Penn State Football

5 things to watch in Penn State football’s Blue-White Game

Penn State freshman Keaton Ellis makes a catch during the first spring football practice on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.
Penn State freshman Keaton Ellis makes a catch during the first spring football practice on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. adrey@centredaily.com

Spring ball is almost over.

Penn State’s annual Blue-White Game kicks off at 3 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium. Oftentimes, the last of Penn State’s 15 allotted practices is a time for unheralded or overlooked players to shine — and there are a few who could stand out this weekend.

Here are five things to keep an eye on when watching the Blue-White Game.

QB Will Levis worth watching

Tommy Stevens won’t likely suit up. All eyes will be on big-armed Sean Clifford. And fans will also be interested in what 2019 signees Ta’Quan Roberson and Michael Johnson can do. But don’t forget about Will Levis.

Levis — after running Penn State’s scout team in 2018 — has taken second-team reps this spring, and he’s making good on them, too. Head coach James Franklin and teammates said Levis is slinging the ball with purpose. Even former mentor Trace McSorley saw Levis’ growth this spring while in town to prepare for the NFL draft.

“To see how far Will has come, the reps he’s starting to get, you can see him become more confident,” McSorley added.

Perhaps the former three-star signal-caller can build on that confidence Saturday.

DE Jayson Oweh off the edge

Defensive end Shane Simmons is banged up, and Yetur Gross-Matos has proven what he can do already. That could leave Jayson Oweh with plenty of reps.

Oweh, a former four-star pass-rusher from New Jersey, is relatively new to football. He started playing the game at an organized level as a junior in high school. He was a natural, racking up 13 sacks his senior year at Blair Academy. And after recording a pair of sacks last year — while still redshirting — the 6-foot-6 outlier who runs a 4.42-second 40-yard dash is a good bet to break out in 2019 and this weekend.

“He’s been hitting his groove,” Gross-Matos said of Oweh. “He was a freak of nature when he stepped on campus. When he comes around that corner — explosive and huge — it’s really hard for any offense to stop him.”

Added defensive line coach Sean Spencer: “He’s a problem off the edge.”

Local flair

The Nittany Lions will have a State High contributor worth keeping an eye on for the first time since Nate Stupar.

Early enrollee cornerback Keaton Ellis made an impression on Franklin and the coaching staff this spring. The four-star prospect and all-state honoree closed the Nittany Lions’ fifth practice with an interception and continued to progress, along with fellow 2019 cornerback Marquis Wilson.

“There’s a buzz and excitement with the players and coaches,” Franklin said of Ellis and Wilson on March 20. “Those guys have flashed a lot of really good things.”

Under-the-radar receiver

KJ Hamler, Justin Shorter and Jahan Dotson ran with the first-team during Wednesday’s media availability. Those ought to be the Nittany Lions’ consistent starting three receivers come the fall. Daniel George and Cam Sullivan-Brown, who showed flashes, were four-star recruits and are, at least to the knowledgeable fan, household names.

But the Blue-White Game always has an out-of-nowhere star — and this year, it might be Dan Chisena.

Chisena, a walk-on redshirt senior, is a burner. A Downingtown East grad, the Exton native won 2015 PIAA state titles in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter relay. After starting his Penn State career with the football team, Chisena spent 2016, 2017 and 2018 with the track & field program. Now he’s back — and ready to make a name for himself.

“He’s had a really nice spring,” Franklin said. “He’s big, strong, fast. And we’re going to need that.”

RB Noah Cain can run

Running back Noah Cain figures to factor in next season — and Saturday will be the first real glimpse of No. 21.

The highly-touted 2019 signee won’t start in 2019; that duty will fall to either Ricky Slade or Journey Brown. And whoever isn’t taking the opening handoff on Aug. 31 will still get some run. But Penn State running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider loves to integrate multiple backs, to keep them all fresh for when it matters most — in the fourth quarter and in the November conference schedule.

Brown said earlier this week that Penn State’s running back room could be like Georgia’s 2017 group. In that regard, Cain could be Penn State’s De’Andre Swift — an electrifying freshman that brings a little bit of everything to the table.

“He’s different,” Seider said. “He’s one of those guys that can pound and ground. He’s the type of back that can touch the ball 30 times a game and get stronger.”

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