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Joey Porter Jr., Keaton Ellis Poised For Increased Roles In Penn State’s Secondary

Penn State football’s secondary has had its fair share of struggles over the past few seasons, but the Nittany Lions have confidence in the group entering the 2020 campaign thanks to eager young talent.

While Brent Pry’s defense gets experience in Tariq Castro-Fields, Jaquan Brisker, and captain Lamont Wade, second-year cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr. and Keaton Ellis will have a lot asked of them. In fact, Porter was named a starter opposite Castro-Fields on Penn State’s depth chart Tuesday, while Ellis checked in right behind him.

“I think it’s a combination of things,” Franklin said Wednesday night. “I think truly knowing that playbook on a level that allows [Joey] to go out and play fast, confident, and aggressive.”

Franklin explained at his Tuesday presser that Porter was frustrated when he redshirted as a freshman in 2019. He appeared in only four games and totaled three tackles, while other freshmen such as Ellis and Marquis Wilson got valuable playing time. That pair each played in double-digit games and each finished with 18 tackles and three forced fumbles.

While it may’ve been a frustrating year of waiting for Porter, all signs are saying it paid off for the young corner.

“He has changed his body,” Franklin said. “He is a good looking corner, as good as I have seen. All the footwork stuff, all the technique stuff that he’s been able to learn…And then I think it’s also been his mentality. Obviously growing up in a football family has helped him as well.”

Porter’s father, Joey Porter, starred at linebacker at Colorado State University and went on to play 13 years in the NFL. He played the majority of those years as a Pittsburgh Steeler, as he was a part of the team that won Super Bowl XL and was named to four Pro Bowls along the way.

Junior doesn’t yet have his Father’s resume, but the Nittany Lions clearly have faith in him to help improve upon the team’s cover ability. Penn State allowed an average of 251.5 passing yards to opponents last year, a mark that was second-worst in the Big Ten.

Outside of Porter, though, Ellis will be an important facet of Penn State’s secondary. While he’s currently listed as as a backup, the State College native is poised to improve upon a productive freshman campaign. Along with his tackling ability, he finished with two pass deflections on the season and had an impressive forced fumble and recovery against Maryland.

No matter where each guy ends up on the depth chart, Franklin and the rest of the coaching staff have high expectation for both young cornerbacks.

“Last year Ellis played as a true freshman and we’re still really excited about him,” Franklin said. “But he played as a true freshman while Joey redshirted, and now Joey’s starting and Ellis is gonna play a signifiant role as well. Everybody’s journey and path is different, but [Joey]’s in a really good place and I’m proud of him.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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