Kent State head coach Sean Lewis — who played Big Ten football at Wisconsin — joined the media Monday morning and previewed Saturday’s noon matchup against Penn State.
He praised a number of Nittany Lions and complimented James Franklin’s squad quite a bit.
What have you seen from Penn State freshman linebacker Micah Parsons, and what were your impressions of him?
Sean Lewis: Yeah, I would say he was the No. 1 recruit in the country last year, if I’m not mistaken, and he’s a phenomenal player — like a lot of the young men that are on the squad that Coach Franklin has assembled. I mean, he’s got a galaxy over there with the number of stars he’s been able to accumulate in recruiting. And they’re long, they’re athletic, they’re nasty, they hunt the ball, they’re opportunistic, and they play the game the right way — which is a credit to Coach Franklin and his staff.
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What Penn State players stick out to you, that you know you’ll have to be aware of where they are on the field at all times?
SL: The game starts up front, in particular with their D-line. They’re a long, athletic group. No. 30 Kevin Givens, inside, is a twitchy young man who shows explosiveness. They do a really good job moving him; he’s a dynamic 3-technique that really gives you some fits from the inside-out. The linebacker level, Micah Parsons was just asked about. He’s flashed early on there. Cam Brown, No. 6, their outside linebacker, is a long, athletic kid that covers a ton of ground. He’s shown some ability now where he’s able to flip his hips, wheel around and two-stride every five — which he can just chew up grass. He’s a dynamic athlete.
And then their corner, Tariq Castro-Fields, has tremendous ball skills and does a great job in the pass game. And the opposite corner, No. 21 (Amani Oruwariye), I’m not going to try to pronounce his name because I don’t want to discredit him or his family by mispronouncing that. But he does a fabulous job. He had a pick in the Pitt game where he was literally looking out of his ear hole and still able to track the ball and make a play. So, defensively, they’ve got a bunch of dudes.
Obviously, offensively, it starts with their quarterback (Trace McSorley). He’s a dynamic athlete; he can hurt you in a lot of different ways. He’s a proven winner and continues to do that this year and find ways to get it done. The drive that he leads in the App State game to come back and tie that thing, and to get it into overtime and for them to find a way to win, it’s a testament to him.
They have dynamic skill with Miles Sanders at the running back and Mr. (Juwan) Johnson, No. 84. And last but not least is their returner DeAndre Thompkins. It seems like every single time he touches it, I’m going to be holding my breath because he has the ability to take it to the house in a heartbeat.
Playing on the road against Big Ten opponent Illinois in Week 1 — how does that help you going into Penn State?
SL: Yeah, I mean, obviously getting into another big-time venue, it’s a lot of fun for our kids to get into those situations. Having gone on the road in the past helps us in this opportunity. But, ultimately at the end of the day, if we’re preparing the right way and we’re treating practice like a game and we’re big believers that our practice repetition becomes our game reality, it really doesn’t matter if it’s on our grass practice field on a Tuesday in-between the white lines and there’s no one watching or if there happen to be 110,000 people watching in Happy Valley.
Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit louder. But, from our vantage point, we need to do what we we do. We need to lock in and build a game plan that highlights our players’ strengths, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge that lies ahead of us in Happy Valley.