Pitt Snap Counts: New Starters, More Debuts in Penn State's First Blowout Win of 2018

By Dan Smith on September 10, 2018 at 8:00 am
Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis (18) fumbles as he is hit by Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Ellis Brooks (13) and cornerback Jabari Butler (20) and safety Jonathan Sutherland (26) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Penn State won 51-6.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State ripped through Pitt with a vengeance on Saturday. There was limited garbage time action as head coach James Franklin left his starters in until going up 44-6 midway through the fourth quarter. Still, we saw some new faces and also some new starters this week.

Offense (68 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team / Reserves
QB Trace McSorley (66) Sean Clifford (2)  
RB Miles Sanders (46) Mark Allen (20) Ricky Slade (5)
WR Juwan Johnson (57) Cameron Sullivan-Brown (11)  
WR DeAndre Thompkins (38) Brandon Polk (30)  
WR K.J. Hamler (53) Mac Hippenhammer (12)  
TE Pat Friermuth (27) Jon Holland (24) Danny Dalton (17)
LT Ryan Bates (66) Des Holmes (1) Will Fries (1)
LG Steven Gonzalez (66) Mike Miranda (2)  
C Michel Menet (66) Zach Simpson (2)  
RG Connor McGovern (66) C.J. Thorpe (2)  
RT Will Fries (66) Chasz Wright (2)  
  • OUT: QB Tommy Stevens (injury), WR Justin Shorter (injury), TE Nick Bowers (injury)
  • DEBUTS: QB Clifford, LT Holmes, LG Miranda, RG Thorpe
  • Polk, Fries into Starting Lineup: Both outplayed starters Thompkins and Wright last week against Appalachian State, and this week they saw their depth chart statuses affirmed in the starting lineup. This week saw an inverse with Polk and Thompkins, with Thompkins actually playing more than Polk despite not starting. That said, Polk seems to be the more favored receiver, especially with Thompkins dropping three very catchable balls in this game.
  • Two Running Back Sets: Despite having depth last season in the form of Sanders, Allen, and Andre Robsinson behind Saquon Barkley, Penn State rarely ever used two running back sets, as they preferred to keep tight end Mike Gesicki on the field as much as possible. With Gesicki gone and inexperience abound at tight end, James Franklin and Ricky Rahne are more open to two back sets this season. They worked with Sanders and Allen on three occasions.
  • Two Tight End Sets: They went the other direction a few times as well, removing the slot receiver in favor of two tight ends on three occasions. These mostly occurred near the goal line, and the tight ends were Holland and Friermuth each time.
  • Clifford Debuts: With Stevens still hampered by a foot injury, Clifford debuted with a memorable performance: 1-1 with a touchdown pass to Polk.
  • Notes: There is real balance at tight end. Holland still starts, but Friermuth led in playing time Saturday ... Slade's playing time decreased from last week due to his two fumbles, both of which were recovered by Pitt ... first offensive action of the season for walk-on Simpson, who is the two-deep center for the second straight season.

Defense (71 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team / Reserves
DE Shareef Miller (41) Shaka Toney (24) Nick Tarburton (13)
3DT Kevin Givens (37) Fred Hansard (15) Ellison Jordan (12), Yetur Gross-Matos (3)
1DT Robert Windsor (32) Antonio Shelton (22) P.J. Mustipher (20)
DE Yetur Gross-Matos (36) Daniel Joseph (28)  
WLB Micah Parsons (34) Koa Farmer (28) Jake Cooper (9)
MLB Jan Johnson (28) Ellis Brooks (19) Jesse Luketa (18)
SLB Cam Brown (34) Jarvis Miller (24) Dae'lun Darien (9)
CB Amani Oruwariye (49) Donovan Johnson (10)  
S Nick Scott (41) Ayron Monroe (22) John Petrishen (7)
S Garrett Taylor (40) Lamont Wade (20) Jonathan Sutherland (13)
CB Tariq Castro-Fields (44) Zech McPhearson (36) Jabari Butler (13)
  • OUT: DE Shane Simmons (injury), CB John Reid (rest)
  • DEBUTS: MLB Luketa, OLB Darien, CB Butler, S Sutherland
  • Reid Remains Out: John Reid mysteriously did not play later in the fourth quarter and overtime of the Appalachian State game. Last week, we speculated that he may have been exhausted. They relayed that message to the ABC broadcast crew, and he did not play against Pitt to "give him a rest." Whether this is cover for an injury or not, this vaulted Castro-Fields into the starting lineup and left Johnson with sole slot responsibilities. Johnson did not play on the outside at all. Walk-on Butler debuted in garbage time.
  • Givens Returns: The return of Givens to defensive tackle was a welcome sight for Brent Pry, who used him plenty in his first action of 2018. The Nittany Lions are comfortable with their three-deep here, mixing in all six of their top tackles.
  • Luketa Debuts: Restricted to special teams last week, true freshman MLB Luketa saw his first career action on defense late in the second quarter. He debuted while fellow true freshman Parsons was also on the field, giving Penn State an inexperienced but talented look.
  • Parsons Injured? Speaking of the true freshman, he limped off the field after a fumble recovery late in the game, when DE Joseph appeared to roll up on him.
  • Notes: Jarvis Miller saw a good jump in playing time after a short but effective performance against Appalachian State ... Darien saw his first action as a linebacker after moving there from wide receiver ... first game action of the year for Petrishen and Cooper, who played in garbage time last year. Petrishen contributes on the kickoff, kick return, and punt return units.

Redshirt Watch

Pos. True Freshman Games Played Redshirt-Free Left
RB Ricky Slade 2 2
TE Pat Friermuth 2 2
DE Nick Tarburton 2 2
DT P.J. Mustipher 2 2
OLB Micah Parsons 2 2
MLB Jesse Luketa 2 2
K Jake Pinegar 2 2
QB Will Levis 0 4
WR Justin Shorter 0 4
WR Jahan Dotson 0 4
WR Daniel George 0 4
TE Zack Kuntz 0 4
T Bryce Effner 0 4
C Juice Scruggs 0 4
DE Jayson Oweh 0 4
DT Aeneas Hawkins 0 4
DT Judge Culpepper 0 4
OLB Charlie Katshir 0 4
CB Trent Gordon 0 4
S Isaiah Humphries 0 4

No changes to the deployment of true freshmen this week. Luketa debuted on defense at middle linebacker, but he played last week on special teams. Shorter remains injured; he would otherwise likely be already playing as well.

There will be interesting questions in the coming weeks. Is Shorter going right into the lineup when healthy? Will a player like Tarburton be relegated to the bench when he hits 4 games, especially if Shane Simmons returns to the rotation from injury? And are any players being held out until season's end so that their four games are used on the other end to help increase the late season depth? There is plenty to continue following.

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