This is the 10th of a 10-part series detailing potential breakout players for Penn State in 2018.
June 4: KJ Hamler
June 5: Garrett Taylor
June 6: Juwan Johnson
June 7: Shane Simmons
June 8: Michal Menet
Monday: Miles Sanders
Tuesday: Micah Parsons
Wednesday: Justin Shorter
Thursday: Lamont Wade
Penn State has a strange situation in the secondary. Even though the program saw four senior starters leave due to graduation in the spring, there is still plenty of experience returning, and the unit might be better in 2018 than it was in 2017. In fact, the secondary has to be better if the Nittany Lions hope to topple Ohio State and Michigan State in the autumn. Last year, the rival schools laid a combined 728 passing yards on Penn State in back-to-back weeks.
One of the reasons why fans are optimistic in the new-look secondary is Tariq Castro-Fields. As a true freshman last season he played in 12 of 13 games, collecting 10 tackles and an interception. Ironically, the best game of his campaign was against the Spartans, as he broke up three passes and was named to Pro Football Focus’s Big Ten Team of the Week.
After an effort like that, Castro-Fields appears ready for starting action, but he’ll likely begin 2018 behind both Amani Oruwariye and the returning-from-injury John Reid on the depth chart. Even if he’s not on the field for every snap, Castro-Fields should still see a lot of playing time in nickel sets, especially with Ohio State and Michigan State posing as major threats early in Big Ten season. If the sophomore can turn one of those break-ups from East Lansing into an interception, it could turn the tide in a rematch of 2017’s pivotal contest.
We shouldn’t rule out Castro-Fields earning a starting role, either. As a four-star recruit out of Maryland who showed the ability to make plays on the ball as a freshman, he figures to be a major factor on Penn State’s defense for at least two more seasons. If his talent shines through during summer camp, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in the starting lineup when the season opens against Appalachian State.