Penn State is relying heavily on young players this season, with a handful of true freshmen making their mark. Who in the 2021 class has instant-impact potential?
Landon Tengwall, Offensive Guard/Tackle
The monstrous lineman out of Olney, MD is ready to get to campus and fight for a starting position right off the bat. His status as an early enrollee only furthers his ability to carve out a significant role in this offense.
He's physically as ready as any linemen that have entered the Penn State program under James Franklin. It's rare for a 300 pound 18-year old to not need to transform his body is any serious way. Tengwall is big, strong, and lean. He can always get stronger but that's not where the focus will be in his development once he arrives on campus. He'll work to improve his footwork, learn the offense, and try to gel with other expected starters. But those are short barriers for such a talented young man. If the staff puts him at guard, the transition should be that much easier.
Lonnie White, Wide receiver
It's still not guaranteed that White will ever suit up in a Nittany Lions uniform as he'll likely have a decision to make once the MLB Draft rolls around. But if he follows through with his commitment, he'll be ready to contribute on the gridiron in 2021.
White is a tremendous athlete. Everything looks so smooth, easy, and natural for him. He shows elite body control and can high point the ball. He's a monster with the ball in his hands. He's physically coming as one of the biggest receivers in the program. He likely has more to learn about the entire receiver position as he's only spent the last year fully committed to the position, so it's unlikely he finds himself starting but he'll almost certainly be a good depth piece for the offense.
Kalen King, Cornerback
Penn State has gone through a wave of young corners in recent years. With Tariq Castro-Fields' injury issues this season, the Nittany Lions relied heavily on four corners who are all in their second year in the program. They've proven they're willing to play freshmen in the secondary and after a tremendous senior high school season, Kalen King has a window to come in and fill in the depth chart.
Jaylen Reed/Zakee Wheatley, Safety
As it currently stands, both Reed and Wheatley could use a redshirt to catch up to the college speed and get bigger, stronger, and faster. However, Penn State's safety situation is bleak. Both starters in 2020, Jaquan Brisker and Lamont Wade, could move on from the program at the end of the season. That means there are two openings and even if not as starters, one of Reed or Wheatley will likely need to fill in that 2/3 deep on the depth chart.
Christian Veilleux, Quarterback
This is almost entirely a bi-product of Penn State's current quarterback situation. If Sean Clifford of 2019 was still around, James Franklin could sit pretty comfortable with his QB1 heading into 2021, and Veilleux could use a redshirt and develop at a reasonable pace. Unfortunately, that's not where things currently stand.
Franklin and Kirk Ciarocca have no choice but to exhaust all of their options to find the best quarterback they can to lead the offense in 2021. Veilleux is coming into a wide-open quarterback competition. As an early enrollee, over the course of eight months, could vault himself to the top of the depth chart.
Liam Clifford, Wide Receiver
Liam Clifford is talented and advanced enough to play as a freshman. Especially if Jahan Dotson opts for the NFL, Clifford could work his way up the depth chart and would likely be the best fit to backup Parker Washington in the slot. What's standing in his way was the sudden resurgence of the receiver group this season and a supremely talented Lonnie White entering the program at the same time.
Clifford actually comes in in a similar position as Washington. He runs good routes for a high schooler, shows soft hands, and is productive against good competition. He'll enter college more advanced than most freshmen.