Five Nittany Lions to watch closely during the Blue-White Game
We're less than 24 hours away from Penn State finishing up their 2022 spring practices with their annual Blue-White Spring Game. For Penn State fans, it will be their only chance to get a close look at the 2022 Nittany Lions until they kick off their 2022 season on the road against Purdue on September 1.
Spring games often provide the chance for fans and media alike to see young freshmen make early strides in their development, transfer additions find their role with their new program, and most importantly, a brief taste of football.
For the Nittany Lions, the 2022 season is one of the more intriguing in recent memory. The Nittany Lions are coming off a disappointing 7-6 that once saw the program ranked as high as fourth in the country, despite a second consecutive 5+ loss season, head coach James Franklin received a 10-year extension in December, theoretically locking him in with the program through the 2031 season.
If Penn State wants to continue to roll on the recruiting trail year in and year out and continue to build towards truly establishing the program as a consistent Big Ten and potential playoff contender, the 2022 season will be a big one for the Nittany Lions. They'll have the opportunity to re-establish themselves as a power in the Big Ten, especially after seeing the Michigan Wolverines become the third Big Ten East team to make the College Football Playoffs since its inception in 2014. A third-straight down season for the program could begin to cause issues on the recruiting trail which would make it only tougher for the Nittany Lions to catch up with programs such as Ohio State. Add in Michigan's success in 2022 and Michigan State returning to its form during the middle part of the last decade and the stakes become even higher for Penn State.
That being said, here are five players that we will be keeping an especially close eye on, on Saturday afternoon who could eventually be important pieces to the puzzle for Penn State this fall.
1. RB Nick Singleton
Everything we're hearing at Nittany Nation regarding NIck Singleton is highly positive. The hype surrounding the Reading (PA) native can only be described as "unreal" and it certainly will be putting high expectations on Singleton from the get-go next fall.
That being said, we're excited to see what SIngleton could do Saturday afternoon. Now, it, of course, is a spring game, and there's not much he truly can show off but we're going to be looking for those quick feet, fluid hips, and bursts of speed through holes or in the open field. All eyes will be on Singleton on Saturday whenever he's on the field, which you often cannot say about a true freshman.
2. S Zahkee Wheatley
Wheatley has been a name over the last four weeks that has really emerged as a player who is taking the next step in his development. This offseason Wheatley made the move from cornerback to safety and it's appeared to work out quite well for him. Every time we heard about Wheatley this spring it was due to the progress he was making but also the fact he was being a turnover machine in practices.
While J'Ayir Brown does return for the Nittany Lions this season, Jaquan Brisker is off to the NFL. Both Keaton Ellis and Jaylen Reed are expected to take on bigger roles this season but the overall depth at the position is a place of concern. Wheatley's development at the position this spring is a huge development for the Nittany Lions and their safety depth.
On Saturday, we're looking for Wheatley to complete his strong spring, showing off his coverage skills and playmaking abilities at his new position.
3. The backup quarterbacks
Barring a complete surprise, sixth-year quarterback Sean Clifford will be the Nittany Linos' starting quarterback this fall. The backup quarterback position, however, is still a bit in question.
Redshirt freshman Christian Veilleux is perceived to be the front runner as the primary quarterback after strong performances last season but it is far from a done deal. We'll be looking to see what progressions the Ottawa, Canada native has made this spring.
In addition to Veilleux, we'll of course be watching the pair of true freshmen quarterbacks very closely. Drew Allar, enters the program with the most hype around a quarterback prospect since Christian Hackenberg while Pribula, who was quite the strong prospect himself coming out of Central York (PA) has quite the upside himself and potentially a higher floor than the latter.
That being said, with Saen Clifford's injury history and Penn State's struggles with Taquan Roberson as the backup last season against Iowa and Illinois, it's safe to say that the backup quarterback position is highly important for the Nittany Lions. We'll be watching all four quarterbacks closely.
4. DE Adisa Isaac
Isaac was expected to have a breakout season for Penn State in 2021 but an injury in August kept the Brooklyn (NY) native out for the entire season. He returned healthy this spring. Unsurprisingly, his name has been one that has been brought up a few times this spring by players or coaches and is expected to have that breakout season this fall.
We're not sure how much Isaac will play on Saturday, but we're excited to get a brief look at him, and what he can provide off the edge for the Nittany Lions.
5. WR Mitchell Tinsley
Jahan Dotson is gone, meaning Penn State will need a new No.1 wide receiver. Parker Washington is expected to take over that job but you can't rule out Sean Clifford's newest roommate and Western Kentucky transfer, Mitchell Tinsley.
Tinsley, last season for the Hilltoppers recorded 87 receptions for 1,402-yards and 14 touchdowns as part of their record-breaking offense. We're excited to see what Tinsley can do on the field on Saturday, with Western Kentucky he was a tremendous deep-threat who could take the top off any defense but also could line up both on the outside and in the slot. We'll be interested to see the chemistry he has with the quarterbacks thus far as he will be a huge part of the Penn State offense this fall.