Three Biggest Surprises From Penn State’s First Depth Chart

James Franklin released Penn State’s first depth chart of the season Tuesday morning. While it shook out mainly as expected, there were a few surprises to note.

First and foremost, Sean Clifford beat out redshirt freshman Jake Zembiec for the third-string quarterback job. Franklin said Tuesday Clifford is “far ahead” of where the staff anticipated he would be when he arrived on campus this summer.

The Nittany Lions would obviously love to keep his redshirt intact, but if somehow Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens both went down with injuries, the Cincinnati native would be next in line.

Photo: Ethan Kasales – Onward State

On the defensive side of the ball, walk-on junior Colin Castagna is listed as Torrence Brown’s primary backup at defensive end — ahead of stud redshirt freshman Shane Simmons. Simmons achieved five-star status at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., but spent last season getting his body prepared for Power Five football.

He’ll certainly be part of Sean Spencer’s rotation this fall, but it’s interesting to see Castagna, who Franklin once likened to a “Greek god” in terms of his aesthetic, finally put himself in a position to contribute extensively. Also a standout volleyball player, Castagna transferred from Chicago’s Loyola University and arrived at Penn State as a spring enrollee in 2015.

Following John Reid’s likely season-ending injury at cornerback, position coach Terry Smith needed a pair of true freshmen to step up this summer. However, Tariq Castro-Fields — the last prospect to sign with the Nittany Lions this cycle — has overtaken Lamont Wade for the backup spot at boundary corner behind Christian Campbell.

Simmons (34) has added roughly 30 pounds to his frame since last summer.

Castro-Fields, who hails from Upper Marlboro, Md., like senior safety Marcus Allen, apparently tested off the charts during preseason camp. Franklin quickly added his name to the pool of “green” candidates for playing time right off the bat.

Mike Miranda and Yetur Gross-Matos also fall into that category, with the former being listed as Steven Gonzalez’s reserve at left guard. The latter isn’t among the six defensive ends on Tuesday’s depth chart, but could still play his way onto the field in the next few weeks.

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected].

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