Blue White Illustrated

May 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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6 M A Y 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M S pring practice at Penn State fea- tured position battle storylines on both sides of the ball that will likely rage through preseason camp. Some were front-and-center every practice, while others may have gone unnoticed by the casual fan. A deep roster and a culture of competition have contrib- uted to tight races at many spots. For an offense that is spending the offseason retooling at a few posi- tions, progress has been slower than its counterpart. While Penn State's defense was flying around this spring in anticipation of Manny Diaz's second year at the helm, Mike Yurcich's of- fense was producing questions that have yet to be answered. In the crosshairs, of course, is the battle to replace Sean Clifford as the starting quarterback. The reps were split fairly evenly, although first-team work seemed to skew toward sopho- more Drew Allar, the former five-star prospect who was Clifford's backup in 2022. Redshirt freshman Beau Pribula has challenged Allar throughout the spring, however, and has some starter qualities to his game. Spooked by the realization that not having a capable backup ready can derail an entire season, as it did to the Nittany Lions in 2021, coach James Franklin has balanced reps for the good of the room. While Allar remains the expected victor in the battle, Pribula spent the spring on his heels and re- mains a capable option down the line. "This spring is just to get those guys as many reps as we possibly can to be able to evaluate them, to create a competition and to also create depth," Franklin said. Who will be on the other end of those passes remains, in more than one way, up for grabs. Penn State changed its wide receivers coach from Taylor Stubblefield to Marques Hagans this winter, and the former Virginia assis- tant has a job ahead of him. Penn State went to the portal to secure former Florida State wideout Malik McLain for the spring, but the junior transfer hasn't been a quick fix for the room. The Nittany Lions are hoping for a different result with Kent State wide receiver Dante Cephas, who won't arrive until May. Coming out of spring, Penn State feels good about its two at the top, junior KeAndre Lambert-Smith and redshirt sophomore Harrison "Tre" Wallace. After that, it's been a guessing game. "Right now, in my mind, you've got KeAndre and Tre who have kind of sep- arated themselves from the pack, and then we've got maybe six guys that are all going to be battling for that third, fourth, fifth and sixth spot," Franklin said. Sophomore Omari Evans was the one who possibly separated himself during the end of camp, but consistency issues across the board have piled up for all those vying for the third spot. Redshirt sophomore Liam Clifford and redshirt freshman Kaden Saunders were in and out of the lineup this spring with inju- ries, while McClain and junior special teams standout Malick Meiga present similar options. Meiga, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound Canadian, has struggled to consistently string together catches. Redshirt freshmen Anthony Ivey, Cris- tian Driver and Tyler Johnson have talent, but so far none of them have turned the corner. On the flip side, Penn State's big- gest question mark at running back was likely solved via the portal in April when it nabbed Minnesota transfer Trey Potts. The Williamsport, Pa., na- tive will give the Lions a veteran pres- ence who can fill a role while not taking away carries from sophomores Nicho- las Singleton and Kaytron Allen. In a shocking turn of events over the last few years, the offensive line should be just fine. In fact, after taking a big step forward in 2022, the group is deeper and boosted by the unconven- tional return of projected first-round left tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu. While the room must deal with the under- rated loss of center Juice Scruggs, six linemen with multiple starts under their respective belts will return for the fall. Redshirt senior right guard Sal Wormley was the group's top per- former this spring, and Penn State is hoping this is the year that fifth-year senior Caedan Wallace will click beside him at tackle. Super senior Hunter Nourzad has made a smooth transition from guard to center, while redshirt sophomore Landon Tengwall and red- shirt junior JB Nelson will continue to battle for reps into the fall at left guard. Despite losing Brenton Strange to the NFL, the Lions' tight end situation is fairly proven, thanks to the return of juniors Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren. Neither practiced much this spring, however, due to injury, opening the door for redshirt sophomore Khalil Dinkins to seize reps. Dinkins has nailed down the third spot and should see time behind Johnson and Warren in the fall. ■ Re d s h i r t s o p h o m o r e H a r r i s o n " Tr e" Wa l la ce h a s emerged this spring as one of Penn State's top two wide receivers. PHOTO BY RYAN SNYDER Some Key Offensive Questions Remain Unanswered JUDGMENT CALL O P I N I O N SEAN FITZ S E A N . F I T Z @ O N 3 . C O M

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