Saturday’s Blue-White Game is usually a time for young players and backups to step up and show their potential. So who’s going to be the star this go-round?
Resident Penn State football experts John McGonigal and Josh Moyer weighed in to discuss potential standouts for the annual scrimmage slated to kick off at 3 p.m. Saturday. Take a look:
John McGonigal: WR Daniel George records 100 receiving yards
Penn State signed three wide receivers in its 2018 recruiting class. Two of them, Justin Shorter and Jahan Dotson, ran with the first team all spring and are expected to start come August. But the third could have the biggest spring game of any wideout.
George — a former four-star prospect, the forgotten man among the 2018 wideouts — should have plenty of chances to open eyes on Saturday.
The Maryland native came to Penn State at 201 pounds. Since then, he’s put on 23 pounds. And at 6-foot-2, George looks the part of a dangerous outside threat. He’s already shown off his wheels, too, making history with a 95-yard catch-and-run touchdown against Kent State last year — the longest play from scrimmage in program history.
Of course, if he does that again on Saturday, hitting 100 yards will be easy. But he might not need to.
Whether it’s Sean Clifford or Will Levis throwing to him, both quarterbacks are confident and won’t hesitate to push the ball downfield. George could be the beneficiary of that.
Josh Moyer: RB Journey Brown finishes the day as Penn State’s leading rusher
I went back and forth between highlighting Brown and No. 3 QB Will Levis, who’ll likely shine Saturday against the backups. But, ultimately, I just couldn’t resist choosing a speedy back like Brown — especially since he should be able to out-run those backups. That’s got to be a recipe for at least one long run.
Brown has long been known for his speed. He rushed for 722 yards in one high school game back in 2015. He was the 100-meter state champ in 2017 after breaking a 32-year-old record with a 10.43. And he posted the second-fastest 40-yard dash by a Penn State running back with a 4.35. (Saquon Barkley is first with a 4.33.) Add all that up and combine it with plenty of spring praise from James Franklin, and you get an explosive running back who’s primed to break out.
Granted, running backs haven’t had a lot of luck the last few scrimmages. Last season, Trace McSorley was the rushing leader with 41 yards. In the two years prior, Mark Allen led the way with 49 and 63 yards, respectively. But if anyone can buck that trend, it’s Brown. He’s got the tools; he just needs the carries.
John McGonigal: S Lamont Wade secures an interception
A handful of starters might not play in the Blue-White Game. But Wade should see plenty of the field, giving him an opportunity to make a perspective-changing play.
Franklin said at the beginning of spring practice, back on March 13, that using these 15 practices to figure out a two-deep at defensive tackle and safety was imperative. It seems like a murky picture has cleared upfront, with Antonio Shelton coming into his own alongside Robert Windsor, and PJ Mustipher and Fred Hansard working behind them. Even redshirt freshman Judge Culpepper received high marks from Franklin this spring.
But the safety position is still a little in flux. Wade and Garrett Taylor have run with the starters all spring, while John Petrishen and Jonathan Sutherland manned the second team. But the arrival of Jaquan Brisker — a highly-touted JUCO signee — in the summer still casts a cloud on the field safety spot.
Franklin complimented Wade at the start of the spring. But if he has reason to do so after Saturday’s scrimmage, it could go a long way in ensuring Wade’s place on the first team come Week 1.
“We feel like we have a good group,” Franklin said March 13. “But obviously we have to answer some questions.”
Josh Moyer: DE Jayson Oweh impresses, gets at least one sack
At the Blue-White Game, it’s all about opportunity. And established players like Yetur Gross-Matos aren’t going to play the whole game. There’s a reason why former DT Kevin Givens didn’t register a tackle the past two years but had 3.5 tackles-for-loss back in 2016.
This is a time for young defensive players with potential to shine. And that means it could be a coming-out-party of sorts for Oweh. (Well, unless you already count his two-sack performance against Kent State as his coming-out-party, which is understandable.)
Oweh needs to improve his run-stuffing ability but, off the edge, he can make an immediate impact. And that should be on display Saturday. Just ask his coach or one of his teammates.
“He’s a problem off the edge,” defensive line coach Sean Spencer acknowledged.
Added Gross-Matos: “He’s been hitting his groove. 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.”
That should include Penn State’s own offense Saturday. Oweh is a special player, and it’s not stretch to think he’ll have at least one sack.