Penn State Spring Practice Observations (3.20.19)

By Matthew Filipovits on March 21, 2019 at 9:05 am
Oct 13, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin reacts to a play against the Michigan State Spartans during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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The Nittany Lions rang in the first day of spring with a full-pads practice. Here's what was happening as the Blue-White game draws ever closer.

  • DT Antonio Shelton and S Lamont Wade ran with the first defense. This isn't much of a surprise as Shelton started the Citrus Bowl with Robert Windsor suspended and Wade has long been looked at as the heir apparent to Nick Scott.
  • WRs KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, and Justin Shorter ran with the first team offense. That's a trio that no secondary will be excited to face.
  • Speaking of Shorter, he looks jacked. It's great to see him bounce back from his injury.
  • Rasheed Walker ran with the first team left-tackle, while Mike Miranda took some reps at guard. Both positions are still very much up for grab, as Anthony Whigan and CJ Thorpe are also getting extended looks at tackle and guard, respectively.
  • Tommy Stevens was in full pads but did not attempt a pass during the drill. The staff is still trying to ease him back into things after having surgery this offseason.
  • Although it wasn't a live drill, Ricky Slade had a fancy cut on a draw play. That move is going to make him a lot of money someday.
  • Will Levis dropped an absolute dime on one play and was then picked off by Keaton Ellis on the next one. The football gods give, the football gods take.
  • While we're on the subject, Keaton Ellis looks really comfortable out there for an early enrollee. James Franklin attributed his ball skills to his successful run as a high school receiver. Don't be surprised to see the staff give him a long look for four games as they decide if they want to redshirt him.
  • Zack Kuntz looks noticeably thicker. He still has a ways to go to fill out his massive frame, but you can tell he's already made a ton of progress.
  • Brandon Smith got some outside linebacker reps. This move kind of surprised me but he does have a similar mold to Cam Brown. My guess is the staff is trying to make him comfortable at all three positions.
  • Aeneas Hawkins bullied his way into the backfield on a handful of occasions. Expect the redshirt freshman to get some solid minutes this season as the Nittany Lions look to grow some depth along the defensive line. 
  • "Stacy's Mom" and "What's My Age Again" played over the loudspeaker. Those are both excellent songs, but one is definitively better than the other. It's on you to decide which one.

Quotes

With Ryan Bates forgoing his senior year, Penn State needs to find it's next left tackle. Rasheed Walker is seen as the long-term solution at the position and James Franklin seems to think he's been ready for this opportunity.

"Rasheed is a guy that we really felt like could play last year. If the new redshirt rule hadn't gone into place we probably would have burned his redshirt, but we thought we could get away with four games...We've been very pleased with him. He's big, he's strong, he's athletic. He needs 1000 reps just to gain the experience, but so far so good."

Entering his senior year, Cam Brown is one of the defense's most experienced players. As he works through his final spring camp, there's one word he would use to describe the atmosphere so far.

"Competitive. Guys have been balling, guys have been flying around. We got energy, we got competition at every spot. Nobody knows who's starting, nobody's knows whose spot it is, everybody wants to play. The guys are hungry. We're coming for a national championship this year."

Steven Gonzalez and Michal Menet are heading towards their second year as starters together along the offensive line. Gonzalez thinks playing right beside each other week in out has helped the two become more in sync than ever before.

"Even when we were recruits, me and Mike were really good friends. When he came here and we just started playing together, I just felt like our friendship bonded more, we gelled more, and we understood each other more. Especially playing next each other now, I can understand him a lot more. We don't even really have to make calls to each other sometimes because we just know what we have to do."

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