Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light: Analyzing Penn State's Freshmen Class

By Matthew Filipovits on June 28, 2021 at 8:40 am
Apr 17, 2021; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions corner back Kalen King (4) catches an interception intended for Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Parker Washington (3) during the Penn State spring practice at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports
© Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State's 2021 recruiting is now (mostly) on campus. We've seen true freshmen have major impacts for the Nittany Lions over the past few years, with guys like Saquon Barkley, Pat Freiermuth, and Micah Parsons coming to mind. Let's take a look at which of the newest Nittany Lions will make an early impact.

Green Light

  • CB Kalen King: King was the star of spring ball and although this is a crowded position room, the Detroit-native will surely have a role to play this fall. He's going to battle for the third corner spot, but even if he doesn't win that, he'll make an impact in some capacity for Brent Pry's defense. Look for him to get on the field with Joe Lorig's special teams units too.
  • OL Landon Tengwall: The highest-rated member of Penn State's 2021 recruiting class, Tengwall probably won't start a game for the Nittany Lions this fall, but he's going to play a ton of football. With every expected starter along Penn State's offensive line draft-eligible after the season, getting Tengwall experience will be crucial for the unit's health in 2022 and beyond.

Yellow Light

  • S Jaylen Reed: Jaquan Brisker, Ji'Ayir Brown, and Jonathan Sutherland likely have the top three spots locked up, and with Keaton Ellis repping there as well, the main way Jaylen Reed could make an impact would be on special teams. We've seen James Franklin burn redshirts for this purpose before, so that could be the case for Reed.
  • WR Liam Clifford: Penn State needs to find a third guy at wide receiver and Liam Clifford could quickly work his way up the depth chart. He's a polished route runner and played against some big-time talent throughout his high school career.
  • WR Lonnie White: Lonnie White is the only member of the 2021 class not yet on campus, as he's waiting to see where he will be selected in the Major League Baseball draft. If White does enroll, he'll be one of the more physically ready freshman receivers Penn State has had in a while. But without the big pass-catcher on campus, it's hard to project just where he may slot into the receiver rotation.
  • DE Rodney McGraw: Penn State needs help at defensive end with Adisa Isaac being the only player on the roster who has gotten consistent reps in recent years. Enrolling early definitely helped McGraw's odds for early playing time, but it'll take a really strong camp or injuries piling up for him to play more than four games.
  • LB Kobe King: Kobe King received a ton of praise for his work this spring, and while there probably isn't a role for him on the defense just yet, he can be a key factor on special teams if the staff feels he's ready. With limited linebacker depth, there could be a path for more time as the year progresses.
  • DT Jordan van den Berg: van den Berg is a bit of a wildcard. He's already played one season of college football, and the tackle position is a bit wide open after the top guys. However, he only played a limited JUCO season, so it will be interesting to see just how ready he is now that he's arrived in Happy Valley.

Red Light

  • K Sander Sahaydak: With two scholarship kickers ahead of him, Sahaydak will spend his freshman season developing on the scout team and getting stronger.
  • CB Zakee Wheatley: Wheatley needs to bulk a bit and learn the ins and outs of playing cornerback before he'll be ready to contribute. 
  • TE Khalil Dinkins: With three scholarship tight ends ahead of him, Dinkins can take the year to develop on the scout team before pushing for a large role in 2022.
  • DE Davon Townley: Townley could turn into a defensive end or defensive tackle during his time at Penn State. A redshirt season is likely in his future as the staff figures out where he best fits, and he continues to develop physically.
  • LB Jamari Buddin: Buddin is athletically ready to play, but physically he probably needs some time before he's ready to contribute. There are a lot of outside linebackers ahead of him on the depth chart as well, so he is likely to be afforded that time. He may appear in his four games, but that seems like the max at this point.
  • QB Christian Veilleux: Veilleux hasn't played organized football since fall of 2019. However, he's the third of three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, so an injury could vault him up this list quickly. Ideally, he'll spend the year getting back up to speed and adjusting to the college game.
  • WR Harrison Wallace: Harrison Wallace certainly has the athleticism to play, but like many freshmen, he needs to add some strength before he's ready to contribute. 
  • CB Jeffrey Davis Jr: Penn State's cornerback room is remarkably crowded so Jeffrey Davis Jr. can take his time with his development.