Penn State

Beat writer Donnie Collins keeps you posted with in-depth analysis and commentary

Another shot for Matt McGloin, courtesy of XFL

Another shot for Matt McGloin, courtesy of XFL

West Scranton legend and former Penn State star quarterback Matt McGloin warms up during training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018. McGloin was assigned Tuesday to play for the New York Guardians of the reborn XFL in 2020. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Matt McGloin’s playing career isn’t over just yet.

The Scranton native and former Penn State star — and current sideline reporter for the Penn State radio network — was named as one of the eight quarterbacks assigned to XFL teams ahead of the league’s first Draft on Tuesday. McGloin is joining the New York Guardians.

We’ll have more on this as the day goes on. But, initial reaction is that this is a huge day for McGloin. New York, clearly, is the kind of market where the spotlight will be on him, and if he does well, he could be a real star of the league considering his Penn State ties and proximity to Scranton, where I’m sure there will be a nice contingent from West Side heading to MetLife Stadium for home games.

The Guardians’ head coach is Kevin Gilbride, who was an offensive minded coach back in his NFL days, when he was one of the best coordinators in the league. So, I imagine Matt will say this is one of the best opportunities he could have asked for given the circumstances.

Scouting the opponent: The Iowa Hawkeyes

Scouting the opponent: The Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa DE A.J. Epanesa led the Big Ten in sacks last year and is looking to get the Hawkeyes back on track Saturday against Penn State. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Each week, Times Shamrock Penn State beat writer Donnie Collins will break down the Nittany Lions’ upcoming opponent. This week, we’ll look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, the No. 17-ranked team in the nation according to the Associated Press (and No. 18 in the coaches poll).

THE OFFENSE

Avg. per game (natl rank)

Rushing offense

174.2 (53)

Passing offense

250 (57)

Scoring offense

27.4 (81)

 

RECEIVERS
WR: 12 Brandon Smith (6-2, 218, Jr), 3 Tyrone Tracy Jr. (5-11, 200, rFr)
WR: 6 Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6-1, 183, Jr), 89 Nico Ragaini (6-0, 192, rFr)
TE: 39 Nate Wieting (6-4, 250, Sr), 42 Shaun Beyer (6-5, 244, Jr)

There aren’t many who talk about the Iowa wideouts, but they’re a handful. Ihmir Smith-Marsette leads the team in total touchdowns with four, but they spread it around pretty equally. Smith-Marsette and junior Brandon Smith both have three touchdown catches, and redshirt freshman Nico Ragaini is a pretty good third-down target. Watch out for Tyrone Tracy Jr., as well; teams have forgotten about him, and he has won his share of battles, averaging 15.8 yards per grab. He has the speed to get to the house if he’s in space. One big difference for Iowa this season is the use of the tight ends. After last year’s duo – Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson – went in the first round of the NFL Draft, Nate Wieting and Shaun Beyer have a combined six catches in 2019.

Iowa QB Nate Stanley

Iowa QB Nate Stanley

BACKFIELD
QB: 4 Nate Stanley (6-4, 243, Sr), 7 Spencer Petras (6-5, 230, rFr)
RB: 10 Mekhi Sargent (5-9, 212, Jr), 28 Toren Young (5-11, 233, Jr)
FB*: 36 Brady Ross (6-0, 246, Sr), 40 Turner Pallissard (6-0, 242, rFr)

*For those who may be unaware, FB is short for fullback. If you don’t know what a fullback is, ask your grandfather.

Penn State knows Nate Stanley well. This will be his third start against them, and he was brilliant in the first at Kinnick in 2017, when he threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown throws went for 21 and 70 yards, and that kind of big strike might be the best way to attack a hard-charging Penn State defense. Last season, he wasn’t so brilliant: He completed just 18 of 49 throws and was picked off twice. Iowa didn’t score an offensive touchdown in that game. Mekhi Sargent is averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season and had a strong game against Penn State last season (16 carries for 91 yards), but the Lions bottled up 233-pound Toren Young, who is averaging 7.1 yards per carry this season. If Iowa is going to win, Stanley, Sargent or Young have to be great.

LINE
LT: 77 Alaric Jackson (6-6, 320, Jr), 71 Mark Kallenberger (6-5, 291, So)
LG: 68 Landan Paulsen (6-5, 305, Sr), 73 Cody Ince (6-4, 287, rFr)
C: 65 Tyler Linderbaum (6-3, 286, rFr), 75 Jeff Jenkins (6-3, 266, rFr)
RG: 61 Cole Banwart (6-4, 300, Jr), 66 Levi Paulsen (6-5, 305, Sr)
RT: 74 Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 322, Jr), 79 Jack Plumb (6-7, 272, rFr)

Iowa’s tackles will be under the microscope against Penn State’s relentless defensive ends, and they’re gifted enough to get the job done, especially with star left tackle Alaric Jackson back into the swing of things after missing three weeks because of injury. That said, Jackson and fellow 320-pounder Tristan Wirfs did not look great against Michigan’s front four last week, and Penn State ate them up last season (Stanley was sacked three times, but pressured on seven occasions). Right guard Cole Banwart has fought through some injury issues this year and is solid, but left guard Landan Paulsen and center Tyler Linderbaum are first-year starters going up against a defensive line that’s feeling it and a linebacking corps that likes to blitz. Iowa can’t play the way it did last week against Michigan and give Stanley or the running game much of a shot to succeed.

THE DEFENSE

Avg. per game (natl rank)

Rushing defense

85.6 (11)

Passing defense

168.6 (12)

Scoring defense

8.8 (3)

 

LINE
LE: 57 Chauncey Golston (6-5, 270, Jr), 92 John Waggoner (6-5, 270, rFr)
LT: 95 Cedrick Lattimore, 54 Davion Nixon (6-3, 309, So)
RT: 74 Austin Schulte (6-4, 287, Jr), 91 Brady Reiff (6-3, 277, Sr)
RE: 94 A.J. Epenesa (6-6, 280, Jr), 52 Amani Jones (5-11, 244, Sr)

One name on this list jumps out, of course. A.J. Epanesa led the Hawkeyes with 10.5 sacks last season despite playing in a rotational role and not actually starting any games, which isn’t easy to do. This year, he’s starting games, but his numbers aren’t quite on last year’s pace. Through five games, Epanesa has 2 sacks and 5 quarterback hurries, but he’s a certain NFL prospect and Penn State will put some extra focus on him. All that said, the rest of his teammates are picking up their games up front. Chauncey Golston gets after it in the running game and is coming off an 8-tackle effort against Michigan that might be his best game. Golston’s old high school teammate, Cedrick Lattimore commands attention in the middle as well. Who starts at the other spot might be worth watching. Austin Schulte started each of the last two games and played well because Brady Reiff was injured. But, it looks like Reiff is ready to return.

LINEBACKER
LEO/CASH: 49 Nick Niemann (6-4, 235, Jr), 35 Barrington Wade (6-1, 236, Jr)
MLB: 34 Kristian Welch (6-3, 239, Sr), 43 Dillon Doyle (6-3, 235, rFr)
WLB: 32 Djimon Colbert (6-1, 235, So), 44 Seth Benson (6-0, 227, rFr)

This is a pretty veteran group for the Hawkeyes, and like all Iowa veterans, they know their jobs, execute them and make very few mistakes. Kristian Welch led the Hawkeyes in tackles in four of their five games this season, and he’s top 10 in the conference with 39 tackles. Djimon Colbert is second on the team with 27 tackles, and he and Nick Niemann are the linebackers the Hawkeyes will use most often on the blitz. Iowa doesn’t do what Penn State does; if the game is close – and most of theirs are – the Hawkeyes stick with the three starters most of the way.

Iowa CB Michael Ojemudia

Iowa CB Michael Ojemudia

SECONDARY
LCB: 11 Michael Ojemudia (6-1, 200, Sr), 20 Julius Brents (6-3, 203, So)
SS: 9 Geno Stone (5-10, 210, Jr), 1 Wes Dvorak (6-0, 200, Sr)
FS: 28 Jack Koerner (6-0, 204, So), 26 Kaevon Merriweather (6-0, 210, So)
RCB: 12 D.J. Johnson (5-11, 183, rFr), 16 Terry Roberts (5-10, 176, rFr)

In a game where Penn State’s defense held the Iowa offense without a touchdon last season, Geno Stone pretty much kept the Hawkeyes in the game with a third-quarter interception return for a score. He’s a ballhawk, covers a lot of ground, and Penn State is worried about the impact he can have this time around, too. He and Jack Koerner are sound technicians who keep the ballcarrier in front of them and are a big reason teams have struggled to hit big plays against the Hawkeyes. They’re tied for third on the team with 20 tackles apiece. Corner Michael Ojemudia has two interceptions this season, which is half of the team total, but the Hawkeyes have played most of the way without 6-foot-0 corner Matt Hankins, a sophomore who led the team in tackles in the Outback Bowl win over Mississippi State in January. There’s a chance he could return Saturday, which could put him in contention for the starting role with redshirt freshman D.J. Johnson, who has been productive in his stead.

THE SPECIALISTS

K: 10 Caleb Shudak (5-8, 180, Jr) OR 3 Keith Duncan (5-10, 180, Jr)
P: 22 Michael Sleep-Dalton (6-0, 212, Sr), 7 Colten Rastetter (6-1, 213, Sr)
H: 7 Colten Rastetter
LS: 50 Jackson Subbert (6-3, 243, Sr), 85 Nate Vejvoda (6-5, 250, Sr)
KR: 6 Ihmir Smith-Marsette, 21 Ivory Kelly-Martin (5-10, 203, Jr)
PR: 89 Nico Ragaini, 6 Ihmir Smith-Marsette

Teams haven’t given Smith-Marsette a chance to return many kicks, which is probably a good strategy considering his game-breaking ability. He’s averaging 22.2 yards per return on the five he has gotten a chance to run back. Ragaini is averaging better than 10 yards per punt return. The Iowa kicking game is strong. Keith Duncan is a veteran, and a big moment doesn’t phase him. He has drilled 11 of 12 field goal attempts this season, and he’s 6 for 6 from beyond 40 yards. Punter Michael Sleep-Dalton, an Arizona State grad transfer, won the starting job from Colten Rastetter in the preseason and has been consistent, averaging 43 yards per boot. He is known for being able to kick with both legs, which matters little statistically. But, teams have come up with some intriguing ways to keep Penn State’s KJ Hamler off balance in the return game on punts, and adding a guess as to the spin on some of these kicks might just add another element to that. Junior Caleb Shudak handles the kickoff duties, but he’s not a put-it-in-the-end-zone-every-time guy. He has 12 touchbacks on 29 kickoffs.

Scouting the opponent: The Purdue Boilermakers

Scouting the opponent: The Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue receiver Rondale Moore will miss the Boilermakers’ game with Penn State on Saturday due to injury. He led the team in receiving and all-purpose yards through four games. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Before each Saturday game, Penn State beat writer Donnie Collins will break down the Nittany Lions’ upcoming opponent, position by position. This week, it’s the Purdue Boilermakers, who are 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten after losing 38-31 against Minnesota last week.

THE OFFENSE

 

Avg. per game (natl rank)

Rushing offense

68.3 (129(

Passing offense

351 (6)

Scoring offense

29.3 (75)

 

RECEIVERS
WR: 3 David Bell (6-2, 210, Fr), 21 Jordan Bonner (6-2, 200, rFr)
WR: 33 Jackson Anthrop (5-11, 190, Jr), 8 TJ Sheffield (5-11, 180, Fr)
WR: 10 Amad Anderson Jr. (5-11, 175, rFr), 17 Milton Wright (6-3, 195, Fr)
TE: 89 Brycen Hopkins (6-5, 245, Sr), 87 Payne Durham (6-5, 255, rFr)

The Purdue offense likes to swing short passes, spread the ball around, get their receivers into space, then hit the occasional home run ball to keep the defense on its toes. But, let’s face it, this scheme worked because of Rondale Moore, who will miss the game with an injury. Moore had nearly twice as many catches (29) this season as Amad Anderson Jr., who is the Boilermakers’ second-leading receiver with 15. But even without him, this is still a group that can beat you. James Franklin compared David Bell – a true freshman his staff recruited hard out of Indianapolis last year – to Nittany Lions great Chris Godwin, and Bell is averaging 17.4 yards per catch this season. Tight end Brycen Hopkins, a Nashville prep star during Franklin’s time at Vanderbilt, can also stretch the field.

RB King Doerue became the first Purdue true freshman since 2005 to score three touchdowns in a game last week against Minnesota.

BACKFIELD
QB: 13 Jack Plummer (6-5, 220, rFr), 16 Aidan O’Connell (6-3, 210, So)
RB: 22 King Doerue (5-10, 210, Fr), 40 Zander Horvath (6-3, 230, So)

Of course, the receiving corps’ ability to break big plays goes hand-in-hand with the quarterback’s ability to get them the ball in space, and Purdue’s starting quarterback – Elijah Sindelar – will also miss the game with an injury. Jack Plummer is a big, strong-armed thrower who can stand in the pocket and survey the field. Despite a rocky outing in his first career start against TCU a week earlier, he looked solid in relief of Sindelar last week against Minnesota, completing 23 of 41 throws for 245 yards and two scores. He’ll need to protect the ball better against the Nittany Lions, though; he has thrown four interceptions in 70 attempts.

LINE
LT: 78 Grant Hermanns (6-7, 295, Jr), 74 Eric Miller (6-7, 295, rFr)
LG: 66 Alex Criddle (6-3, 305, Sr), 58 Jimmy McKenna (6-5, 300, rFr)
C: 56 Viktor Beach (6-4, 305, So), 70 Will Bramel (6-6, 295, rFr) OR 72 Sam Garvin (6-3, 295, So)
RG: 79 Matt McCann (6-6, 305, Sr), 76 Mark Stickford (6-5, 295, So)
RT: 70 Will Bramel, 68 Cam Craig (6-5, 290, Fr)

This is a solid group when it comes protecting its passers, who help out of course by getting rid of the ball quickly. The Boilermakers have allowed just six sacks in four games this season, and even Penn State’s quick defensive line will do well to get to Plummer a handful of times. LT Grant Hermanns and RG Matt McCann are all-conference candidates, but this group has struggled to open running lanes; at 68.3 yards per game, Purdue has statistically the worst running game among Power 5 programs and the second-worst in the nation in the FBS.

THE DEFENSE

Avg. per game (natl rank)

Rushing defense

154.5 (73)

Passing defense

296.5 (118)

Scoring defense

32.5 (108)

LINE
DE: 55 Derrick Barnes (6-1, 245, Jr), 98 Kai Higgins (6-4, 260, Sr)
DT: 98 Kai Higgins, 90 Lawrence Johnson (6-3, 300, rFr)
DT: 8 Anthony Watts (6-4, 300, Jr), 92 Giovanni Reviere (6-5, 270, So)
DE: 5 George Karlaftis (6-4, 265, Fr), 58 Brandon Deen (6-2, 265, rFr)

True freshman DE George Karlaftis has been a revelation for the Boilermakers. He leads the team in tackles for loss (5) and sacks (3) and he’s fourth in tackles while also somehow being a factor in their pass defense; he has defended two passes and intercepted another. This is a group that has generated a pass rush. Derrick Barnes and Anthony Watts both have two sacks, Higgins has one and the Boilermakers have been statistically decent against the run. But, two weeks ago, TCU did push this group around. The Horned Frogs gained 346 yards in their win on the ground.

Purdue LB Ben Holt leads the Big Ten in tackles per game.

LINEBACKER
LB: 36 Jaylan Alexander (6-1, 235, So), 43 Kieren Douglas (6-2, 220, So)
LB: 44 Ben Holt (5-11, 225, Sr), 55 Derrick Barnes (6-1, 245, Jr)
LB: 46 Cornel Jones (6-2, 235, Jr), 36 Jaylan Alexander

Ben Holt is a grad transfer from Western Kentucky who is leading the Big Ten with 11 tackles per game, but this unit hasn’t looked great against the run overall or in pass coverage. Cornel Jones has a propensity for making plays in the backfield, but Jaylan Alexander hasn’t played much, with just one tackle on the season. How this group will defend the speed of the Penn State rushing attack while keeping an eye on tight end Pat Freiermuth is going to be a key for the Boilermakers, not to mention a challenge.

SECONDARY
CB: 23 Cory Trice (6-3, 215, Fr), 2 Kenneth Major (6-0, 195, So)
FS: 27 Navon Moseley (6-0, 200, Sr), 38 Brennan Thieneman (6-1, 210, Jr)
SS: 6 Jalen Graham (6-3, 215, Fr), 29 Simeon Smiley (6-0, 205, Jr)
CB: 7 Jordan Rucker (6-0, 195, rFr), 1 Dedrick Mackey (5-11, 185, So)

The Boilers have shuffled different sets of corners in pretty much from the start of the season, hoping to find a group that will be more effective than their No. 118 national ranking against the pass shows they have been. Coach Jeff Brohm’s depth chart indicates freshmen Cory Trice and Jordan Rucker are next in line. They’re both bigger players – Trice is 6-foot-3 – but Rucker doesn’t have so much as a tackle this season. Dedrick Mackey has statistically been the best corner for Purdue this season, but that’s because he has half of the Boilermakers two – count ’em, two – interceptions this season.

THE SPECIALISTS

K: 85 J.D. Dellinger (6-2, 195, Jr), 37 Chris Van Eekeren (5-11, 205, Fr)
P: 19 Brooks Cormier (6-5, 215, Fr), 38 Zac Collins (6-0, 195, So)
H: 14 Danny Corollo (6-1, 210, Jr), 38 Zac Collins
LS: 31 Nick Zecchino (6-0, 190, JR), 30 Brooks Royal (6-2, 200, So)
KR: 33 Jackson Anthrop, 40 Zander Horvath
PR: 33 Jackson Anthrop, 8 TJ Sheffield

The kicking game could help Purdue win the field position battle if it can manage to otherwise keep the game close. J.D. Dellinger is one of the better kickoff men in the Big Ten, getting touchbacks on 19 of his 21 kickoffs. Brooks Cormier is also averaging 42.2 yards per punt, but 11 of his 17 boots have been returnable. The real question here is how the return game is affected by Moore’s absence, and nobody seems to know the answer. Anthrop has returned 19 punts in his career, but he averaged 1.5 yards per return and the coaching staff was happy to turn those duties over to Moore.

Arrington to appear at casino event Saturday

Arrington to appear at casino event Saturday

Two guys you know, from the old days and now: Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington puts the pressure on then-Purdue quarterback Drew Brees during a game between the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers on Oct. 23, 1999. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

If you’re looking for a unique way to watch Penn State’s homecoming tilt against Purdue on Saturday without driving out to Beaver Stadium, you might find a trip to Mohegan Sun Pocono worth your time.

Casino officials announced Tuesday that Penn State great LaVar Arrington will be on hand Saturday to help celebrate the grand opening of the Unibet Sportsbook, which features six betting terminals and a 28-foot-wide, high-definition video wall that is customizable to either two giant TV screens or modified to accomodate up to 16 games airing at once.

A special ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Unibet will also have 50 Penn State hats and 50 Unibet hats for Arrington to sign for fans, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Before kickoff of the Nittany Lions’ clash with the Boilermakers, Arrington will also be making a bet.

Guess here is he’ll pick Penn State.

Nittany Lions Recruiting Q&A: Safety Ja’yir Brown

Nittany Lions Recruiting Q&A: Safety Ja’yir Brown

Hard-hitting Lackawanna College safety Ja’yir Brown plans to head to Penn State next season. JAKE DANNA STEVENS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Lackawanna College logoLackawanna College wasn’t always a recruiting hotbed for Penn State. For decades under legendary head coach Mark Duda, the Falcons would send their star players to places like Oklahoma and West Virginia. Their most famous player ever, tackle Bryant McKinnie, went to Miami, but only after Duda urged Penn State to take a chance only to be told that the 6-foot-8 future Outland Trophy winner was “too tall” for Joe Paterno’s liking.

That has changed in recent years, of course. Bill O’Brien tried, but ultimately failed, to get tackle Jermaine Eluemunor to go from Scranton to State College, and James Franklin’s teams have brought on several former Falcons to bolster the roster — including tackle Paris Palmer, defensive tackle Brenon Thrift and three current Nittany Lions — safety Jaquan Brisker, guard Anthony Whigan and punter Bradley King.

There are also two current Lackawanna Standouts — receiver Norval Black and safety Ja’yir Brown — committed to the 2020 recruiting class.

“From their experience, they’re seeing our players who are up there now, and how they’re performing,” Brown said. “And, they’re performing at that next level just as well as they’re performing here. Now, they’re coming back and getting more players just as great as the palyers they have now.”

Brown is a big-hitting safety with a nose for the football who expects to be an immediate contributor with the Nittany Lions. Recently, I talked with him about his commitment to Penn State and what makes him one of the best safety prospects in the junior college ranks.

“(Brown), the kid who is going to Penn State, is probably the best (juco) safety in the country. I think he will play immediately there.” — Lackawanna head coach Mark Duda

Q: How do you improve on last year’s 11-0 record, and what role do you play in that as a leader?
JB: You take on what you had last year, and you build on it. From my experience last year, I know what it’s like, I know what it is, I know what we need to do as a team to get where we were last year and to be even better than we were last year. I know what it takes. So, I took what I learned from last year and motivated these guys with the knowledge I gained from Jaquan Brisker, Savion Williams (currently a starting defensive tackle at Tennessee) and Andre Blackett (currently a linebacker at Rhode Island). I tried to install it in these guys’ heads that we need that drive and determination, and we’ll be just as successful as we were last year this year.

Q: How would you describe your style at safety?
JB: I’m a ballhawk. I have a sense for the ball. And my playmaking skills. I’m a very smart player on the field, and I know how to break down an offense. I know how to read the read quarterbacks. My hip mobility is great. I can also stick my nose in the box and make plays.

Q: Jaquan was so dominant last year – how often do you see a defensive back lead the team in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss – and Penn State really likes him. What did you learn from him?
JB: Jaquan is a very hard worker. I had never met anybody like him until I got here in my freshman year. It was like, I knew he was the guy. Coach Duda was telling me about him, but I wanted to see it for myself. Just his determination and his will and the pride he played with allows him to perform at that level.

The Ja’yir Brown Line

Tackles

TFL

INT

PBU

2018

40

2.5

5

3

2019*

11

0

0

0

*Through two games

Q: Last year, you’re looking for a big-time offer. This year, you have it and you’re committed to Penn State. With that settled, is there a different feeling for you this year as opposed to 2018?
JB: Not really. I went into this season the same way I went into last season, thinking I had something to prove. I can play on the big stage. Even though I got to the big stage now, I’m going to prove that I belong there. When I get there right now, I’m going to show everybody that I belong at Penn State. They just weren’t recruiting me to recruit me. I am that guy everyone talks about.

Q: Why Penn State? When you got that offer, what was the difference there?
JB: The belief. The coaches believed in me. They were giving me all the talk and all the knowledge about their program, and I fell in love with the program from there. It’s a great facility, a great coaching staff and we really bonded from the start. Everything fell into place, and I felt like that would be home to me.

Q: How much did you follow Penn State growing up in Jersey? Were they a big deal to you?
A: Not really. For us guys from Jersey, Rutgers was the big school. We didn’t hear too much about Penn State at all until probably my sophomore year of high school. Then the whole Saquon Barkley thing happened and Penn State really blew up. At that point, I was like, “Penn State might be a school I want to consider.” When I got here, they were actually one of the first schools that reached out to me.

Q: Safeties coach Tim Banks has a really good streak going, where he’s putting starters in the NFL. That’s just the way it has been over the last few years. How much do you take that into account, and what does it mean to you when you look at the development of guys like Marcus Allen, Troy Apke and Nick Scott?
JB: Coach Banks, he’s a great guy. I love Coach Banks. We have a great connection. He’s a realist, as I like to say. He’ll tell you what it is and how it’s going to go. As long as you believe in him and what he’s doing, you will make it to that next level, no doubt about it. But that’s the guy for Penn State. Great safeties coach, and Terry Smith is right there alongside of him. You have nothing to worry about with them. As long as you’re there doing the work, those coaches will get you to where you want to go.

Popular HBO series to feature Nittany Lions

Popular HBO series to feature Nittany Lions

Penn State’s preparation leading up to its game against Purdue on Oct. 5 at Beaver Stadium will be featured on HBO.

The Nittany Lions will be one of four teams that will be the focus of upcoming episodes of HBO Sports’ 24/7 COLLEGE FOOTBALL, and the Penn State episode will air at 10 p.m. on Oct. 9. Film crews will follow Penn State for a week leading up to its clash with the Boilermakers.

Florida, Arizona State and Washington State will also be featured.

For more information, here’s the announcement from Penn State.

read more…

Nittany Lions Recruiting Q&A: Lackawanna WR Norval Black

Nittany Lions Recruiting Q&A: Lackawanna WR Norval Black

Lackawanna College wide receiver and Penn State commit Norval Black is off to a fast start with the Falcons. JAKE DANNA STEVENS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Lackawanna College logoNorval Black had one statistical goal entering his sophomore season at Lackawanna College.

Go 11-0. Again.

After the No. 9 Falcons moved to 2-0 on Saturday with a stifling 17-6 win over No. 7 Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, on Saturday, that goal is still on track for the 6-foot-1, 180-pound receiver from Germantown, Md. But even the vaunted Snow defense couldn’t knock him off of whatever personal statistical goals Black might privately hold for himself.

Black caught five passes for 129 yards in the game, bringing his season totals to seven catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaging 28.7 yards per catch on the young season, and this one from Saturday is one of them.

Rivals.com rates Black as a three-star prospect, and after an eye-opening performance during while camping at Penn State in June, he committed to the Nittany Lions shortly after receiving an offer from head coach James Franklin and receivers coach Gerad Parker. It was the first major offer he received.

Recently, I chatted with Black about his sophomore season, his performance during that camp and what led to his Nittany Lions commitment.

Q: Was it surprising to you to get the Penn State offer when you did? You go to camp, have a great weekend and kind of get the offer right then and there.
NB: Yeah, it was a big shocker for me, that Penn State came in with my first offer. But we were talking before and they were saying they liked my game and everything. So, we were talking prior to all of that, and it’s what led me to commit early.

Lackawanna College offensive coordinator Josh Pardini

SCOUTING NORVAL BLACK: Lackawanna College offensive coordinator Josh Pardini
“He came in as a freshman and just took an outside receiver job. I mean, it wasn’t even a debate. He was just faster than everybody else, he made plays on the ball in the air. He made us a quick-strike offense, and that’s what he does now. He went out to Penn State and he ran by everybody. He has a little bit of work to do in the weight room, and he has to grow up a little bit; we talk about that all the time. But athletically, the kid is so gifted. He can track the ball. He can run. There just isn’t much he can’t do. … He is a true deep threat. Teams are ultra-afraid of him. They play safeties 30 yards off the ball. I think he is going to succeed tremendously in that offense because we do a lot of the same stuff they do.”

Q: So, you knew going in that they were interested. How much pressure does that put on you at a camp like that, where you know you need to impress?
NB: My attitude going in was just staying focused, playing how I play and doing what I did all season that led me up to that point. I wanted to keep maintaing everything I did to be Penn State’s guy.

Q: What did you do last year at Lackawanna that helped elevate you to get that offer?
NB: Coach Pardini has a fast-paced offense, and I had the athleticism and the speed to make me successful in that offense.

Q: I saw the video of you from the camp, and everyone was going kind of crazy over your hands, how you made some tough catches and were able to run really sharp routes. How happy were you with that performance? Did you exceed your own expectations in a way?
NB: I was very happy, because I was able to just go in there with the same mentality I always have when I come in here (at Lackawanna) to play the games. Just be focused and do what I do.

Q: Some players who are that happy with their performance might just say, “Thank you so much for the offer,” then see what else comes from it from other schools. You committed to Penn State immediately. What was it about that program that you liked so much?
NB: It’s just the family atmosphere. It’s like Coach (James) Franklin and Coach (Gerad) Parker, all of them, really made it feel like my home even before I stepped on campus. I always told myself, “The first school that talks to me, that’s the one I’m going to take.” Because that’s the one that shows you the most love. And Penn State was the first one, so I took it.

Q: You grew up in Maryland, but how familiar did you feel with the Penn State program before they kind of stepped in and showed interest? Were you a fan? Did you watch their games growing up or anything like that?
NB: I did. I watched Penn State a lot growing up. I played NCAA Football video games a lot with Penn State growing up. It’s actually a dream come true playing there.

Norval Black – The numbers

Rec.

Yards

YPC

TD

2018

15

445

29.7

5

2019*

7

201

28.7

1

*Through two games

Q: Obviously, Jaquan Brisker and Anthony Whigan, a few of your former teammates at Lackawanna, are playing at Penn State now. But have you built a relationship with any of the receivers currently on the roster through the recruiting process?
NB: We’ve built a great relationship growing from going on all the recruiting visits. Coach Parker made sure we were getting close before we even got there, before we even committed. Coach Parker helped us get close so that when we do commit, it’s like a brotherhood the minute we get there.

Q: What makes Coach Parker a little different? What do you like about him?
NB: What I like about Coach Parker is that he’s like a father-figure already. He treats me like I’m his kid, which is great. He works well with us, and he’s a great coach. I know before I even play for him, he has to be a great coach.

Scouting the opponent: The Pittsburgh Panthers

Scouting the opponent: The Pittsburgh Panthers

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett will be the key for the Panthers offense on Saturday when they face Penn State for the 100th — and perhaps final — time in series history. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Each Friday, we’ll preview Penn State’s upcoming opponent on the blog. This week, we go in-depth with the Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

THE OFFENSE

RECEIVERS
WR: 11 Taysir Mack (6-2, 205, Jr), 6 Aaron Mathews (6-4, 220, Sr)
WR: 5 Tre Tipton (6-0, 185, Sr), 88 Dontavius Butler-Jenkins (6-0, 215, So)
WR: 2 Maurice Ffrench (5-11, 200, Sr), 83 John Vardzel (5-10, 185, Fr)
TE: 10 Will Gragg (6-4, 245, Sr), 86 Nakia Griffin-Stewart (6-5, 260, Sr)

Maurice Ffrench is no stranger to the Penn State-Pitt rivalry, as he played in the last two games for the Panthers against the Lions. He was held without a catch last year, but he is off to a fast start in 2019, with 16 catches for 192 yards and a score. Last week against Ohio, he had a career-high 10 grabs. Taysir Mack and Tre Tipton are bigger targets, and Mack is a deep threat who ranked second in the nation last season with a 22.3 yards per catch average. Will Gragg and Nakia Griffin-Stewart are a solid combination at tight end. Griffin-Stewart is a big part of the running game, and Gragg, an Arkansas transfer, has 7 catches in his first two games with the Panthers.

BACKFIELD
QB: 8 Kenny Pickett (6-2, 225, Jr), 12 Nick Patti (6-3, 215, Fr) OR 3 Jeff George Jr. (6-3, 220, Sr)
TB: 21 A.J. Davis (6-0, 215, Jr) OR 23 Todd Sibley Jr. (5-9, 225 So) OR 22 Vincent Davis (5-8, 170, Fr)

Kenny Pickett struggled in a downpour last season against Penn State, completing just nine throws for 55 yards. But weather shouldn’t be a factor Saturday and Pickett is coming off one of his best career performances against Ohio. He was 26 for 37 for 321 yards and a touchdown, but he struggled in the opener against a much stingier Virginia defense. The Panthers graduated a pair of running backs – Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall – and a fullback (George Aston) who had plenty of success against the Nittany Lions. But A.J. Davis is a big junior who rushed for 38 yards on six carries in last year’s game. He’s coming off an 89-yard effort against Ohio. Vincent Davis looked crisp in his first extensive action last week, and Todd Sibley Jr. is a short-yardage option.

LINE
LT: 77 Carter Warren (6-5, 320, So), 59 Carson Van Lynn (6-5, 300, So)
LG: 71 Bryce Hargrove (6-4, 315, Jr), 56 Brandon Ford (6-5, 310, Jr)
C: 67 Jimmy Morrissey (6-3, 305, Jr), 60 Owen Drexel (6-3, 300, So)
RG: 57 Gabe Houy (6-6, 310, So), 53 Jake Kradel (6-3, 300, Fr) OR 55 Chase Brown (6-5, 310, Sr)
RT: 70 Nolan Ulizio (6-5, 320, Sr), 74 Jerry Drake Jr. (6-5, 310, So)

Penn State coaches and defenders raved about center Jimmy Morrissey, who looked solid in last year’s game and went on to earn all-ACC honors as a sophomore. That said, the rest of Pittsburgh’s offensive linemen have fewer career starts combined than Morrissey’s 25. Guards Bryce Hargrove and Gabe Houy are road-graders in the run game, and tackle Nolan Ulizio is a Michigan transfer who started five games for the Wolverines. The key might be left tackle Carter Warren, a spring standout for the Panthers who is just getting his feet wet protecting Pickett’s blindside. Pickett has been sacked five times in the first two games, but four came in the opener against Virginia.

THE DEFENSE

LINE
DE: 91 Patrick Jones II (6-5, 260, Jr), 6 John Morgan (6-2, 255, Fr) OR 25 Kaymar Mimes (6-5, 245, Fr)
DT: 97 Jaylen Twyman (6-2, 290, So), 2 David Green (6-0, 285, Fr) OR 92 Tyler Bentley (6-2, 300, Fr)
DT: 34 Amir Watts (6-3, 295, Sr) OR 95 Devin Danielson (6-1, 295, Fr)
DE: 5 Deslin Alexandre (6-4, 265, So), 87 Habakkuk Baldonado (6-5, 250, Fr)

When star end Rashad Weaver blew out a knee in camp and was lost for the season, there were questions about how Pitt could possibly recoup the pass rush it lost. It has been just fine, though. Jaylen Twyman provides a consistent rush up the middle, and he registered 3 sacks against the Bobcats last week. End Patrick Jones II has 3 quarterback hurries through two weeks, and Deslin Alexandre, who took over for Weaver, has a sack in each of the Panthers’ first two games. Amir Watts is a veteran run-stuffer, and freshman Habakkuk Baldonado has flashed big-play ability in a reserve role.

LINEBACKER
MONEY: 28 Kylan Johnson (6-2, 230, Sr), 36 Chase Pine (6-2, 250, Jr)
MIKE: 36 Chase Pine OR 44 Elias Reynolds (6-2,2 35, Jr) OR 9 Saleem Brightwell (6-0, 230, Sr)
STAR: 38 Cam Bright (6-0, 225, So) OR 24 Phil Campbell III (6-1, 220, Jr)

The Panthers use a fairly strict rotation at the linebacker position, and all of the top six players at the position log significant snaps. The linebacker off to the best start for Pitt is probably Kylan Johnson, a grad transfer from Florida who has 7 tackles and a sack through two games. Phil Campbell III has 7 tackles as well, and he forced a fumble last week. Cam Bright has been a force in the backfield, and both Chase Pine and Elias Reynolds split time in the middle.

SECONDARY
CB: 11 Dane Jackson (6-0, 190, Sr), 31 Erick Hallett (5-11, 190, Fr)
SS: 12 Paris Ford (6-0, 190, So), 7 Jazzee Stocker (6-2, 190, Sr)
FS: 3 Damar Hamlin (6-1, 195, Sr), 4 Therran Coleman (6-0, 205, Jr)
CB: 15 Jason Pinnock (6-0, 200, Jr) OR 21 Damarri Mathis (5-11, 195, Jr)

The most experienced unit on Pitt’s roster, the defensive backs bring a combined 58 career starts to the field. Most belong to cornerback Dane Jackson and safety Damar Hamlin, two players familiar with the Penn State rivalry – the Nittany Lions recruited Hamlin hard in the class of 2016. Hamlin led the Panthers in tackles last season and is their leader again, with 10, so far in 2019. Jackson has scored two touchdowns on defense in his career, more than any other Panther. Junior Jason Pinnock is aggressive in the run game as well as being a solid pass defender, and Ford has 9 tackles this season with a forced fumble. The Panthers rank 39th in the nation in passing yards allowed, at 179 per game, but they’re looking for their first interception of 2019.

THE SPECIALISTS

K: 97 Alex Kessman (6-3, 195, Jr), 91 Sam Scarton (6-0, 170, Fr)
P: 98 Kirk Christodoulou (6-1, 210, So), 96 Jared Campbell (6-1, 190, Fr)
H: 98 Kirk Christodoulou, 8 Kenny Pickett
LS: 94 Cal Adomitis (6-1, 230, Jr), 52 Jack Hansberry (6-1, 225, Fr)
KR: 2 Maurice Ffrench, 11 Taysir Mack
PR: 2 Maurice Ffrench, 11 Taysir Mack

Panthers kicker Alex Kessman has struggled out of the gate, missing 2 of his 4 field goal attempts out of the chute – granted, they were longer attempts. But he has kicked off well enough. Punter Kirk Christodoulou, who had a nightmarish outing against the Nittany Lions last season, is off to a terrific start in 2019, averaging 44.1 yards per punt and pinning opponents inside their own 20 on half of his eight boots. Ffrench is a threat as a returner, and he has an 18-yard return on his ledger this season.

Scouting the opponent: The Buffalo Bulls

Scouting the opponent: The Buffalo Bulls

Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson celebrates a touchdown against Rutgers last season. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Buffalo Bulls logoEvery Friday, we’ll scout the Nittany Lions’ upcoming opponent on the Penn State Blog. Today, we look at the first FCS opponent they’ll face in eight years: The Idaho Vandals.

THE OFFENSE

RECEIVERS

WR: 3 Daniel Lee (6-0, 190, Jr), 17 Bernard Porter (6-3, 180, So)
WR: 86 Carlton Todd (5-11, 175, Jr), 13 Tito Overton (5-10, 185, Jr)
TE: 89 Zac Lefebvre (6-6, 240, Jr), 85 Julien Bourassa (6-6, 255, So)
WR: 83 Marlyn Johnson (6-4, 194, Fr), 9 Dominic Johnson (6-5, 225, Jr)

The Bulls are young and inexperienced here, as two starters transferred in this season from junior colleges and the other is a true freshman. Only three wideouts on the roster have a career catch, and the most experienced of those – junior Antonio Nunn – missed the opener against Robert Morris with an injury. The other two receivers who have made their way into the box score – Tito Overton and Marlyn Johnson – each have one career catch. However, TE Zac Lefebvre had two touchdown grabs last week and, at 6-foot-6, will provide Buffalo a size advantage in the middle of the field.

BACKFIELD

QB: 10 Matt Myers (6-4, 220, rFr), 7 Kyle Vantrease (6-3, 230, So)
RB: 26 Jaret Patterson (5-9, 195, So), 5 Kevin Marks (6-0, 200, So)

In his first career start against RMU, redshirt freshman Matt Myers threw all of 10 passes. He completed five, but Penn State coach James Franklin admitted it’s difficult to get a gauge on what the first freshman QB to start on opening day for Buffalo in 28 years can really do. It’s not the same situation, though, with the Bulls’ backs. Jaret Patterson is a sophomore who rushed for 1,013 yards last season and won MAC Freshman of the Year honors. He had just 12 carries against RMU but dominated the game. Backup Kevin Marks rushed for 845 scores and 13 touchdowns as well, and he gets a good amount of playing time even with Patterson the offense’s focus.

LINE

LT: 67 Evin Ksiearczyk (6-6, 310, Sr), 69 Gabe Wallace (6-6, 315, rFr)
LG: 72 Paul Nosworthy (6-4, 300, Sr), 75 Trey Derouen (6-3, 315, Sr)
C: 62 Mike Novitsky (6-5, 295, rFr), 78 Danield Clifford (6-4, 305, Sr)
RG: 65 Tomas Jack-Kurdyla (6-4, 300, Sr) OR 66 Jacob Gall (6-2, 305, So)
RT: 73 Kayode Awosika (6-5, 305, Jr), 59 Jake Fuzak (6-5, 300, Jr)

Really, this group makes Buffalo go on offense. The tackles, Evin Ksiearczyk and Kayode Awosika, are two of the better run blockers in the MAC and they both protect the passer well. Guards Paul Nosworthy and Tomas Jack-Kurdyla are athletic and physical inside.Center Mike Novitsky started his first game in the opener, and he played well. But this will be a much bigger challenge for him. There’s not much flash here, but this group gets the job done, teams up well and could be the best offensive line Penn State will see on its nonconference schedule.

THE DEFNESE

LINE

DE: 49 Taylor Riggins (6-2, 245, So), 99 Frendy Darelus (6-5, 250, So)
DT: 91 Eddie Wilson (6-4, 320, So), 54 DeShondrick Foxworth (6-1, 295, Sr)
DT: 93 Chibueze Onwuka (6-0, 290, Jr), 92 Ronald McGee (6-3, 300, So)
DE: 50 Malcolm Koonce (6-3, 250, Jr), 52 Ledarius Mack (6-1, 240, Sr)

The Bulls on the defensive front are sort of like they are on the offensive side. Not much flash, but effective. End Malcolm Koonce was a consistent presence in the backfield against Robert Morris (a sack and two TFLs) and Taylor Riggins had five sacks last year as a freshman. The player that makes it work up front, though, is tackle Eddie Wilson, who commands double teams and won a starting job late last season as a true freshman. Backup end Ledarius Mack is the younger brother of former Bulls star and current NFL All-Pro Khalil Mack, and he had a sack in the opener.

LINEBACKER

LB: 20 James Patterson (6-0, 230, So), 21 Justin Mulbah (5-11, 220, Jr)
LB: 42 Matt Otwinowski (6-2, 220, Sr), 34 Ja’Varius Harrison (5-11, 225, rSo)
LB: 31 Kadofi Wright (6-3, 225, Jr), 5 Tim Terry Jr. (6-2, 220, So)

James Patterson is the twin brother of running back Jaret Patterson, and he’s currently the leading career tackler for the Bulls, and his backup, Justin Mulbah, is a former high school teammate. Matt Otwinowski is the Bulls’ Campbell Trophy candidate who has a 3.89 GPA and donated his stem cells through the Be The Match program that helped save a stranger’s life. He’s an effective linebacker, too, having played in 39 career games. Kadofi Wright and Tim Terry Jr. split time.

SECONDARY

CB: 3 Aapri Washington (5-9, 185, So), 4 Isaiah King (5-10, 190, So)
SS: 9 Joey Banks (5-10, 200, Sr), 18 Roy Baker (6-2, 200, Jr)
FS: 33 Tyrone Hill (6-1, 205, Jr), 24 Cory Gross Jr. (6-2, 200, rFr)
CB: 12 Devon Russell (5-9, 185, Sr), 15 Ali Abbas (5-11, 220, Jr)

Aapri Washington is undersized but a ballhawk and aggressive against bigger receivers. But the safeties are the story here. Joey Banks and Tyrone Hill are hard-hitting and play the run well, and redshirt freshman Cory Gross Jr. led the Bulls with seven tackles in the opener. Cornerback Devon Russel started his career at Eastern Michigan, and his backup, Ali Abbas, is a 220-pounder, likely the heaviest cornerback the Nittany Lions will see this season.

THE SPECIALISTS

P: 40 Evan Finegan (5-11, 195, So)
K: 16 Alex McNulty (6-1, 210, So), 14 Jackson Baltar (5-11, 165, Fr)
LS: 57 Jeremiah Riordan (6-2, 230, Jr)
H: 40 Evan Finnegan
KOR: 23 Ron Cook Jr. (5-7, 190, Fr), 13 Tito Overton (5-10, 185, Fr)
PR: 13 Tito Overton

The Bulls appear solid in the kicking game. Punter Evan Finegan is a veteran who averaged a school-record 41.8 yards per punt last season, and first-year kicker Alex McNulty knocked down four PATs and a 40-yard field goal in the opener. Tito Overton is one of the kick returners, and he ripped off a 30-yard return against Robert Morris.

Scouting the opponent: The Idaho Vandals

Scouting the opponent: The Idaho Vandals

Idaho QB Mason Petrino throws a pass against Florida last season. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Every Friday, we’ll scout the Nittany Lions’ upcoming opponent on the Penn State Blog. Today, we look at the first FCS opponent they’ll face in eight years: The Idaho Vandals.

 

THE OFFENSE

RECEIVERS

Z: 88 Jeff Cotton (6-2, 204, Sr), 1 Jed Byers (5-9, 177, Fr)
X: 13 Jante Boston (5-11, 197, Sr), 4 Michael Noil (5-8, 161, Fr)
W: 7 Cutrell Haywood (6-0, 204, So), 10 Sean McCormick (5-8, 181, Fr)
TE: 12 Connor Whitney (6-3, 220, So) OR 32 Logan Kendall (6-4, 264, So)

A young overall group, but senior Jeff Cotton could put himself in line to be all-Big Sky Conference this season. He had 49 catches for 656 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018 with the Vandals, his first season in the program since transferring from Pima Community College in Arizona. Four of those seven touchdowns came early in the season, when Cotton became the first Vandals player since 2014 to haul in a scoring catch in each of the first four games.

This is a young group overall, but sophomore Cutrell Haywood does have a big game on his resume. He became just the 11th player in program history to have three receiving touchdowns in a game last Oct. 20 against Southern Utah.

BACKFIELD

QB: 8 Mason Petrino (6-0, 208, Sr) OR 19 Colton Richardson (6-4, 285, Jr)
RB: 5 Nick Romano (5-10, 203, Fr) OR 21 Kiahn Martinez (5-7, 286, Fr) OR 21 Roshaun Johnson (6-1, 240, So)

Mason Petrino

QB Mason Petrino

Both of Idaho’s potential starting quarterbacks have the requisite experience, but they aren’t exactly similar players. Mason Petrino – the son of head coach Paul Petrino – is a more typical spread offense signal-caller; he runs well, moves in the pocket, completes a decent percentage of throws (60.9 percent for his career) and threw for 1,933 yards and 15 scores last season. Colton Richardson has a bigger arm and a bigger body – he’s listed at 285 pounds – and the coaching staff sure seems to like him: He started the season opener last season against Fresno State. But he completed as many passes to the Bulldogs (3) as he did to his own receivers and gave way to Petrino.

The Vandals running backs are extremely young and untested at the college level. Roshaun Johnson had 18 carries for 99 yards last season, but he’s more of a short-yardage back (none of his 18 carries have gone for negative yardage). Nick Romano and Kiahn Martinez were both all-state running backs in high school last season. Romano rushed for 32 touchdowns and led his high school – Rocky Mountain High, for all the John Denver fans – to the Class 5A state title in Idaho.

LINE

QT: 50 Noah Gunn (6-5, 313, Fr), 68 Seth Carnahan (6-7, 295, Fr)
QG: 75 Matt Faupusa (6-1, 300, So), 66 Connor Vrba (6-1, 303, Jr)
C: 66 Connor Vrba (6-1, 303, Jr), 54 Logan Floyd (6-4, 289, So)
SG: 74 Noah Johnson (6-4, 299, Sr), 73 Darius Archie (6-2, 298, So)
ST: 54 Logan Floyd (6-4, 289, So), 71 Edwin Grande (6-5, 298, Sr)

The Vandals are young up front, but guard Noah Johnson is one of the steadiest veteran offensive linemen in the nation and perhaps a professional prospect. He earned third-team All-America honors from HERO Sports last season, the first Vandals lineman to be so honored in a decade. Athlon Sports ranked him as a first-team All-American at the FCS level this summer.

THE DEFENSE

LINE

BUCK: 7 Charles Akanno (6-1, 247, Jr), 10 Coleman Johnson (6-0, 245, Fr)
DT: 99 Noah Elliss (6-4, 347, So), 94 Nate DeGraw (6-3, 269, So)
NT: 55 Rashaan Crawford (5-10, 331, So) OR 98 Jonah Kim (6-3, 353, Jr)
JACK: 45 Kayode Rufai (6-4, 260, Jr), 34 Leonick Tamba (6-1, 236, Jr)

The Vandals are massive in the middle. Nose tackle Rashaan Crawford played last season under 300 pounds, but he added more than 30 pounds of bulk in the offseason, and if he doesn’t start, 353-pound junior college transfer Jonah Kim will. Fellow tackle Noah Elliss hasn’t played in two years while getting his academics in order, but he’s a former four-star recruit who originally signed with Mississippi State whose father, Luther Elliss, is both his position coach with the Vandals and a former NFL All-Pro.

LINEBACKER

SLB: 4 Robert Miller (6-0, 204, Jr)
MLB: 8 Tre Walker (6-1, 235, So), 35 Kyle Perry (6-1, 220, So)
WLB: 11 Jalan Jenkins (6-1, 210, Jr), 24 Sully Shannon (6-1, 205, Fr)

Another position where the Vandals have fortified themselves with junior college transfers, as both outside guys, Robert Miller and Jalan Jenkins, transferred in this year. Miller started his career at Memphis, and Jenkins had seven tackles in four games for FCS Indiana State in 2017. Tre Walker is the leader of the group, finishing with 41 tackles last season.

SECONDARY

CB: 21 Christian Nash (6-1, 198, Fr), 29 Sedrick Thomas (5-11, 178, Sr)
SS: 28 Satchel Escalante (6-0, 185, Jr), 27 Tyrese Dedmon (6-1, 183, Jr)
FS: 2 Davontae Ginwright (6-2, 200, Sr), 23 Mujeeb Rufai (6-0, 206, Fr)
CB: 5 Lloyd Hightower (5-11, 189, Sr), 25 Jalen Hoover (5-11, 167, Jr)
NICKEL: 25 Jalen Hoover (5-11, 167, Jr) OR 29 Sedrick Thomas (5-11, 178, Jr)

Jalen Hoover

CB Jalen Hoover

Cornerback Lloyd Hightower had one interception last season, which doesn’t seem all that impressive (and it isn’t). But, it was one of just three picks the Vandals had as a team last season. They’re hoping two more transfers – Davontae Ginwright from Western Michigan and juco Satchel Escalante (a frontrunner for the all-Penn State opponents Name Team after the season) – can help the secondary turn the ball over more often. The nickel defense is essentially the Vandals’ base defense, and Jalen Hoover is a useful player, a special teams maven who also had 54 tackles last season.

THE SPECIALISTS

K: 15 Cade Coffey (6-1, 199, So)
P: 15 Cade Coffey (6-1, 199, So)
LS: 42 Cameron Lang (6-0, 215, So), 46 Hogan Hatten (6-2, 218, Fr)
H: 12 Connor Whitney (6-3, 220, So)
KR: 88 Jeff Cotton (6-2, 204, Sr)
PR: 7 Cutrell Haywood (6-0, 204, So)

Cade Coffey

K/P Cade Coffey

Cade Coffey earned All-America honors as a punter as a freshman last season, averaging 44.1 yards per boot, sixth-best in the FCS. Idaho ranked second in the FCS last season in net punting, averaging 40.1 yards per punt and allowing just 5.7 yards per return.

The Vandals were a force on special teams last season, scoring four touchdowns and blocking four kicks.