Blue White Illustrated

June-July 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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6 6 J U N E / J U L 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 had one of its most suc- cessful NFL Draft weekends in years to cap off April. The Nittany Lions saw eight former players selected over the three-day, seven-round pick- ing process that was held in Las Vegas. Receiver Jahan Dotson led the parade when he went 16th overall to the Wash- ington Commanders. Two days later, linebacker/defensive end Jesse Luketa wrapped things up for Penn State's draft class when he was chosen with the 256th overall pick. Luketa is now an Arizona Cardinal. In between, one member of the 2021 offense was selected, while four play- ers from the defense heard their names called. In addition, do-it-all specialist Jordan Stout found a home in Balti- more when the Ravens chose him in the fourth round. All told, Penn State's 2022 draft class was the program's biggest since 1996, when 10 Nittany Lions were chosen. It marked the continuation of a very productive run for the program, with at least five Penn State players having been chosen in five consecutive drafts. You can be sure that the coaching staff will use PSU's recent draft-day showings to woo recruits, both in the current cycle and down the road. But the numbers will be quickly forgotten if the Lions cannot replace what they lost by the time Sept. 1 and a road trip to Purdue arrive. All of which leads to a simple ques- tion: Do the Lions have the players they will need in order to make up for the loss of those eight draftees? Starting with Day 1, Dotson is of course an immense loss. He returned for a final season in blue and white and caught 91 passes for 1,182 yards, which locked in his first-round status. At present, Penn State does not have a receiver who is likely to go in the first 32 picks next year. But it has high hopes for third-year sophomore Parker Washing- ton and senior transfer Mitchell Tinsley. Both have college-level production; Washington caught 64 passes for 820 yards last year, while Tinsley had 87 catches for 1,402 yards at Western Ken- tucky. But the former has never been PSU's primary receiving threat, while the latter hasn't suited up for a Power Five team yet. Still, we'll call the Dotson loss some- thing Penn State can recover from, especially if sophomore KeAndre Lam- bert-Smith, redshirt sophomore Malick Meiga and/or redshirt freshman Harri- son Wallace III have breakthrough years. Moving on to Day 2, end Arnold Ebiketie and safety Jaquan Brisker both went off the board quickly in the second round, going to the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears, respectively. Brisker's replacement will be super senior Ji'Ayir Brown. Penn State is in good hands there; Brown tied for the FBS lead last year with six interceptions. Replacing the production that Ebik- etie (and Luketa) delivered in 2021 — a combined 10 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss — will be a much bigger challenge. Redshirt junior Adisa Isaac is set to return after missing all of last season with a leg injury. He'll be joined by Maryland transfer Demeioun Robinson, a former five-star prospect according to one recruiting service. With senior Nick Tarburton, an eight-game starter last year, also back, Penn State's coaching staff has to like the potential here. But much will have to go right. Isaac will have to be fully healthy. Robinson will have to fulfill the potential that piqued Penn State's interest coming out of Quince Orchard (Md.) High. And Tarburton will have to expand his rep- ertoire of pass-rushing moves, as coach James Franklin noted during spring practice. It might seem as though the Day 3 selections would be easier to replace, but that's not always the case. Consider Stout, whose exit should not be over- looked just because he's a specialist. The Lions are hoping that senior Jake Pinegar and redshirt freshman Sander Sahaydak can combine to get the job done on field goals and kickoffs. Pinegar was the team's primary field goal kicker for three years before Stout took over the job last season, so he's shown he has the potential to start. Sahaydak has yet to kick in a game, which makes him an unknown commodity. Adding to the difficulty of replac- ing Stout is the fact that he was also the team's punter the past two seasons, winning Big Ten Punter of the Year hon- ors last year after averaging 46.1 yards. Now he's gone, and the top candidate to start at that spot might not even be on campus yet. That would be incom- ing freshman Alex Bacchetta, the top punting prospect (and No. 8 kicker) in the 2022 recruiting cycle according to Kohl's Kicking. Put it all together, and the view from this seat is that Penn State will be able to overcome the eight players it lost to the pros this spring. Some of these shoes will be easier to fill than others, though, and all of the replacements must be ready to shine when Penn State takes the field at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium in a few months' time. ■ O P I N I O N GREG PICKEL PSU Has The Talent Needed To Plug Its Holes THE LAST WORD After amassing 1,402 receiving yards last year at Western Kentucky, transfer wideout Mitchell Tinsley will be called on to play a major role in replacing Jahan Dotson this coming fall. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL

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