portal season, linebacker was pretty high on my personal list for potential targets. But since that time, Penn State has offered zero linebackers. Personally, I am taking the optimistic perspective on that meaning that Curtis Jacobs comes back for his senior season. With Jacobs back, Penn State has Abdul Carter and Jacobs on the outside, with Tyler Elsdon and Kobe King battling it out once again for the middle spot.


Despite the fact that Ji’Ayir Brown is gone, Penn State is sitting pretty well at safety. Keaton Ellis will be back for his senior season, while Jaylen Reed, Zakee Wheatley, Kevin Winston, and Mehki Flowers give the Nittany Lions a nice blend of talent, production, and depth. No surprise, but safety isn’t a focus in the portal at all.


The numbers are a little light at cornerback for Penn State heading into 2023, and the offers in the portal prove that point. So far, Penn State has publicly offered four cornerbacks, though three of them have committed elsewhere:

  • Tony Grimes (UNC —> Texas A&M)
  • Gavin Holmes (Wake Forest —> Texas)
  • Khyree Jackson (Alabama —> Oregon)

Terry Roberts (Iowa) is the lone cornerback who remains uncommitted, but given his extensive injury history, he doesn’t seem like a super top option for Penn State. There’s also Fentrell Cyrpress (Virginia) and Duce Chestnut (Syracuse) who could be options, but neither has publicized their offers.

Wouldn’t be surprised if this group sees a shakeup after the Rose Bowl. With seasons officially wrapping up for some bowl teams in the coming days, there will certainly be new names added to the list come the first few days of January. Given cornerback coach Terry Smith’s ability to develop NFL talent, I don’t think Penn State will have too much of an issue grabbing a quality player from the portal. Just might take some patience.


Penn State has actually landed two specialists from the portal; one punter and one kicker. The punter is an Aussie coming from Florida Atlantic: Riley Thompson. During his lone season at FAU, Thompson showed he had a big leg, averaging 45.75 yards per punt on 59 attempts. For comparison, Barney Amor averaged 44.06 yards per punt on 49 attempts so Thompson should certainly factor into the punter battle.

At kicker, Penn State is bringing in Columbia’s Alex Felkins who appears to be more of a depth piece than anything else. No offense to Felkins, but over the last three seasons at Columbia he’s averaged 68.8%, 66.7%, and 64.3% on field goals. Unless he takes a big step forward, those just aren’t B1G-quality numbers. I mean, Jake Pinegar was at 75% this year so anything sub-70% is not starter quality.