With the Blue-White game just days away, we took a look back at how last year’s breakout performers from the scrimmage played over the course of the season.
Several players, such as quarterback Trace McSorley, began their 2016 campaigns in the spotlight starting in this game for the Nittany Lions. Others, like Mark Allen and Colin Castagna, haven’t had the chance or weren’t particularly needed during the Big Ten title run, despite showing well at Blue-White.
These were some of the best performances from the game that featured a 37-0 victory for the Blue team.
McSorley blew away Tommy Stevens and sealed his starting position for week one against Kent State by going 23-27 passing for 281 yards and four touchdowns.
The quarterback led Penn State to an 11-3 record and a conference title by having a sophomore season to remember, capping it off with a second-team conference selection and the opportunity to break the majority of Penn State’s offensive records heading into 2017.
Allen had a remarkable spring game last April, tallying 107 total yards (59 rush, 48 receiving) in the absence of then-resting Saquon Barkley. Though a different Allen, Marcus, wrote his name all throughout the history books during the 2016 season, the running back Allen managed 139 total yards and a touchdown on 33 touches for the entire season behind Barkley, Andre Robinson, and Miles Sanders.
With Barkley resting again in this year’s game, look to Allen, Robinson, and Sanders to try and prove a clear backup for Penn State’s running back role this Saturday.
Blacknall’s 45 yards and a touchdown on his five Blue-White catches a year ago were the shining numbers from a receiving corps that finds itself yet again searching for an alpha-type receiver. Last year, Blacknall battled back from depth chart and injury woes early in the year to become one of the most important players during the 38-31 victory over Wisconsin in Indy last December. Yet, a suspension left Blacknall out of the Rose Bowl Game. Blacknall’s replacement, DeAndre Thompkins, failed to step up early on in Penn State’s loss to USC.
This season, Penn State will need a receiver like Blacknall, who recorded 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns in 2016, to step up and be the kind of trusted target that Chris Godwin became a year ago to McSorley.
The rookie tackle turned heads in the 2016 edition of this game, racking up five total tackles, three-and-a-half tackles for loss, and two sacks. Givens kept that momentum going, tallying 27 tackles playing in the middle of the Nittany Lion defense throughout 2016.
No. 30’s motor became a constant for Brent Pry’s unit, as Givens made 7.5 tackles for loss and had five sacks. Without graduated defensive linemen Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan, Penn State will rely on the sophomore tackle even more in 2017.
Castagna had a six-tackle day that featured three tackles for loss and a sack in last year’s Blue-White game. Yet, he wasn’t able to produce for the Nittany Lions during the regular season.
In 2016, Castagna recorded just three tackles, as he struggled to find playing time behind Torrence Brown, Shareef Miller, and Ryan Buchholz.
With Sickels and Schwan moving on, a repeat performance could help his case for increased opportunities in 2017.