It’s not usually common for true freshmen to see the field, but some players are simply too talented to be sidelined (read: Saquon Barkley). Others might be called upon in certain situations. Here’s a few players from the Class of 2017 who might see the field next fall.
Mac Hippenhammer — Wide Reciever
After Notre Dame offered him late, Hippenhammer eased James Franklin’s mind when he sent in his letter of intent on Wednesday because he’s a very underrated weapon. Hippenhammer came in only as a three-star recruit but might be the fastest player in the 2017 class and one of the fastest on the whole team.
With size the biggest issue for his chances of getting reps on offense, his best chance to contribute this fall will likely be as a kick/punt returner.
“Hippenhammer had as good of a year as anybody in the country returning punts and kicks,” Franklin said. “Really, really successful. Tremendous feet. Really, really polished already as a wide receiver. He needs to get bigger and stronger.”
Franklin has made it clear he isn’t afraid to burn a redshirt for special teams duties and Charles Huff wouldn’t mind giving Miles Sanders and John Reid some help.
Hippenhammer could make an instant impact in the return game with his speed and elusiveness. If you don’t believe us, watch the best returns of his high school career.
❕❕TOP Returns of my HS Career ✅❕📽… pic.twitter.com/fbf4FaH99c
— Mac Hippenhammer (@machipp2) December 23, 2016
Ellis Brooks and Brailyn Franklin — Linebackers
These two talented linemen aren’t expected to play this season, but after last season’s injury issues, nothing is certain at the position. The two Virginia natives have the chance to grow under the tutelage of Jason Cabinda and Manny Bowen, but Penn State is also thin at linebacker this year. If the starters catch the injury bug again, don’t be surprised to see Brooks and Franklin step in.
C.J. Thorpe — Offensive Guard
Thorpe also isn’t expected to start this season as the offensive line returns a number of starters, but Thorpe is the No. 6 guard in the nation and has the talent and size to get reps.
“Thorpe is a grown man,” Franklin said. “He’s got something that I think most coaches are looking for. It’s hard to find. He’s an offensive lineman with a nastiness to him. He plays with a really nasty demeanor. He wants to finish it. He wants to be physical. When you can find guys like that, they’re really valuable.”
Lamont Wade — Cornerback
While Penn State is pretty loaded in the secondary right now, Wade could get reps in his freshman year. The Cairton, PA native was the No. 5 cornerback in the nation and enrolled at Penn State early, which is crucial if he’s going to play right away.
Grant Haley and John Reid are the returning starters, but he might find himself rotated in on obvious passing downs. Penn State struggled in the nickel formation last year (five defensive backs), not having a reliable third corner, meaning Wade might rotate in with Christian Campbell and Amani Oruwariye or if a starter gets hurt.
Yetur Matos — Defensive End
The No. 5 defensive end in the nation has his work cut out for him if he wants to play this fall, but don’t count the Virginia native out. Matos dominated his high school competition this past season, accruing 130 total tackles and a whopping 18.5 sacks.
Matos will be behind multiple people on the depth chart including Shareef Miller, Torrence Brown, Shane Simmons, and Ryan Bucholz, but after observing Sean “Coach Chaos” Spencer running his defensive line last season, it’s clear he likes to rotate plenty of players in. With Matos’ sheer talent, it’s possible he gets a chance or two to prove himself.