After Penn State’s 66-3 win over Maryland last season, James Franklin mentioned an interesting tidbit about Baltimore native and then-redshirt freshman Dae’Lun Darien. He had played on offense, defense, and special teams in the victory.
Darien’s positional flexibility and 6-foot-4 frame made him an ideal candidate to switch from wide receiver to linebacker ahead of spring practice, helping to fill a need depth-wise for the Nittany Lions.
The move also allows him to brush up on his tackling skills in anticipation of more playing time on special teams, especially with ace gunner Irvin Charles now dismissed from the program.
Franklin and his staff have been judicious about when to make position changes, and more often than not those decisions have proven successful over the past four years.
One of the better examples of this is undoubtedly Troy Apke, whose transition from receiver to safety as a freshman eventually earned him an invite to the NFL combine. Earlier this offseason, sophomore Lamont Wade switched from cornerback to safety to ensure Penn State gets its four best defensive backs on the field at once.
Defensive coordinator Brent Pry now has five linebackers who stand 6-foot-3 or taller to work with, including a trio of spring enrollees in Micah Parsons, Jesse Luketa, and Nick Tarburton. Rising junior and likely starter Cam Brown is the other, checking in at 6-foot-5.
Darien wouldn’t have seen the field much as a receiver in 2018 with a clogged depth chart of talent ahead of him at the position. The move to linebacker not only signifies his willingness to help the team in whatever way possible, but also offers the opportunity for Darien to carve out a niche for himself as a special teams menace this fall.
After wearing No. 87 the last two seasons, Darien will don No. 41 moving forward. He’ll be an intriguing player to keep an eye on in the Blue-White game, which kicks off at 3 p.m. April 21.