Yetur Gross-Matos stood — a little nervously — on the Beaver Stadium sideline in the first half of Saturday’s beatdown of Akron.
At least, he seemed nervous to starting defensive end Ryan Buchholz.
And who could blame Gross-Matos? The true freshman pass-rusher was about to log his first snaps as a Nittany Lion.
“Coach (Sean) Spencer said, ‘If this happens, you’re going to go in.’ And I was on the sideline with him,” Buchholz recalled after Wednesday’s practice. “I kind of grabbed him by the neck and said, ‘Just follow me out, and I’ll tell you what to do.’”
Gross-Matos didn’t look awestruck. In his first action at Penn State and in Beaver Stadium, the four-star defensive end had a couple tackles and popped Akron quarterback Tommy Woodson on a hurry.
Buchholz said, stature-wise, Gross-Matos reminds him of Carl Nassib, the 2015 NCAA sacks leader and current Cleveland Brown.
Penn State coach James Franklin also complimented the 6-foot-5 end, saying he and the staff knew they’d burn his redshirt early into fall camp.
“We got into a situation where he was showing that by Game 5, we think he’s really going to have a significant role for us,” Franklin said. “He’s probably not ready yet, but we got him in. The thing I liked about him is he did what he could control. He doesn’t know the game plan 100 percent yet. He doesn’t know offensive systems as well as we’d like him too yet. But he played really hard and he played reckless and he flew around from when the ball was snapped until the whistle was blown.
“I’m really pleased with Yetur at this point.”
Former Nittany Lion, current Panther
Pitt hasn’t played at Beaver Stadium since 1999, but one Panther will be rather familiar with the gameday scene in Happy Valley.
Kam Carter, a former Nittany Lion, is now with Pitt.
A four-star defensive tackle signed by James Franklin in 2015 was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules last April. Carter went to East Mississippi Community College where he starred on Netflix’s “Last Chance U” documentary and played well enough to earn a scholarship to Pitt.
While he never played a down for the Nittany Lions — Carter redshirted in 2015 — there are handful of former teammates who keep in touch with him.
While Buchholz doesn’t catch up with Carter, he said Robert Windsor and other Penn State defensive tackles have.
“I’m happy for him,” Buchholz added. “It’s awesome.”
“I think it’s important to be aware, and it’s important to be informed. That’s our duty. That’s what you’ve got to do, be informed about the issues that are going on. You can’t be blind. You can’t put yourself in your own little hole of football and school and not know what’s going on in the rest of the country and rest of the world.” — Penn State linebacker Jason Cabinda, on using Twitter to discuss social issues