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Sean Clifford, Ji’Ayir Brown Continue Building Draft Profile At Penn State’s 2023 Pro Day

Thirteen Penn State football players were in action for the 2023 Pro Day on Friday. General Managers, coaches, and scouts from the likes of all 32 NFL teams watched the festivities in Holuba Hall.

This year’s Pro Day participants would come from both sides of the ball, as well as from special teams. Star performers like Joey Porter Jr. aimed to solidify their status as an early draft pick, while others attempted to improve their stock.

A somewhat surprisingly fast 40-yard dash from longtime quarterback Sean Clifford, and impressive route running from Mitchell Tinsley and Brenton Strange served as some of the day’s highlights.

Participants

  • Barney Amor, Punter
  • Ji’Ayir Brown, Saftey
  • Sean Clifford, Quarterback
  • PJ Mustipher, Defensive Line
  • Jake Pinegar, Kicker
  • Joey Porter Jr., Cornerback
  • Juice Scruggs, Offensive Line
  • Chris Stoll, Long Snapper
  • Brenton Strange, Tight End
  • Jonathan Sutherland, Linebacker
  • Nick Tarburton, EDGE
  • Mitchell Tinsley, Wide Receiver
  • Parker Washington, Wide Receiver

The first phase of Pro Day was completed in the Penn State football weight room without the media present, where participants were tested on the bench press and vertical jump.

Bench Press

Linebacker Jonathan Sutherland recorded an impressive 25 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. Defensive End Nick Tarburton also put up 25 reps, while long snapper Chris Stoll threw up 11.

Vertical Jump

Two Nittany Lions tied at the top of the charts with their impressive leaps Friday. Sutherland and cornerback Joey Porter Jr. clocked in with a 37.5″ vertical leap.

Elsewhere, Ji’Ayir Brown jumped 35.5″, just behind his fellow defensemen. Sean Clifford broke the 30-inch barrier himself with a jump of 30.5″, while the 258-pound Nick Tarburton also jumped an impressive 29 inches.

Broad Jump

Only a handful of players participated in the broad jump, however those that did put up stellar numbers.

Brown, Sutherland, and Porter Jr. all surpassed the 10-foot mark, with Porter Jr. jumping the farthest at 10’11”. The broad jump ended up as Porter Jr.’s last workout of the day before positional drills later in the session.

40-Yard Dash

Don’t get confused, Sean Clifford is a dual-threat quarterback.

Clifford ran a 4.57 40-yard dash today, as his coaches and teammates cheered him on. The veteran quarterback posted the second-fastest time of all of Friday’s participants –– something perhaps unexpected.

Furthermore, Clifford’s time would have placed him as the fifth-fastest quarterback at the 2023 Combine, ahead of players such as Georgia’s Stetson Bennett. The Nittany Lion did not receive an invite to the Combine.

“That [speed] is something that I really wanted to come in and re-prove. I know I’ve shown speed on film, but I wanted to come out here and post a good time,” Clifford said. “So being able to post a 4.57, I’m proud of that number.”

Defensive end Nick Tarburton and long snapper Chris Stoll ran an impressive 4.84 and 4.88 times respectively. During his allotted media time, Tarburton preached about his work ethic and training, happy with the progress he has seen so far.

“I felt like I proved something and I feel like I belong in the NFL,” said Tarburton. “This is by far the best I have felt in my entire life. My body feels great, my mind is great, spiritually I’m great…everything is just awesome.”

Speedster Mitchell Tinsley posted the fastest time of the day –– 4.52. The Penn State wideout looked smooth and loose during his sprint, practically floating en route to a quick time.

Individual Work

After all the combine tests were finished, position groups broke off and began their individual drills.

Punter Barney Amor emphasized his pinpoint accuracy as he routinely stuck footballs inside the ten-yard line.

“I would have charted second on the combine based on today’s stats,” said Amor, who did not receive a Combine invite. “During the season… [my] hangmtime was a little low, but I think I definitely answered that question today on if I can add a couple more seconds.”

Stoll, the long snapper and Amor’s partner in crime, was also happy with the consistency of his workout.

“I wanted to show that I have a little bit of athleticism in me, as well as how consistent I am at snapping the football,” said Stoll. “I thought I did very well. It’s my job to be high-production, low maintenance and I think that’s what I did today.”

Kicker Jake Pinegar also performed well Friday, making kicks from distances upwards of 50 yards.

Offensive lineman Juice Scruggs showcased his speed and power off the ball with some pad work. The sound of Scruggs hitting the blocking pad was loud enough to be heard across the field.

Scruggs’ session ended with an emphatic pancake of one of the equipment managers, earning a healthy chuckle from everyone in attendance –– and conversations with representatives of the Washington Commanders, Houston Texans, and Los Angeles Rams.

Shortly thereafter, defensive linemen PJ Mustipher and Nick Tarburton participated in agility and bag work drills of their own.

It was incredibly impressive to watch Mustipher’s quick change of direction abilities in particular. The 321-pound interior defensive lineman wasted no time planting his foot and exploding out in a new direction, seemingly without missing a beat.

To cap off the day was none other than quarterback Sean Clifford. Clifford threw a few dozen passes to multiple receivers such as Mitchell Tinsley, Brenton Strange, Malik McClain, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, and even his brother Liam Clifford.

The big brother moved through different route trees at various spots on the field, ranging from 50-yard deep balls to an end zone fade from the 5-yard line. While there were a few overthrows and miscommunications, Clifford largely performed at a high level.

“I think that I am truly playing my best ball, I think that the Rose Bowl speaks for itself,” said Clifford. “I liked being able to show that today and silence the doubters.”

Notable Guests

Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance Friday to see the Penn State athletes in action.

Just as he did last offseason, Green Bay Packers general Manager Brain Gutekunst represented his team’s front office to examine possible draft prospects. Other notable coaches attending Pro Day included:

  • Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears head coach
  • Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins head coach
  • Matt Nagy, Kansas City Cheifs offensive coordinator

McDaniel was popular among the players today, spending a prolonged amount of time sitting with them in their warm-up area. McDaniel and the players were seen trading jokes and smiles as the session progressed.

Also worth mentioning was transfer wide receiver Malik McClain. The Florida State transfer wasted no time getting acclimated to Penn State football, running routes for Clifford during his workout.

Former Penn State basketball players Myles Dread and Cam Wynter also came to support their fellow Nittany Lions, hot off their momentous run in the NCAA Tournament.

What’s Next?

The Penn State football draft prospects will now wait to hear their names called in the 2023 NFL Draft. The NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 27, televised by ESPN and NFL Network.

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About the Author

Brendan Wagner

Brendan is a Junior majoring in print and media journalism. Born in Pittsburgh, he now lives in Mooresville, North Carolina. As a die-hard Pittsburgh sports fan, you can find him on Twitter, @brchwags, often complaining about the Pittsburgh Steelers and probably Russell Wilson.

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