Penn State assigned jersey numbers to four freshman May enrollees on Monday, completing one part of their collegiate transition.
PJ Mustipher, Judge Culpepper, Will Levis and Pat Freiermuth enrolled during the weekend, giving them a six-week head start on the rest of their 2018 classmates. While they’re the first May arrivals during coach James Franklin’s tenure at Penn State and he is optimistic it will turn into a trend. The benefits could pay off for these freshmen within the next few months.
With the Nittany Lions needing more depth along the interior of the defensive line, Mustipher, who will wear No. 93, and Culpepper, who will don No. 88, will get an opportunity to work into roles this summer. Penn State played one freshman defensive lineman last season when defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos burned his redshirt, but whether Mustipher and Culpepper are needed will, in part, be determined by the progress of those in front of them.
Behind Robert Windsor and Kevin Givens, there’s Antonio Shelton, Ellison Jordan, Fred Hansard, Corey Bolds and Damion Barber vying for time. Aeneas Hawkins will join the defensive linemen this summer when he arrives on campus.
“There’s a good group there and I tell you, the signees, we couldn’t be more excited about those guys,” defensive coordinator Brent Pry said at the conclusion of spring ball. “Judge Culpepper, Aeneas Hawkins, PJ, those three are gonna come in and compete and that’ll push the guys. … To be honest with you, we got a large group of guys who are going to be competing to give us depth at the tackle position.”
Penn State lists Mustipher at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, while Culpepper is 6-4 and 275.
Levis, the quarterback signee who will wear No. 17, is the most obvious choice for a potential redshirt. With Trace McSorley, Tommy Stevens, Sean Clifford and Jake Zembiec firmly entrenched on the depth chart, Levis still has a good opportunity to learn the offense. He also can learn from McSorley, one of the country’s top quarterbacks. Penn State lists Levis at 6-3 and 220.
As for Freiermuth, Penn State’s uncertainty at tight end could create an opening for him. Danny Dalton helped himself most during spring ball and Jon Holland and Nick Bowers will factor in as well. Zack Kuntz was one of six January enrollees, who, like Freiermuth, will have an advantage by being around the team longer. Freiermuth, who will wear No. 87, is listed at 6-5 and 250.
“There’s significant value in it because it’s a lot to get adjusted to in a short period of time,” Franklin said last week of the May enrollees. “That’s why I always say basketball, baseball and some of these spring sports you get to come on campus and you get to adjust academically, you get to adjust socially and then wait to the spring to adjust athletically in terms of games, where with football it all pretty much hits you at once.”