Today is our first day as a real life functioning internet website. We are, you might say, the true freshman of the online Penn State world. James Franklin's squad begins practice this Friday with another top recruiting class, one that boasts plenty of potential impact players this season. Get to know a few of our true freshman writers with their picks for who that biggest impact player will be. There might be a theme.
Craig Fritz - Shane Simmons. The DeMatha product is a chiseled ball of speed and power. He'll be a situational pass rusher and record multiple disruptive plays.
Dan Smith - Miles Sanders. Assuming Joe Moorhead utilizes his best talents on offense, it will be difficult to keep Sanders off the field. He could be used in the return game as well if they elect to change things up and do not decide to go with Barkley.
Nick Polak - Blake Gillikin. If the Nittany Lions hand over the punting reigns to the Georgia-native (as they should), Gillikin has a chance to be a major difference-maker for this team. Disappointing special teams play killed Penn State in 2015, with the punting game being the weakest link of the unit. With a consistent punter, the Nittany Lions will be much more of a factor in the field position game, which will allow Brent Pry some freedom to send blitzers on early downs, knowing that his defense isn't starting the drive on the 50-yard line.
Dan Vecellio - The easy answer to this question would be Miles Sanders, but when was the last time we didn't have to worry about a punt going more than 35 yards in the air? Blake Gillikin has been out here posting the most fire kicking mixtapes ever created and should be a welcome addition to the special teams this year.
Len Damico - The buzz around Miles Sanders is real, but Saquon Barkely is expected to get the lion's share of the carries. There's a real opportunity for three-star punter Blake Gillikin to come in and contribute right away, since neither of Penn State's returning junior punters landed in the top 100 nationally for yards per punt last year.
Bill DiFilippo - The most logical answer based on talent is Miles Sanders, but he has a Saquon Barkley probably he needs to deal with before he can make a huge impact. So let's go with a guy who may start from day one: Blake Gillikin, the punter from Georgia with a leg powered by uranium. Penn State's special teams have struggled mightily under Franklin, part of the reason being that the punting game has been fairly up and down. I think Gillikin starts early and becomes one of the best punters in the conference by the end of the year.
Mike Treb - Niles Sanders, twin brother of Miles Sanders, figures to play a huge role on special teams.
Kevin Fay - Miles Sanders. Today we learned about Saquon Barkley wanting to participate in special teams much like Christian McCaffrey at Stanford, but I don't see that happening. Along with the 8-10 touches he should see per game at tailback, I expect Miles Sanders to make a huge impact on special teams. His explosiveness and elusiveness will pay dividends in the return game not just in touchdowns, but by helping to win the field position battle that Penn State has lost badly since the sanctions hit. His presence will be felt.
Tim Gilbert - RB Miles Sanders. Tuddies.
John Morgan - Blake Gillikin. Though it pains me to take a punter, I’d argue that no position needs to be upgraded more than punter. Gillikin will kick Penn State out of that sub-40 yard average that could be the difference in a win or a loss. Consistency has been lacking in the punting game for 3 years and Gillikin is just the person to turn that glaring weakness into a strength.
Matt de Bear - Miles Sanders. It has been years since Penn State has had a true difference maker at running back. Now they have two. With Saquon Barkley entrenched as the primary back, Boobie will not be asked to do too much, but he will make his presence felt quit often.
Chris Grovich - Miles Sanders is the tempting, obvious choice, but punter Blake Gillikin has an opportunity to transform one of Penn State's most glaring Sanction Years weaknesses into a strength.
Doug Leeson - Defensive end Shane Simmons has a good chance to earn a spot in the lineup this year. The exodus of last year’s defensive line means that a decent number of players should get a chance to play, and if Simmons makes the most of that chance (if high school is any indication, he has the size and speed), he will be an impact player.
Sean Baker - All he has to do is flip the field occasionally and Blake Gillikin will be a vast improvement from last year's punting situation. Does not get much more "impactful" than that.
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