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Embracing Competition, Penn State’s Young Talent Impresses In Spring Ball

Penn State’s annual Blue-White spring football game is just around the corner, and with it comes Nittany Lions fans’ first chance to get a look at the future of the program, including notable recruits like Drew Allar and Nicholas Singleton.

Now a few weeks into spring practices, head coach James Franklin expressed positive impressions of his newest players. He and his assistants say they’re starting to gain some clarity and understanding of how new additions could contribute on the field next season.

“I think we got a better feel of who and what we can be,” Franklin said. “So, yeah, I think I think we got more answers. There’s still going to be a lot of answers and a lot of work to be done before the first game, but obviously, we know more than we did before.”

One of the players who received praise from both players and coaches is Singleton, the true freshman running back who had an 80-yard run at one of the spring practices, as confirmed by defensive, veteran leader Ji’Ayir Brown. According to Brown, Singleton has been turning heads at practice, even for players on the other side of the ball like himself.

“Nick squatted about 500 pounds as a freshman. You know, that’s almost unheard of,” Brown said. “That’s how he came in, and that’s how he’s been. He’s been wanting to improve, wanting to get better, buying into the program, wanting to be the best he can be.”

With young running backs coming into the program like Singleton and Kaytron Allen, there is competition for the position with returning backs in the fold, too. When citing the competition present for positions like quarterback and running back, Franklin expressed how the team has embraced the competition.

“I think everybody is feeling the heat and the competitive juices, which I think is great. I think we’re a program that embraces the competition,” Franklin said. “I think that’s tested more than ever in college football right now because you see a lot of programs and you see a lot of kids that are taking the easy way out. I’m not saying all kids are doing that but some guys are, you know…they’re avoiding competition. So far, I’ve been pleased with how we’ve embraced it.”

As for the festivities this weekend, Franklin says that this year’s Blue-White Game would take a slightly different format. He’s expecting his team’s offense on one sideline and defense on another.

“Some of the periods will be thud, some of the periods will be live, so we will get some live work,” Franklin said. “But there’s some players that aren’t cleared for live [games] but they are clear for thud, so it allows us to get more guys reps.”

With these changes in place, fans should expect to get a look at young players who are either new to the program or didn’t get many touches last season. With restrictions slowly getting lifted within the last year, Franklin expressed his excitement to return to a normal routine for the young players. After all, this will be Penn State’s first spring game since 2019.

“I’m excited that we’re getting back to more of a normal calendar year,” he said. “It’d be really good for some of our young players to be able to play in Beaver Stadium with some fans in there, and it’ll be on the Big Ten Network as well. So there’s a lot of positives that can come from that.”

Brown noted several young players who should impress fans at the game this weekend, including Jaylen Reed, Zakee Wheatly, and Johnny Dixon, among others. Brown expressed a sense of pride in his teammates and the work they have been putting in.

“We got a young team,” he said. “So many guys that stepped up, and you won’t even know they were young guys out there.”

Penn State’s Blue-White game kicks off this Saturday at 2 p.m. Catch it on the Big Ten Network or visit Happy Valley in person for a full weekend of family-friendly festivities.

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About the Author

Mikey DeAngelis

Mikey DeAngelis is a sophomore majoring in film production, working in his role for Onward State as a social media editor and photographer. He is also the creator of the Mad About Disney YouTube channel and an aspiring filmmaker. Mikey loves Philly sports, traveling and hiking in National Parks, and watching movies. To reach Mikey, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@mikey_deangelis) or by email ([email protected]).

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