Enrolling early has set up many freshmen to be successful early in their careers.
Under James Franklin, Penn State has become a destination where freshmen who prove they are worthy of playing time get their shot early and often. With the newest early enrollees having just arrived on campus, we're going to take a look at what the future could hold for each of them in regards to playing time during the 2020 season.
First, we'll look at the offensive players.
Note- Red light implies the player is extremely likely to redshirt, yellow light implies a possibility of playing past the allowed four games, and green light implies the player will breeze past four games played, burning their redshirt.
There is a little bit of uncertainty where Johnson stands from a health standpoint, as he suffered a dislocated shoulder during practice for the Under Armour All American Game. The severity of the dislocation is still unclear, but being on campus and with the Penn State medical staff will certainly help with any rehab necessary.
As for his progression as a football player, Johnson has all the makings of becoming the next great Penn State tight end, and perhaps someone who can quickly climb a loaded depth chart. He already has tremendous size and athleticism. He'll need some time to build strength in his upper body, and time to learn the intricacies of being a traditional tight end. He's already a fantastic receiver, but he has some work to do as a blocker. As long as his injury heals smoothly, he has a good chance of establishing himself as the No. 2 tight end as early as 2020.
Lambert and his fellow receivers are some of the most important members of the 2020 class, given the state of the Penn State wide receiver room. Lambert enrolling early is huge for both him and for the team. With KJ Hamler gone to the NFL and Justin Shorter in the transfer portal, the position badly needs an injection of playmaking ability.
Lambert has proven to productive, athletic, and fundamentally sound. While slight in stature, he's still 6'1 and lightning-quick in and out of breaks. He runs solid routes for a high schooler and displays soft hands. He'll likely use this extra time to bulk as much as he can without sacrificing his all-world agility, but the most important thing will be learning the offensive playbook and proving he can be relied upon to make plays. At least one of he and classmate Parker Washington, who is also known for his route-running, will be relied upon in 2020.
An electric playmaker out of the Sunshine State, Holmes is a player that will bring plenty of big plays in his days in the Blue and White. Unfortunately for him, he plays the position that is arguably the deepest and most talented in the Penn State program.
As a running back, there simply isn't enough room for another back to get any sort of significant playing time. Holmes enrolling early certainly helps in his physical development, and maybe he'll prove dangerous enough to warrant being a kick/punt returner, but there's little chance of him impacting directly as a running back.
Another four-star receiver, Dottin enrolling early is a tremendous help to the Penn State program. Dottin, though, probably isn't quite as close to contributing as Lambert or Washington.
While Dottin comes in pretty technically sound, he doesn't have near the level of burst and athleticism that Lambert possesses. While getting more time in the strength & conditioning program will certainly help, it'll be a tall task to improve his overall athleticism very drastically within 8 or so months. Short of proving he can catch every single pass that comes his way, it'll likely take injuries or further lack of development from current receivers for Dottin to burn his redshirt.
Dawkins is a promising player, but he certainly has work to do. For starters, as is the case with 99% of high school linemen making the transition to college football, he'll need to reshape his body a bit. He is already fairly well built, however. He'll also need to get stronger to keep up with the defensive linemen in the Big Ten that have already spent several years in college football strength programs.
Another factor for Dawkins is the fact that Penn State has plenty of quality depth and has talented starters at offensive guard. It's simply unlikely that Dawkins' services will be needed in 2020. Dawkins has a bright future, but he'll have to wait for his turn.