As the first full week of camp comes to a close, members of the media were able to attend some of Wednesday night's practice to catch of glimpse as the 2018 edition of the Penn State Nittany Lions takes shape.
- Michal Menet ran with the first teams at center, pushing Connor McGovern back to guard. Chasz Wright took the first-team reps at right tackle, with Will Fries getting work with the second team at both guard and tackle.
- It's still far too early to call but it looks like Jon Holland is emerging as the favorite to start at tight end. The junior has the most experience out of the group, and earned some praise from Franklin after practice for his consistency thus far. That has been a concern for Holland heading into the fall. Dan Dalton made a good catch in traffic, and Pat Freiermuth held his own blocking, but it looks like it's Holland's job to lose early on.
- John Reid saw a lot of reps as the slot corner, with Tariq Castro-Fields out wide. Castro-Fields gives the Lions some extra length when it comes to defending receivers on the outside. Reid's knee did not look to be a problem as he flew around for most of the period.
- Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor saw most of the reps at safety, but Lamont Wade seems to be rising fast. The sophomore blew by the offensive line and would have destroyed the quarterback if they were allowed to bring them down. That play brought a noticeable reaction from the Lions' sideline.
- The defensive line looked very good. It wasn't just one guy getting pressure, everyone along the line found themselves in the backfield on a number of plays.
- Miles Sanders had a run that just screamed number one back. He was able to make the first few defenders miss, and if it wasn't for a slippery field following an afternoon shower, would have easily taken it to the house.
- The kickers were absolute money. The five freshmen went a combined 11-of-12 from all over the field, hitting from distance, as well as some tough angles. Vasey's snaps were all great, Blake Gillikin did a good job holding, and if the unit can continue to improve, Penn State may end being fine at kicker.
The first full week of practice isn't even in the books yet so we shouldn't read too much into any of this but man was it great to see the team back at work.
The biggest question surrounding the offensive line heading into this season was where Michal Menet would play. Entering his third year with the program, Franklin seems optimistic that the once prized recruit will make a big impact along the offensive line.
"Michal Menet is doing extremely well. Right now, I think he's really helping us by the way he's playing at center with a lot of confidence. He's got tremendous athleticism. I actually think Connor moving to guard plays to his strengths a little bit as well. Obviosuly that's still a battle going on but right now I think we're getting pretty comfortable with Menet at center and Connor, who's a little bit bigger, out at guard."
Despite coaching corners, Terry Smith has loved what he's seen out of the safeties so far. Whether it be an older guy who's taking advantage of his opportunity, or a young guy looking to break away from the pack, Smith knows a lot will be decided in the next few weeks.
Nick Scott's having a tremendous few days of camp. His leadership shows, he's a returning captain from special teams, and he's the guy that's getting us all lined up. He's doing a great job of communiating. In that other spot, there's some other young guys again. Lamont Wade is one of the guys that's competing pretty well. Ayron Monroe is having a good start to camp, obviosuly Garrett Taylor is in there as well. It'll be interesting to see as we get more physical in practice, to see which one of those guys start to seperate themselves.
Manny Bowen's return makes linebacker a much smaller concern than it was this time last week. With that being said, Penn State still has questions at the position. James Franklin knows that while the experience isn't there, the talent may be at the highest level in some time.
"I think Jan (Johnson) is really doing some nice things. I think there's a lot of comfort with him. I would say the same thing about Cam Brown. He's had a really good offseason and a good camp so far. And then there's kind of just a bunch of guys. Micah (Parsons), you would never know that he's never played linebacker before. He can find the ball, he has a natural ability...we got to get him more consistent in terms of being in the right gap and on the right leverage and those types of things, but he can just naturally find the ball. Jesse Luketa is doing some great things. Manny has looked really good. Ellis (Brooks) is doing some really good things. There's a bunch of them.
It has been 320 days since Juwan Johnson caught a walk-off touchdown in the end zone and become the official President of Iowa. While Penn State fans won't forget that touchdown any time soon, Johnson hopes it won't be the play that defines him.
"Now it's just the next season. I'm not trying to be remebered as the guy who caught the Iowa pass. I'm trying to be the guy that people say 'Oh yeah he's that wide receiver from Penn State.' I'm not trying to be rembered by one play."
With that being said, let's watch it one more time before Johnson gives us more highlights to obsess over.