News & Notes From Penn State’s Pro Day
Fourteen Penn State football players showcased their skillsets in front of NFL scouts and executives at the team’s annual pro day on Tuesday.
Nittany Lion legend and current New York Giants star Saquon Barkley was on hand to support his college teammates as they were put through their paces at Holuba Hall. Barkley also spent plenty of time with head coach James Franklin and running backs coach JaJuan Seider throughout the day.
As far as the actual drills were concerned, the headliner of Penn State’s class of players working out on pro day was quarterback Trace McSorley. McSorley was put through a comprehensive passing evaluation that featured throws of all distances, and he looked impressive.
The three-year starter only registered four incompletions during his time in the spotlight, which lasted approximately 25 minutes and featured him working under center. Among his receivers were Miles Sanders, DeAndre Thompkins, and East Stroudsburg wideout Jylil Reeder.
McSorley initially worked with 80 yards of open field, but he then turned around and threw passes towards the goal line in the red zone. As the quarterback noted, pro day is obviously a different from a game in terms of the context and lower amount of pressure surrounding it.
“This is football, but you don’t have 11 guys rushing at you,” McSorley said. “I just wanted to come out and have some fun with the receivers. There’s obviously a lot riding on this, but all the scouts here today are going to go back and look at the game tape — they might have already done that.”
Regardless, McSorley’s performance was really good, especially considering he did so under the watchful eyes of many NFL scouts and executives.
Meanwhile, a trio of regulars in the lineup who didn’t participate in the NFL Scouting Combine put on a clinic at Holuba Hall. Koa Farmer, Nick Scott, and DeAndre Thompkins all looked great at pro day.
Thompkins showed off his speed with a 4.33-second 40 time, which would’ve ranked tied with Georgia’s Mecole Hardman and Ole Miss’ DK Metcalf for third among receivers at the NFL Combine. The wide receiver had some issues with securing passes throughout the season, but drops weren’t an issue at pro day.
One aspect of the wideout’s game that may help him carve out a role at the next level is his versatility. Thompkins returned a total of 66 kickoffs and punts during his college career, two of which resulted in Penn State touchdowns. He said that teams are looking at him in both receiving and special teams roles, and that might help him find his niche at the next level.
“I’ve heard both [from NFL teams],” Thompkins said. “The more versatile you are, the more they like you, and the more places they can put you, which leads to more opportunities. I think they really take that into consideration.”
Nick Scott tested well by posting a 41-inch vertical and 4.43-second 40-yard dash. Those numbers would’ve ranked third and sixth, respectively, among safeties at the NFL Scouting Combine, and his 10’8″ broad jump was higher than all but three safeties who ran drills in Indianapolis.
Like Thompkins, Scott has the potential to find a home on special teams thanks to his experience as a gunner. He was the Nittany Lions’ special teams captain two seasons ago before becoming the defensive captain and a starting safety in 2018.
Intangibles are another part of why Scott may be coveted by some NFL teams. He was a two-year captain in Happy Valley for a reason — Scott was the consummate team player during his time at Penn State, which was exemplified by taking Garrett Taylor under his wing and filling whatever role James Franklin needed him to.
“I’m a player who’s going to do whatever’s asked of me,” Scott said. “I’m a team guy first. If you want me to be your gunner my whole career, I’ll be your gunner. If you want me to be your starting safety, I’ll be your starting safety. What you’re going to get out of me is what you ask for.”
Koa Farmer did very well at the Combine by earning a 4.48-second time in the 40-yard dash and a 10’4″ mark in the broad jump. He also ran the three-cone drill in 6.87 seconds and put up a 37-inch vertical.
Farmer’s three-cone drill was faster than Miles Sanders’ at the NFL Scouting Combine, and his vertical and broad jump would be tied for seventh and third, respectively, among linebackers who participated in the Combine.
“It was a big day for me,” he said. “It was kind of do or die. It’s always a great opportunity to come out here and show the world what I can do and prove people wrong. I think I had a pretty good day — I’m proud of myself.”
The linebacker’s numbers and drills were good on the field, but he also played a huge role in housing one of the day’s most important guests. Saquon Barkley was one of Farmer’s roommates during his college days, and the star running back crashed on his couch on Monday night.
You don’t often hear about NFL superstars sleeping on their old roommates’ couches, but that was apparently the case last night.
“I walked downstairs, and he was uncomfortably sleeping on my couch,” Farmer said. “Saquon’s one of my boys. That’s the kind of guy he is — he wants to see us be successful. He’s humble, he works hard, and he wants other people around him to get better. He’s the best leader I’ve ever met.”
Miles Sanders continued his excellent offseason with a strong pro day showcase. Like Trace McSorley and Amani Oruwariye, Sanders didn’t run the 40-yard dash at Holuba. He did, however, show off his great hands in the quarterback drills.
Sanders made some really impressive catches on all types of routes. Whether it was a simple flat route out of the backfield or a wheel deep down the field, Sanders was there to make the grab.
“That was the one spot I really wanted to focus on in the offseason,” Sanders said. “I know the way Saquon had success with our offense was catching the ball well. I watch guys like Alvin Kamara, [Ezekiel Elliott], Todd Gurley — the great running backs in the league are extra weapons for the quarterback.”
Overall, Tuesday was a great day for Penn State’s 14 NFL hopefuls at pro day. They’ll now shift their focus to wrapping up training for the NFL Draft, which is slated to begin at 9 p.m. Thursday, April 25 in Nashville.
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