Mac Hippenhammer nabbed two touchdowns, Micah Parsons debuted, and Lamont Wade was all over the place during Saturday’s Blue-White Game. Those three — along with Trace McSorley and a couple others — were the obvious standouts.
But who flew under-the-radar? Who were the relative unknowns that made names for themselves this weekend?
Our staff weighs in on the biggest surprises from the Blue-White Game:
John McGonigal: linebacker Dae’Lun Darien
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A former wide receiver turned in one of Saturday’s finest defensive performances. Yes, you read that correctly.
Dae’Lun Darien — an unknown pass-catcher before converting to an unknown linebacker in the offseason — was impressive. No two ways about it.
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound redshirt sophomore showed off his athleticism, tallying four tackles, assisting on a tackle for loss and constantly pressuring the quarterback.
Darien’s day was a surprise to fans and media alike.
But at least one teammate wasn’t shocked.
“He’s an athletic guy, which is why he was able to make the jump from receiver to linebacker, which isn’t really a conventional jump,” safety Garrett Taylor said. “When we first put him in the Lion’s Den, he’d stick his head in there and be physical at the point of attack. Maybe for the first time, fans are seeing that. But us as a defense, we’ve come to expect that from him.”
Ryne Gery: cornerback Zech McPhearson
Before Penn State head coach James Franklin was asked any questions after the game, he mentioned McPhearson as the player who “stood out to me.”
Franklin said the cornerback played with confidence and made plays for the White Team, and McPhearson embraced the opportunity lining up against the first-team offense led by quarterback Trace McSorley.
“I wanted that. Trace is really good. He gets me better every day. He’s a smart quarterback,” McPhearson said. “I love going against Trace, he’s a really good quarterback, and I feel like that will help me get ready for the season going against a Heisman candidate.”
McPhearson nearly had two interceptions in the first quarter, breaking up both passes. The junior finished with three pass break-ups and two tackles.
Josh Moyer: defensive end Nick Tarburton
You know what surprises me? When you’re moved to a new position and, two weeks later, you get a sack in the Blue-White Game. Know what surprises me even more? When you’ve been on campus for a grand total of four months.
Tarburton, an early enrollee, entered Happy Valley as a linebacker. He began spring practice as a linebacker but, after about 11 practices, the coaching staff felt it best for his long-term progress to move to defensive line. That position change was always a possibility, but to see him excel after just a handful of practices at a new position was pretty shocking.
I guess we should’ve listened to offensive tackle Ryan Bates a bit more earlier this week. He acknowledged Tarburton was a bit raw, but he thought the freshman had a knack for the position. “He’s the kind of guy who has no regard for his body,” Bates said. “He’s going to hit you as hard as he can no matter if it hurts him or not — and I love people who play like that.”
Tarburton is facing a likely redshirt. But after spending a season at defensive end, I’m definitely intrigued to see what he can do at the position.