'These kids are serious.' How the freshman class is shaping up
Dwight Galt, Penn State's director of performance enhancement, has overseen collegiate strength-and-conditioning programs for more than 30 years — so his comments Saturday afternoon about the Nittany Lions' current freshman class caused more than a few ears to perk up.
Galt, who garnered national attention after the Nittany Lions' unprecedented showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, said this freshman class has had one of the easiest transitions — workout-wise — that he's ever seen.
When asked what freshman has most impressed him, Galt simply responded, "Almost all of them."
"This is a good class," he continued. "Obviously, you've got a lot of Rivals stars and a lot of 247 stars, which means a lot, but these kids are serious. They've been well-prepared, not only physically and in the weight room and running, but also what it's going to take to be successful here.
"It's really been neat to train them. It's probably been the least — the transition with them has been the least impactful for them and for us."
Two freshmen who caused rumblings throughout Saturday's annual Lift for Life event, which raises money to fight rare diseases, were defensive tackle PJ Mustipher and wideout Justin Shorter. The pair didn't look like freshmen.
According to the most recent roster, Mustipher stands at 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds while Shorter is 6-foot-4, 226.
"PJ's been prepared for a long time. He's mature ... his physical foundation is nothing compared to his emotional makeup and how dedicated he is and how important this is to him," Galt said. "So he's already assumed a pretty nice leadership role since he got here.
"And Justin's Justin. He was the best receiver in the country coming out by some prognosticators. And we didn't have as much time with him — we had one week with him — but that's when it helps to have Juwan Johnson here. Because Justin walks in and he's like a 226, 6-foot-4, 4.4 guy and he turns around and stares at Juwan Johnson, who's 6-foot-5, 230 has got some good stuff happening."
Color quarterback Trace McSorley also already impressed.
"Justin's a dude who all through the spring was texting me, asking when he could get the playbook and watch film," McSorley added Saturday. "And physically, when he walks in the room, he doesn't look like an 18-year-old kid."
But what makes this freshman class stand apart isn't just those two; Galt emphasized how it was nearly the entire class — 32 freshmen, including walk-ons. They arrived in waves this offseason, six in January, four in mid-May, more in mid-June and even more afterward.
Galt acknowledged he wasn't initially a big fan of those structured waves. He worried about how much free time a group of 17-and- 18-year-olds would have, since workouts routinely last about two hours.
But he came around after the freshmen were offered other educational opportunities and once he saw how dedicated a majority were. It also helped that with 10 freshmen here for more than a month already, they were able to show the other rookies the ropes.
"You know me, the more training I can get, the happier I am," Galt said. "And the sooner you can kind of get them assimilated, the better."
Penn State has already been training for about seven weeks, and the team still has about three weeks of offseason training to go before camp rolls around. But Galt likes what he's seen so far — this is the fastest the linebackers have ever been, the six early enrollees are in "a whole different ballpark," and the freshmen as a group are maturing quickly.
"We're obviously getting to a pretty good place right now," Galt said.