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Entrance Exam: Three season-defining questions for Penn State's corners

The Penn State Nittany Lions football season begins in less than a month, and Blue-White Illustrated is breaking down the key questions facing each Penn State position group in its new series, Entrance Exam, continuing on the defensive side of the ball with Penn State's cornerbacks.

Check out previous Entrance Exam stories:

Safeties

How quickly can the new guys settle in? 

Penn State Nittany Lions football made a pair of nice additions during the offseason, adding Johnny Dixon and AJ Lytton to their cornerbacks room via the transfer portal.

Dixon started at South Carolina last season as a sophomore, while Lytton didn't play in 2020 after playing sparingly at Florida State to begin his collegiate career. It's clear that each of them possesses the necessary athletic pedigree to play at the Big Ten level.

Dixon and Lytton were both four-star recruits in their classes as prospects, with Lytton even cracking the top-100.

But this will be an adjustment, in a new scheme, in a new town, in a new uniform.

The Nittany Lions have the luxury of cornerback depth this season, but they will need reliable production from these two players at some point.

Their ability or inability to adjust quickly could determine just how good this group of corners can be in 2020.

RELATED: Two Penn State Nittany Lions earn a place on The Athletic's 'Freaks List'


Johnny Dixon is one of two new arrivals at cornerback for Penn State Nittany Lions football.
Johnny Dixon is one of two new arrivals at cornerback for Penn State Nittany Lions football. (Penn State Athletics)

Can Tariq Castro-Fields stay healthy?

Penn State's talisman at this position heading into 2021 is Tariq Castro-Fields, who is making use of the NCAA's extra season of eligibility to play a fifth year with the Nittany Lions.

Castro-Fields played in only three games last season due to injury — a problem that, unfortunately, was not a new one for him during his Penn State career.

His athleticism and his experience make him a crucial asset for the Nittany Lions at the cornerback spot this season, and he has said he's healthy this offseason and that the threat of injury isn’t something that weighs on his mind.

If he can stay on the field for the Nittany Lions, they've got a true asset and a player who can lead this group from the front — which is especially important amid this group of newcomers and young talent.

What does Kalen King's role look like?

Normally, when you look at a position group with this level of depth — and experienced depth at that — it would be safe to assume that a true freshman isn't going to find himself on the field very often in meaningful situations.

That might still be the case, but given the way James Franklin spoke about Kalen King this spring, we have to at least acknowledge the possibility that he might force his way into a big role here.

Franklin called King the most advanced freshman he's had during his tenure at Penn State — no small compliment for a head coach who usually avoids making declarative statements of that nature at every turn.

It's also worth pointing out that King led the Nittany Lions in takeaways this spring. That's an area of the game that Penn State desperately needs to sort out after it averaged only one takeaway per game last season.

If the staff views that as something that can translate to games, King could find himself on the field early.

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