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Top Breakout Candidates For Penn State Football’s 2020 Season

Penn State football is almost back, folks.

After months of uncertainty, the Nittany Lions are set to kick off their season at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 24 against Indiana. James Franklin’s squad will travel to Bloomington for this matchup and make its home debut the following week in a Halloween showdown against Ohio State.

Despite some key offseason departures, there has been plenty of preseason hype around some of the younger players who should have breakout seasons this year.

Here are our picks for Penn State football’s top breakout candidates for the 2020 season:

Jayson Oweh — Defensive End

One of the most obvious choices for this list is defensive end Jayson Oweh. He’s set to start opposite of fellow defensive end Shaka Toney following the offseason departure of Yetur Gross-Matos.

Oweh was a rotational piece for the Nittany Lions last season and totaled 21 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles in 13 games. Five sacks in limited playing time is an impressive mark, and that number is almost certain to go up this season.

The New Jersey native received some national attention in the past when his name popped up in the top 10 of Bruce Feldman’s college football “freaks” list for two consecutive seasons.

Entering his first season as a full-time starter, the sky is the limit for the 6’5″, 253-pound defensive end.

Daniel George — Wide Receiver

Somebody will need to step up at wideout opposite Jahan Dotson, giving redshirt sophomore Daniel George a perfect opportunity to have a breakout season.

George appeared in 12 games last season, with one start, and totaled just nine receptions for 100 yards. With KJ Hamler off to the NFL and Justin Shorter and Mac Hippenhammer no longer with the program, George is the presumptive No. 2 wide receiver entering the 2020 season.

The Maryland native showed us what he’s capable of back in 2018 when he caught a 95-yard touchdown pass against Kent State, setting the program record for the longest play from scrimmage.

Brandon Smith — Linebacker

Former five-star recruit Brandon Smith enters the season with sky-high expectations. After not receiving much playing time last season, he’ll step into a starting role this year after the loss of all three starting linebackers from last season.

He appeared in 13 games last season as a true freshman and totaled 14 tackles in a backup role.

Smith opened some eyes in the final seconds of Penn State’s 79-7 win over Idaho last season with a huge hit.

Smith was the No. 1 player from his home state of Virginia in the 2019 class, and will now attempt to uphold Penn State’s reputation as “Linebacker U” along with fellow starters Ellis Brooks and Jesse Luketa.

Keaton Ellis — Cornerback

State College’s own Keaton Ellis came to Penn State last year and earned some valuable playing time as a true freshman.

Ellis served as a key reserve at cornerback and made one start during his true freshman season, totaling 14 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two passes defended.

One of his forced fumbles came in a big spot with the Nittany Lions trailing in the third quarter against Minnesota.

Ellis should start opposite of Tariq Castro-Fields at cornerback this season after John Reid’s departure and Donovan Johnson’s injury.

Adisa Isaac — Defensive End

Adisa Isaac, another 2019 true freshman, should jump into a bigger role this season.

He totaled 14 tackles, three for a loss, and 1.5 sacks last season in limited playing time. The Brooklyn, New York native has caught the eye of his teammate and fellow defensive end Shaka Toney.

“[Adisa Isaac] is learning how to do new things, he’s understanding football,” Toney said. “He’s going to be a dominant player, I keep telling people.”

Additionally, the former four-star recruit has the speed and agility to really make some noise as a pass rusher.

While Toney and Oweh are the expected starters, Isaac should see plenty of playing time in a rotational role throughout the season.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Wide Receiver

Incoming freshman KeAndre Lambert-Smith has the chance to make a huge impact this season after an electric high school career.

Lambert-Smith arrives in Happy Valley as a four-star recruit hailing from Norfolk, Virginia. He put up some impressive numbers at Maury High School as a three-year varsity player, totaling 185 receptions for 3,224 yards and 42 touchdowns.

With wide receiver wide open after Jahan Dotson, Lambert-Smith will have a legitimate chance to make a name for himself early on in his college career.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a sophomore majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, NY and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his rants on all of his teams follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]


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