Kevin Givens appeared all set to sign with Pitt on Feb. 4, 2015, but a late offer from the Nittany Lions proved paramount for the nearby Altoona, Pa., standout, as he flipped his commitment to Penn State just hours before National Signing Day.
Givens played all over the field in high school, but particularly shined at outside linebacker and defensive end, where he could put his hulking strength to optimal use off the edge. Givens was instrumental in leading the Cougars to their first appearance in the PIAA state playoffs since joining the WPIAL — home to Pittsburgh powers like Central Catholic and Woodland Hills — and was named a AAA First-Team All-State selection by Pennsylvania Football News as a senior.
The former three-star prospect held only five reported offers from Penn State, Pitt, Temple, UMass, and Western Michigan, but his rapid development and powerful frame may have college coaches shaking their heads at a missed opportunity. Givens is the type of athlete who excels in various arenas, as evidenced by the fact that he garnered a seventh-place finish in the PIAA boys’ AAA shot put last May on an even 53-foot toss.
After taking a redshirt this past season to adjust to the speed of the college game and pack on some needed weight, Givens’ stock has skyrocketed during spring ball thanks to Penn State’s lackluster depth at his new position — defensive tackle.
Givens was listed at 6-foot-1, 267 pounds on the latest version of Penn State’s roster, marking a nearly 30-pound increase from his arrival weight last summer. His team-leading 635-pound max single squat and 410-pound bench press (fourth best) during winter testing more than hints at his sheer explosiveness, which ought to strike fear into opposing teams as soon as this coming fall. It originally looked like defensive line coach Sean Spencer would groom Givens at defensive end, but the departures of Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel to the NFL Draft coupled with his prowess in the weight room, made him a perfect candidate to compete for time on the inside.
James Franklin took notice of his offseason efforts, and lauded the promising tackle during media availability. “A guy that’s really doing some nice things for us right now is Kevin Givens,” Franklin said. “He’s the talk of spring ball right now. He’s just so explosive, so strong, and he’s been a guy that’s really stood out so far.”
The two defensive tackles who return the most gameday experience — Parker Cothren and Antoine White — have yet to log significant snaps on Saturdays due to Penn State’s stocked cupboard at their spot the past few seasons. While classmates Kam Carter and Robert Windsor boast more physically intimidating physiques, checking in at 305 and 285 pounds, respectively, Givens has quietly made the most of his first year on campus and could surpass both on the wide-open defensive tackle depth chart.
Though three-star JUCO signee Tyrell Chavis will arrive this summer, immediately providing another game-ready tackle, it isn’t a guarantee that he’ll be able to adjust to new defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s system. Givens’ familiarity with the program’s intricate verbiage, in terms of scheme, should give him an excellent chance to earn a coveted spot in the rotation.
But before Givens and the Nittany Lions can turn up the heat on some key position battles during preseason camp, Penn State fans will have their first chance to see what he can do at the Blue-White Game on April 16.