Position Battles To Watch At This Year’s Blue-White Game
Penn State football is set to finish up spring practice with the annual Blue-White spring game this Saturday at Beaver Stadium. Blue-White Weekend gives players competing for starting jobs one last chance to make a good impression on the coaching staff before training camp begins late in the summer.
Head coach James Franklin has a pretty good idea of who will start at certain positions, but for others, the competition for regular roles is wide open. Here are some of the most compelling position battles for the Nittany Lions.
Right now, the only guaranteed starter at the inside linebacker position is senior Koa Farmer. Farmer started in all 13 of Penn State’s games last season, but the competition to see serious minutes as the No. 2 linebacker is wide open.
Junior Cam Brown is potentially the favorite to take over a regular role. He made 30 tackles in a supporting role last season while playing in 12 games, but he has plenty of young, hungry talent breathing down his neck.
Micah Parsons is perhaps the most polarizing of all in the competition. His natural athleticism has made his transition from defensive end to linebacker very smooth, giving the former No. 1 prospect statewide a real chance at seeing regular time on the field. He’s impressed his teammates and coaches throughout spring ball and has the potential to play a big role as a true freshman.
Four-star prospect Jesse Luketa took Cabinda’s jersey number this season and has also shown plenty of growth during spring practice. Although he’s still raw, Luketa could be a dark horse candidate for playing time this season. Redshirt junior Jarvis Miller and senior Jake Cooper each played supporting roles last season and bring their experience to the competition, while redshirt freshman Ellis Brooks has impressed throughout spring ball.
Marcus Allen and Troy Apke left both starting safety spots open on Brent Pry’s defense. Once again, the only guarantee at this position is that two-year captain Nick Scott will start in one spot. With Allen gone, Scott’s taken on an even larger leadership role this spring and will be crucial to the success of the secondary.
As for the rest of the safeties, James Franklin and Brent Pry have an interesting group to pick from. Redshirt junior Garrett Taylor has had an extremely strong spring, making plays and vaulting himself right into the competition for a starting job. He made 12 tackles in a supporting role on defense and as a regular on special teams; his playing time could potentially increase if he has a strong spring game and training camp.
Lamont Wade may also see plenty of playing time this year as he transitions from cornerback to safety. Wade has become comfortable in his new position and is a serious contender to start. If he isn’t in the starting lineup on opening day, he should see plenty of minutes in a substitute role.
Redshirt freshman Jonathan Sutherland and freshman Isaiah Humphries, who have both performed well this spring, are two other intriguing options for the starting job.
One of the biggest question marks on James Franklin’s team right now surrounds the tight end position. Who will step into the starting role that Mike Gesicki dominated over the past two seasons as he became one of the best tight ends in college football?
It’s unfair to expect someone to step in and match Gesicki’s production, but the candidates for the position certainly have potential. Nick Bowers served as one of Gesicki’s backups last season and is the safe choice to take over the starting role. He scored his first career touchdown during Penn State’s 56-44 victory over Nebraska at Beaver Stadium.
The newest addition to the group of tight ends is early enrollee Zack Kuntz, who is the tallest tight end on the roster — an inch taller than Gesicki. If the four-star prospect can utilize his range like Gesicki, he could become a serious downfield threat for Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens this season and beyond.