Redshirt sophomores Brandon Polk and Garrett Taylor enjoyed tremendous training camps and should see extended action as reserves Saturday versus Akron.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) August 27, 2017
Polk missed nearly the entirety of last season due to injury, but his request for a medical redshirt was approved on July 11. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Polk was listed Tuesday as the backup to both DaeSean Hamilton at the slot “H” receiver and Miles Sanders at kickoff returner on Penn State’s first depth chart of the season.
Polk started his first game as a Nittany Lion on the road at Temple in 2015, flashing his difference-making speed with 50 rushing yards on two jet sweeps in that tough-to-stomach game. Now healthy, he’s easily the most underrated skill-position player on Penn State’s offense right now.
He said he focused most on his route-running and execution this summer, crediting DaeSean Hamilton for helping to mold him into the best player he can be. Polk and quarterback Trace McSorley were high school teammates, so he knew what everyone else came to find out last season long ago.
“My freshman year before I knew I was gonna transfer over to [Briar Woods], that’s when I figured out he was a winner,” Polk said. “They had won back-to-back state championships at that time.”
After playing primarily on special teams in 2016, Taylor is now the third strong safety behind Troy Apke and Nick Scott and will likely get some solid time on defense in the second half against the Zips. He said the game has really slowed down for him in his third year on campus.
“I think my knowledge of the game, being able to pick up the playbook,” Taylor said of his strengths. “It allows me to play faster and make split-second decisions on the field.”
The Richmond, Va., native was a high-priority recruit for blue blood programs across the country, initially committing to Brady Hoke’s staff at Michigan before being sold on the Nittany Lions during his official visit for the Michigan State game in 2014.
Despite watching a 34-10 loss on Senior Day, Taylor saw the vision James Franklin had laid out for the future and immediately bought in. He suffered a torn ACL just before his senior season at St. Christopher’s School, spending his first season on campus getting back to full strength.
While James Franklin cited hamburgers as playing a part in Penn State’s chemistry and success last season in a great piece for The Players’ Tribune, Taylor and John Reid always get apple crisp on Friday nights at the team hotel.
The Nittany Lions open their season Saturday at noon on ABC.