football Edit

Penn State football: Anatomy of a position group — The cornerbacks

Blue White Illustrated has begun a new series breaking down each Penn State Nittany Lions football position group and how it was constructed, also touching on its outlook ahead of the 2021 season and looking further forward. We continue the series with Penn State's cornerbacks.

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Tight Ends

Wide Receivers

Offensive Line

Safeties

PSU's CB Recruiting Since 2016
*Miller is listed as an athlete by Rivals but is likely to play corner at Penn State.

2021 Penn State Cornerback Outlook 

Current Roster Corners (Scholarship Only)
Player Experience  Stars 

Kalen King

Freshman

Johnny Dixon

Junior

Tariq Castro-Fields

Senior+

Zakee Wheatley

Freshman

Joey Porter

Redshirt Sophomore

AJ Lytton

Junior

Jeffrey Davis

Freshman

Daequan Hardy

Redshirt Sophomore

Looking at the roster composition at corner for Penn State Nittany Lions football, it's clear that this is one of the position groups where the new one-time transfer rule carved out a significant impact.

Johnny Dixon and AJ Lytton joined Penn State's cornerback corps over the offseason, giving positon coach Terry Smith two talented assets he likely would not have had access to previously. Both were four-star prospects in high school.

And, taking a look back at how Penn State has recruited at cornerback from the 2018 class through the 2020 class, their additions are especially crucial.

Jordan Miner and Keaton Ellis were the only four-star prospects the Nittany Lions landed at cornerback over that time span. Miner, unfortunately, was forced to retire due to a heart condition. Ellis is now playing safety, according to defensive coordinator Brent Pry. Additionally, Marquis Wilson — listed as an athlete as a high school prospect by RIvals — made the switch from cornerback to wide receiver.

Those are decisions that were likely made possible by the arrival of Dixon and Lytton to provide added depth.

"I also think Kalen King's development, and Johnny Dixon coming in, we feel like we've got pretty good depth at the corner position, so it allowed us some flexibility," Penn State head coach James Franklin said this spring — well before Lytton's arrival was public information.

Looking at the cornerbacks as a whole, the depth Franklin was referencing there is clear to see.

The Nittany Lions bring back their two starting cornerbacks from the beginning of last season in Joey Porter Jr. and Tariq Castro-Fields — although Castro-Fields played only three games all season due to injury. Dixon and Lytton make it four-deep for Penn State at corner, and that's before you even factor in King, who Franklin tabbed this spring as the most mature freshman he's coached at Penn State.

Despite some recruiting troubles and some misfortune, Penn State managed to solidify the cornerback position and turn it into a strength on paper ahead of the 2021 campaign.

At Big Ten Media Days last week, Franklin — unprompted — called this group the best secondary he's had while at Penn State.


Looking Ahead at Penn State's Safeties 

The immediate future for Penn State at cornerback looks promising.

This will be Castro-Fields's final season in Happy Valley, but, aside from him, all of the other players poised to contribute this season could return. However, it should be noted that Lytton, Dixon and even Porter Jr. are all eligible to declare for the NFL Draft after the 2021 season should their stock truly explode.

Things get a bit murkier as we try to project further down the line.

If the reviews King received this spring prove true, he could be the kind of player that leads this position group for years to come. Zakee Wheatley also seems a promising true freshman, alongside Jeffrey Davis in Penn State's 2021 class.

In 2022 the picture is slightly less rosy. Penn State missed out on a few of its top cornerback targets.

Still, the duo of Jordan Allen and Camron Miller brings with it bags of athletic potential for the Penn State coaching staff to mold.

*******

• Talk about this article inside The Lions Den

• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel

• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue-White Illustrated

• Follow us on Twitter: @BWIonRivals, @NateBauerBWI, @RivalsSnyder, @DavidEckert98, @GregPickel, @ThomasFrankCarr

• Follow us on Instagram

• Like us on Facebook