【N.J】 Five things to watch during Penn State spring football practice – New Jersey News

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The Penn State football team begins spring practice Tuesday, the first of 15 sessions leading up to the Blue-White Game April 15 at Beaver Stadium.

Here are five things to watch about the Nittany Lions this spring:

1. All eyes will be on Drew Allar

Penn State fans clamored for the 6-5, 242-pound Allar to see more playing time last year when he was a freshman behind Sean Clifford. They will get their wish this year.

Allar, a former five-star prospect from Medina, Ohio, has all the physical tools to become a great quarterback. He has said he learned much about the mental side of playing the position from Clifford, who finished his career with a memorable performance in the Rose Bowl.

The expectations for Allar are high. Many believe not having an elite quarterback like him has kept the Lions from making the College Football Playoff. Can he take them there? Time will tell.

Penn State coaches have expressed confidence in former Central York star Beau Pribula, who enrolled at the same time as Allar. Without a veteran, the Lions will count on Pribula to be a competent backup.

2. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen take their next step

Singleton, the former Gov. Mifflin star, and Allen made an immediate impact last season as freshmen, combining to rush for 1,928 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Penn State running back and Gov. Mifflin grad Nick Singleton looks to take the next step in his development this spring. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Penn State running back and Gov. Mifflin grad Nick Singleton looks to take the next step in his development this spring. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Singleton, with his blazing speed and mighty strength, and Allen, with his marvelous patience and vision, complement each other well. They improved their pass protection as last season progressed, but they need to work on their route running and pass catching this spring.

Singleton was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and finished with 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Rutgers.

The biggest concern in the backfield is the depth behind Singleton and Allen. Their emergence prompted veterans Caziah Holmes, Devyn Ford and Keyvone Lee to enter the transfer portal.

But their departures left Penn State with just walk-ons and incoming freshmen London Montgomery, who is recovering from a knee injury, and Cameron Wallace as the only other backs in the room.

3. Transfers are expected to make another huge impact

Penn State has enjoyed success plucking players from the transfer portal the last couple seasons (see Arnold Ebiketie, Derrick Tangelo, Johnny Dixon, Chop Robinson, Hunter Nourzad, Barney Amor, etc.).

This year should be no different. Wide receivers Dante Cephas (Kent State) and Malik McClain (Florida State) and cornerback Storm Duck (North Carolina) are expected to start or contend for starting positions.

Cephas, who will enroll in June, caught 48 passes for 744 yards and three touchdowns last season after he had a sensational 2021 season when he made 82 catches for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns.

He chose Penn State over Georgia, Kansas, Miami, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. He played high school ball at Penn Hills in Pittsburgh with Penn State cornerback Daequan Hardy and running back Tank Smith.

McClain, once a four-star prospect, had 17 receptions for 206 yards and three touchdowns last season for the Seminoles.

At North Carolina, Duck was a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick last season and made 46 tackles, three interceptions and nine pass breakups.

4. The offensive line has experience, talent and depth

Left tackle Olu Fashanu’s decision to return to Penn State, even though he was projected as a first-round draft pick, was a massive win for the Lions.

Fashanu’s meteoric rise in his first season as a starter was remarkable. He missed the final five games with an undisclosed injury, which gave former Downingtown West star Drew Shelton an opportunity. Shelton played very well as a freshman and probably will wind up being part of a three-tackle rotation with Fashanu and Caedan Wallace.

Nourzad will slide from guard to center, where he will replace Juice Scruggs. Sal Wormley and Landon Tengwall, a former four-star prospect who missed the second half of last season with an undisclosed injury, are expected to be back at guard.

5. The defensive line could add some beef

Penn State coach James Franklin famously complained that the defensive line was not heavy enough moments after Michigan ran for 418 yards against the Lions in October.

Three defensive linemen — Dvon Ellies, Kaleb Artis and Ibrahim Traore — are the only ones who weigh at least 300 pounds.

Penn State has exceptional pass rushers, led by ends Adisa Isaac and Robinson, but needs to replace PJ Mustipher in the middle of its defense.

Don’t be surprised if the Lions look for help there from the portal in the next few months.

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