The two most talked about freshmen on Penn State’s roster received some more praise Tuesday morning.
Lamont Wade and Tariq Castro-Fields — five- and four-star cornerbacks, respectively — are expected to make a difference in the Nittany Lion secondary this season.
But they’ve also stood out in another area: special teams.
Senior placekicker Tyler Davis, the anticipated starting kickoff specialist, believes Wade and Castro-Fields’ coverage skills will be an asset for Penn State in 2017.
“I think it’s just their speed and they’re aggressive,” Davis said on a conference call. “I know Coach (Charles) Huff is a great special teams coordinator that implements some great plans, and they’ve seemed to catch on very quickly. Just their athleticism stands out.”
Franklin agreed with Davis’ assessment.
The coach identified Castro-Fields and Wade, as well defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, as true freshmen who’ll have their redshirts burned and contribute in 2017.
A “major factor” in deciding that, according to Franklin, is the players’ ability to make an impact on special teams.
“If you look at Grant Haley, I think he’s a perfect example of a guy who is a true freshman,” Franklin said, when asked about Wade and Castro-Fields. “Played a lot on special teams, had a lot of success on special teams, and then his role grew as the season went on on the defensive side of the ball. That’s what you’d like.
“We’re just in a much healthier spot and guys are playing because they have earned it, not because of just the circumstances that we’re in. So I expect all those guys, including Yetur, to have a role on special teams and to have that role continue to grow as the season goes on.”