Blue White Illustrated

January 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 31 of 67

3 2 J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 2 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M P enn State was fortunate to not have to go particularly deep into its defensive depth in 2021. The Nittany Lions did play games without key players, of course. But they were mostly able to use their first- and sec- ond-teamers without burning many redshirts. With that said, some young Lions did play meaningful minutes for Vir- ginia Tech-bound defensive coordina- tor Brent Pry, and the snaps they re- ceived this past fall figure to help set those players up for success in the years ahead. Here are a few young players to know on defense: KALEN KING | CB Only two true freshman defensive players forfeited a year of eligibility during the regular season. The one who played the most was King. A former four-star recruit according to the On3 Consensus rankings, King enrolled last January and made a ma- jor impression on the coaching staff and his new teammates almost im- mediately. By the time spring practice ended, it seemed all but a guarantee that he would play special teams in the fall while also receiving work at cornerback. Explaining the freshman's quick as- cent, coach James Franklin noted that some players just seem to have a knack for being around the ball. King, he said, was one of those players. "Some guys, the ball just likes them," Franklin said. "He's gotten a couple in- terceptions [in practice] where you just throw it to him. We had a guy like that a few years back [in future NFL draftee Amani Oruwariye] who was very simi- lar. He played for us, and the ball just liked him. "[Players like that] get a number of turnovers by making great plays, and they get a number where, you know, the ball just tips up and lands in their hands, or it's just thrown to them on a misread. He's one of those guys. "Part of it is, he's always around the ball, and I think he's got a pretty good understanding of what we're asking him to do from a scheme perspective." Standing 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, King went on to play in all 12 games during his first regular season on campus. He finished with 16 tackles (one for loss), four pass breakups and a forced fumble prior to the Outback Bowl meeting with Arkansas. The Detroit native will be a big part of new coordinator Manny Diaz's 2022 de- fense, which loses Tariq Castro-Fields at cornerback. "We're very pleased with him," Frank- lin said in November. "A lot of guys, you can tell the first time they get out there. They're maybe a little nervous, or the moment is kind of big for them. I never feel that way with Kalen. He's got tre- mendous confidence in himself." COZIAH IZZARD | DT Izzard had been expected to see action during his redshirt freshman season at G R E G P I C K E L | G P I C 9 2 @ G M A I L . C O M Sneak Previews Lions receive key contributions from freshmen on all three levels of defense True freshman cornerback Kalen King was the only player in his class to see action in all 12 of Penn State's regular- season games. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL

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