Penn State Football

Who are Penn State football’s most underrated players? Here’s what the coaching staff said

PSU’s Ricky Rahne on 2019 QB competition

Penn State playcaller Ricky Rahne discusses Sean Clifford, Will Levis and more.
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Penn State playcaller Ricky Rahne discusses Sean Clifford, Will Levis and more.

Penn State’s coaching staff — from longtime assistant Sean Spencer to first-year mentor Gerad Parker — met with reporters on the Lasch Football Building practice field Wednesday afternoon, where they looked ahead to a season 80 days away in the shadow of Beaver Stadium.

James Franklin’s assistants were asked about the team’s current stars. Yetur Gross-Matos and Micah Parsons dominated conversations. But we also asked most of the coaches about underrated players in their position group — Nittany Lions who might be overlooked entering the 2019 campaign.

Offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne didn’t think any of his quarterbacks fell in that overlooked category. Special teams coordinator Joe Lorig, who was hired in February, wasn’t comfortable answering the question given his short time on staff. And safeties coach Tim Banks arrived late to the interview session.

But here are thoughts from the rest of Penn State’s assistants.

RB coach Ja’Juan Seider: Journey Brown

“A guy that’s on the right track is Journey Brown. He had a good spring, and you kind of get lost in the shuffle when you got a Ricky Slade, a Noah Cain, a Devyn Ford coming in and you kind or forget him. He became the old man really quick. He hasn’t had a lot of production but had a really good spring for us.”

TE coach Tyler Bowen: Nick Bowers

“I’d probably have to say Nick Bowers. I think Nick’s had a career here where he’s been injured a little bit but, now that he’s back healthy, I think you saw what he could do later last season in the run game and making an impact in the pass game. I’m expecting big things out of him. Love the way he’s leading; love the leadership he’s bringing to our group.”

OL coach Matt Limegrover: C.J. Thorpe and Mike Miranda

“Boy, that’s a good question. I would probably say — to be honest with you, I don’t know if it exactly answers your question — but we’re going to have a heck of a battle right now at right guard in fall camp between C.J. Thorpe and Mike Miranda. Those are both guys that I’m very high on. So I think that’s going to be a battle and whoever kind of ends up winning that — maybe they split time, maybe one guy definitely takes the lead — I think that’s going to be one area I’m really excited to see that development and that growth. And I think those are both guys that can help us win a lot of ballgames.”

WR coach Gerad Parker: Dan Chisena and Isaac Lutz

“I would probably say, to keep fueling them, I would probably argue that Dan Chisena and Isaac Lutz — two guys that have kind of literally earned their stripe on their helmet and have now been put on scholarship by Coach (James) Franklin — are two guys that add so much value, special-team wise and can make an impact in going to get some balls down the field. They would kind of be the darkhorse guys that show up and play significant plays for you and make an impact for us.”

CB coach Terry Smith: Backups

“Everyone knows who John Reid is. Everyone knows who Tariq is. And the rest of them are young guys. Donovan is the next most experirenced guy. Trent Gordon is a redshirt freshman. DJ Brown is a young guy as far as playing time. Marquis (Wilson) and Keaton (Ellis) came in in January. And then we have two more who haven’t even hit campus yet. They’re all newbies.”

DL coach Sean Spencer: Antonio Shelton and PJ Mustipher

“I would say two guys come to mind. Antonio Shelton had a tremendous spring. He’s a guy who bided his time to get to the position right now where, if we went out tomorrow, he’d be starting. This is going to be his year. He has a chance to really shine. And then a guy like PJ Mustipher was a tremendously talented freshman who played early. He’s only the second freshman d-tackle I’ve ever played in the history of my Division I coaching. I played him and Chris Jones at Bowling Green, who played six years in the NFL. The only two. It’s hard to play as a true freshman as a tackle. ... I’ve watched PJ change his body. I’ve watched him eat properly, work out extra. I watch these things, and you can just see it as a coach. That dude is about to turn the corner.”

LB coach, defensive coordinator Brent Pry: Cam Brown

“I’m super excited about Cam. Everyone knows who Cam is, but he finally has a chance to play to his potential. You gotta understand, he’s 6-foot-5, 235. He plays reckless. He runs by people. There aren’t a lot of guys with that length, with that size who do that. He plays field backer. He plays MIKE. He can rush. He can cover. He’s emerging as the leader of our defense.”