STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Several of Penn State’s top players had the day off Saturday, but plenty of others made the most of their opportunities during the Blue-White game at Beaver Stadium.
Officially, the Blue team defeated the White team 26-0 in front of an estimated 71,000 fans. Given that most of the players who are expected to contribute in the fall were wearing blue jerseys, that wasn’t much of a surprise.
Here are five things we learned during the 2017 Blue-White game:
1. Juwan Johnson’s breakout spring is complete
Johnson was one of the most-praised players by teammates and coaches during the spring. He was named offensive MVP for the entire camp during the game, and complimented that with a strong showing Saturday.
Starting alongside DaeSean Hamilton and DeAndre Thompkins, Johnson showed more flashes of No. 1-wideout potential. He had 3 catches for 40 yards in the first half, and added a tough catch in the third quarter. Johnson finished with 7 catches for a game-high 81 yards and a touchdown in the final seconds.
Saeed Blacknall did not play, and Irv Charles was on the team that didn’t have Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens directing the offense. Johnson earned more praise from Penn State coach James Franklin after the game, which has been a consistent theme the past few weeks.
2. Jonathan Holland looks like a viable No. 2 tight end
Mike Gesicki played nearly every down last season when he was healthy. He was the only Penn State tight end to record a reception.
Gesicki did not play Saturday, and Jonathan Holland took advantage. He had 5 catches for 42 yards in the first half, earning the third-most targets from starting quarterback McSorley. Holland finished with a game-high 8 catches for 62 yards.
At a minimum, Holland could be someone who can spell Gesicki a little more in 2017. It’s also possible that he could play with Gesicki, if offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead has any two-tight end sets in his arsenal.
3. Lamont Wade is in the mix for early playing time
Grant Haley did not play Saturday, and John Reid reportedly sustained a major injury during spring camp. Christian Campbell and Amani Oruwariye started at cornerback, but Lamont Wade entered the game during the first possession when Penn State switched to a nickel defense.
Wade also played a lot in the second half as one of the regular corners. Cornerback was one of the deepest positions on the team before Reid’s injury. If Wade is essentially the No. 4 guy on the depth chart (assuming Reid isn’t available), there’s a very good chance he’ll earn playing time against Kent State in the season opener.
4. Connor McGovern’s transition to center looks smooth
Brian Gaia moved from guard to center last season. While his leadership and blocking were both lauded, Gaia did have a few botched snaps in Moorhead’s all-shotgun offense.
McGovern did not fire any snaps over McSorley’s head or at his ankles Saturday. His snaps were perfect. It looked as if Penn State had a guy snapping the ball who has done it for years.
McGovern did play center in high school, so he does have some experience. However, his team’s run-dominant offense never used the shotgun. He worked some at center last year before settling at right guard, and that also helped. He looked like a natural Saturday.
5. Tommy Stevens looks like a nice insurance policy
Stevens played well in mop-up duty last season, but McSorley made it through the entire season without missing time because of an injury. Given the way McSorley plays, it’s certainly plausible that Penn State won’t get that lucky with his health the next two seasons.
Stevens is an important asset for the Nittany Lions. He has a big arm, and played well Saturday in the second half. Granted it was against third- and fourth-team defensive players, but he was sharp.
Stevens finished the game with 216 yards passing and 3 touchdowns, earning offensive MVP honors. He threw the ball well downfield, and was accurate with underneath passes.
Franklin reiterated after the game that he feels the team has two quarterbacks it can win with, and Stevens continues to show there might not be that much of a difference between him and McSorley.