Names To Know: Five Fresh Faces Primed To Shine For The Nittany Lions
With nearly a full slate of scholarships for the first time since 2011, a handful of young Nittany Lions will have ample opportunities to wrestle playing time away from their older counterparts rather than being thrust into the two-deep out of necessity like we’ve seen in years past. Here are five who could carve out significant roles for themselves this fall with a strong showing in preseason camp.
Ryan Bates | Left guard | Redshirt freshman
The former Under Armour All-American arrived at Penn State last summer with all sorts of talent and versatility, but a redshirt year to add muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame was just what the trainers ordered. Bates, who started his college career at center before moving to guard this spring, now checks in at 305 pounds and, by all accounts, has a firm grip on the starting left guard spot. Bates and true sophomore linebacker Jake Cooper were high school teammates at Archbishop Wood in Warminster, Pa., leading the Vikings to back-to-back PIAA AAA State Championships in 2013-14.
Noah Beh | Left tackle | Redshirt sophomore
Beh has put on over 40 pounds since getting to University Park two years ago as an athletic, yet undersized two-way lineman out of Scranton Prep. The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder continued his rapid improvement under new offensive line coach Matt Limegrover this offseason and has an excellent chance to start at left tackle for the Nittany Lions come Sept. 3. James Franklin announced at Media Day last week that redshirt junior Andrew Nelson would slide back to the right side of the line during camp after anchoring the left tackle spot at times last fall and this spring. This is an extremely encouraging sign of Beh’s development, as Franklin wouldn’t slot him on the blindside of either Trace McSorley or Tommy Stevens if he wasn’t up to the task.
Garrett Taylor | Cornerback | Redshirt freshman
The one-time Michigan commit backed off his pledge to the Wolverines once Brady Hoke was fired and began exploring his other options, namely at LSU and Penn State. The Nittany Lions pulled off an enormous coup in getting Taylor to join their vaunted Class of 2015, as the four-star corner headlined the nation’s 15th-overall bunch alongside instant contributors Saquon Barkley and John Reid. Taylor spent his redshirt year making sure his knee, which he injured prior to his senior season of high school, was back to full strength. Now that he’s healthy, Taylor is battling redshirt sophomore Amani Oruwariye for the fourth corner role on Brent Pry’s defense and has an excellent shot to secure the job.
Robert Windsor | Defensive tackle | Redshirt freshman
Windsor was a late addition to Penn State’s 2015 recruiting class, as the Fond Du Lac, Wisc., native didn’t show up on many scouting boards until a strong senior campaign caught the attention of some Big Ten schools. The Nittany Lions managed to hold off in-state Wisconsin for the hulking defensive tackle, which proved to be a major win for Sean Spencer’s Wild Dogs, as Windsor will likely rotate in often behind starter Parker Cothren at the one-technique. Though he won’t have a chance to face the Badgers until his redshirt junior season in 2018, Windsor can make them regret their decision to not offer him sooner with a strong debut in the trenches this fall.
Ryan Buchholz | Defensive end | Redshirt freshman
Buchholz is perhaps the most intimidating physical presence along the defensive line, as no Wild Dog can match his heigh-to-weight ratio at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds. 247Sports took a bullish stance on Buchholz’s potential by ranking him as the nation’s 11th-overall strong-side defensive end and the second-best prospect out of Pennsylvania in 2015. The shear athleticism that the Great Valley High standout brings to Spencer’s position group is enough to tout him as a breakout candidate this season, as he’ll battle Shareef Miller and walk-on Colin Castagna for reps as Penn State’s fourth defensive end.
Penn State will keep a close eye on each of the five aforementioned players as camp continues, in hopes that they’ll become household names this fall.