STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State’s Blue-White game was held under sunny skies and in front of a crowd of 71,00 fans.
The Nittany Lions’ positions of need weren’t all resolved as is the case with any spring game, but there were some interesting developments as Micah Parsons and the early enrollees, plus the rest of the Nittany Lions, took the field at Beaver Stadium.
Micah Parsons at ease
The Beaver Stadium video boards flashed with photos of all the freshmen as the incoming freshman class lined the visiting sideline and was introduced to the crowd. Parsons, the Will linebacker who worked with the first-team defense this spring, received a loud ovation from the crowd when his name was called.
Sporting No. 11, Parsons was one of six January enrollees who suited up for the spring game. Parsons was flanked by a linebacking corps of Jarvis Miller and Jan Johnson. Don’t read too much into that, as Penn State’s linebacking corps is anything but a given and several projected starters on both sides of the ball — including Cam Brown and Koa Farmer — didn’t play in the spring game.
Still, Parsons came out of the tunnel with his arms raised high and seemed to be a hit with the crowd.
Deep receiving corps
Mac Hippenhammer, Brandon Polk and KJ Hamler were Penn State’s starting wideouts, though the team has purposely limited senior DeAndre Thompkins this spring and fellow starter Juwan Johnson was on the sideline with his left foot in a walking boot.
Trace McSorley’s first touchdown pass went to Hippenhammer, the redshirt freshman who hauled in the 5-yard strike. While Hippenhammer is also on the baseball team, he worked out a timeshare with the football program this offseason and looks to be part of the plan this fall. Hamler, the darling of spring ball, took a reverse from Mark Allen that set up the Blue team’s second touchdown of the afternoon.
While Hamler later fumbled after making a wide-open catch from McSorley, Cam Sullivan-Brown held on after taking a big-time hit and thus showcased more depth in this receiving corps.
Trace McSorley completed 10 of 14 passes for 107 with 1 touchdown. Tommy Stevens, who had his right foot in a boot all spring, was out of the boot and walking under his own power but did not participate in the Blue-White game.
Sean Clifford, a redshirt freshman, was the backup to McSorley on the Blue team while Jake Zembiec completed 6 of 12 passes for 39 yards for the White squad. Clifford entered at the end of the second quarter with the first team offensive line in front of him and Zembeic took off for a rush of 31 yards that was a highlight for the White team.
Changing of the guard
It looks like it’s still Michal Menet’s job to lose at right guard. That’s the only spot where Penn State doesn’t return a starter along the offensive line and Menet repped with a starting offensive line that included Ryan Bates at left tackle, Steven Gonzalez at left guard, Connor McGovern at center and Chasz Wright at right tackle. That’s the same first-team group Penn State used in practice this spring.
Will Fries, who was thrust into action last year when Bates was injured, repped with the second team at left tackle while redshirt freshman Des Holmes worked with the reserves at right tackle. Redshirt freshman C.J. Thorpe capped his spring as the right guard for the White team. When Gonzalez left the game for a few plays, it was Zach Simpson who spelled the starter on the first team.
Clarity in the third phase?
Polk and Johnathan Thomas were both back deep for the opening kickoff while Journey Brown was the returner for the White squad. Allen got a shot as a punt returner while Thompkins, who returned punts last season, didn’t see the field for the final practice of the spring.
Kicker Carson Landis handled the kickoffs, field goals and even punted. In the fall, look for Blake Gillikin to handle kickoffs and of course punting too. Gillikin didn’t get any work in during the 15th practice of spring. Penn State’s snapper for Landis was Kyle Vasey and the holder was Michael Shuster.
Slash and dash
Allen was praised this spring for being the team’s top running back just in terms of pass protection alone, and he certainly looked lively. Granted it was going against the reserve defensive line, but by all accounts, he’ll be that change-of-pace guy behind Miles Sanders. Allen carried the ball 5 times for 30 yards in the first half, including a long run of 19 yards.
Allen scored on a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter and was cutting back and forth and all over the place. Sanders finished the first half with 3 carries for 6 yards.
Round of applause
Penn State honored its spring ball award winners at the half, a public recognition for those who have impressed the staff behind the scenes. Sanders, Thomas, John Reid and Juwan Johnson were the award winners, but the loudest ovation of the afternoon came for someone else at the half.
Saquon Barkley was back in Beaver Stadium one last time before one NFL team makes his childhood dream come true Thursday night in Arlington, Texas. Barkley was honored along with the other senior members of the Fiesta Bowl team, and he was also awarded the Silver Football by athletic director Sandy Barbour.
Juwan Johnson, Shane Simmons, Jake Cooper, Stevens and Jon Holland are among those who didn’t suit up for the spring game. All had missed parts or all of spring practices ahead of Saturday.