Last spring, Juwan Johnson was the buzz of spring practice. He was the name on the lips of coaches and players alike, the breakout star of the spring.
But who holds that title this year?
Well, we asked several Penn State players to name their breakout candidate — and a few had the same answer.
RB Miles Sanders says WRs KJ Hamler and Mac Hippenhammer
“They’re stepping up with Juwan being hurt this spring. They’re stepping up in their roles pretty good. I think they’ll have a chance to do something pretty big this season.”
S Nick Scott says Sanders and LB Jarvis Miller
“I would have to say Miles Sanders. He’s been doing a really nice job. He looks explosive. He’s got a little bit of breakaway speed, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him grow and seeing what he can do this coming summer and fall. Another guy who’s been trending in the right direction is Jarvis Miller. The biggest thing with him is, he’s working and busting his hump every day. He comes in ready to work and ready to learn. You’re really starting to see it pay off with his approach and knowledge of the game.”
OC Connor McGovern says OL Michael Menet, OL Alex Gellerstedt
“Definitely on the offensive line, I think Michael Menet is having a really good spring and so is Alex Gellerstedt. They just improved across the board. Alex moved between both tackle spots; Mike’s just improving all-around. He’s just being more comfortable out there at guard.”
DE Ryan Buchholz says Hamler
“Probably KJ. He’s been all over. You’ve heard about it; he’s doing well. Sometimes the quarterback does get sacked but, on big touchdowns, (James) Franklin lets the play go so we’ll give him credit — he’s getting by the D-backs and making big plays. So it’ll be cool to see what he does this year. ... He’s been showing up every practice, which is awesome.”
WR Brandon Polk says Hamler
“One guy, I would have to say KJ, as well. He’s going out there not only the explosive plays that he’s creating, but even if it’s just a five-yard speed out he’ll make that explosive as well as the deep balls thrown to him. He’s going out there and he’s doing everything he can do. I enjoy watching it.”
P Blake Gillikin says Hippenhammer, along with the positions of OL and LS
“Someone who’s really jumped out to me — well, first of all, I think our offensive line has been doing really well. I saw some stuff that Connor said earlier today, and I would 100 percent back that up. I think they’re going to be a real strength for our team this year, just from what I’ve seen in the live periods and stuff like that. And I think we got some young guys who are really stepping up at receiver as well. Mac Hippenhammer is doing a really good job; a lot of the freshmen are really getting a lot of reps this spring and are really coming along. And, obviously the guys I work with the most, I think our long-snappers have really improved this offseason — not just Kyle Vasey but the guys behind him have really improved and really brought a good competition to that group.”