Penn State Football’s Secondary Preparing To Face NFL-Caliber Talent Against Ohio State
Just like Penn State produces NFL-grade linebackers, Ohio State routinely produces wide receivers destined for the league.
One such player on this year’s Ohio State roster is Marvin Harrison Jr. Harrison, a Philadelphia native, has been one of Ohio State’s top receivers since last year when he recorded 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Coming into the 2023 season, Harrison was established as the nation’s best wide receiver and as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. Harrison is well on his way to matching last year’s production, with 604 yards and five touchdowns through six games this year.
For safeties coach Anthony Poindexter, it’s not just Harrison’s size and speed that allows him to wreck games, but his ability to stick to the game plan.
“He’s done damage for several years in this conference,” Poindexter said. “He always plays hard, he always competes. He’s a special player.”
Penn State’s secondary is untested against players of Harrison’s magnitude this season, but cornerback Kalen King, who will most likely line up opposite Harrison this weekend, is looking forward to the opportunity.
“I know he’s a good receiver, arguably the best in college football,” Harrison said. “In order for me to go where I want to go, I feel like I have to stand up to that challenge and show the world what I can do.”
King hasn’t had many opportunities to show up on the stat sheet this season, with teams avoiding targeting the junior cornerback because of his ability to break up passes and force turnovers. Even without the flashy numbers, King is one of the most respected cornerbacks in college football.
As a potential first-round pick, King is right to assume that Saturday’s game is going to be one of his few chances to make plays and impress the NFL scouts in attendance, of which there are going to be plenty.
With such an emphasis on this game from both a team and individual perspective, King will have to keep his emotions in check. James Franklin has praised his defense for settling down and not trying to do too much, something that King will have to remember from the onset of the game in Ohio Stadium.
“I feel like I take the same approach to every game,” King said. “I’m gonna try to play as aggressively as possible while also staying within the framework that Manny [Diaz] wants as a team.”
Franklin’s 1-0 mentality is made for games like Saturday’s. At the end of the day, this game has dramatic implications for what the rest of Penn State’s season will look like.
Even without the season-breaking capabilities of Saturday’s contest, the rivalry itself is enough to heighten player’s emotions — Penn State’s campus has been buzzing all week in anticipation of the weekend.
Because of its 1-0 mantra, Penn State’s secondary is well-equipped to look at this game as just another tilt in the course of a season. King says that above all, the 1-0 mentality helps him enjoy every game, whether it be UMass or Ohio State.
“I’m taking this one day at a time because just being here is amazing,” King said. “At some point, I’ll have to leave this place, and I want to leave this place knowing that I made the right decision and enjoyed it the whole time through.”
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