PSU true freshmen green, yellow, red light tracker after six weeks
Penn State is at the midway point of the 2021 college football season, and so far, the Nittany Lions are tracking to burn perhaps only one true freshmen's redshirt this fall.
A high number of players electing to return instead of leaving school early in addition to a few impactful incoming transfers are the two biggest reasons why, and it's also true that head coach James Franklin's program has no great need to rush players onto the field, either as reserves on offense or defense or as special teams contributors. A difficult start to the season from an opponent perspective has been a factor, as well.
"We typically would have different out-of-conference games to open the season," Franklin said last week. "We got one of the most challenging schedules in college football, so that may factor into it, but I'm not sure. I wouldn't necessarily say that this freshmen class feels different than others. I think a lot of it is the schedule"
Where do things stand in the proverbial green/yellow/red light world for first-year players so far? Let's take a look.
The only name to list here right now is corner Kalen King, who has played in all six games to date and has thus burned his redshirt already. This should not be a huge surprise, as he was listed in the 'green light' category by Franklin back in the spring. The team currently wants him to improve enough to play on all four special teams while also being ready for rotational reps with the defense.
"I think other thing that we're trying to get through to a lot of these young guys is special teams," Franklin said recently. "Grant Haley, as a young player gained a lot of his confidence through special teams, as his defensive reps grew, and that's where I'd like to see Kalen. Kalen should be starting on three units on special teams right now, but he's not, and that's something I think that he can work on."
Only a few members of the Class of 2021 fall into this category.
Kalen's twin brother, Kobe King, is one of them, as he's played in four games already. Remember that back in 2018, the NCAA put a new rule in that said if a member of the roster appeared in four games or less, he could still redshirt, but it was burned after the fifth. Penn State must decide whether or not using him almost solely on special teams is worth it or not.
Another player to list here is linebacker Jamari Buddin, who has been a pleasant surprise so far. However he's only seen action in three contests, so only one more is on the table before a decision must be made.
From there, because yellow light status says that a player could suit up if needed, we'll also list those who have played in two games here, even if they are almost certainly all going to redshirt barring major injury issues that would force them to play in half of the remaining games. That group consists of safety Jaylen Reed and receiver Harrison Wallace III from the scholarship side of things in addition to walk-on corner Kaleb Brown, who suited up on some special teams squads earlier in the year but hasn't been seen since Week 2.
Finally, it feels necessary to include quarterback Christian Veilleux in this section, not because he's necessarily ready for game action but because if Sean Clifford misses an extended period of time and something happens to Ta'Quan Roberson, he's the only scholarship option left.
The remainder of Penn State's first-year players falls into this category. That list includes:
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