It is possible that the most definitive thing anyone learned during the 2017 Blue-White game is that Andre Robinson is not going to be the emergency quarterback for Penn State next season.
Robinson, a redshirt sophomore tailback, was intercepted on one of the trick plays the Nittany Lions tested during the annual spring game in front of an estimated crowd of 71,000 at Beaver Stadium.
Most of the team’s star players did not participate, but a number of young players performed well. The format was designed for the Blue team to succeed on both sides of the ball, and it did.
Let’s take a look at how Penn State’s players graded out position-by- position:
Trace McSorley played and remained in the game until halftime. Coach James Franklin said that was the plan from the start. McSorley misfired on a few passes and did not have the accuracy on his long balls that became a staple of the offense in 2016.
Tommy Stevens lit it up in the second half with 216 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. There’s no quarterback controversy here, but Stevens provided more evidence that Penn State has a capable option in the bullpen if anything happens to McSorley.
Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders did not play. Barkley’s absence was planned. Sanders had his left arm in a sling while the team was signing autographs before the game.
Mark Allen and Robinson alternated series for the Blue team. They combined for 100 rushing yards on 18 carries. Robinson caught 3 passes, including 1 for the first touchdown of the game.
Penn State has no concerns heading into the offseason at this position. The Nittany Lions have one of the best stable of running backs in the Big Ten.
Mike Gesicki did not play. Jonathan Holland collected a game-high 8 receptions for 62 yards.
Recruited as a defensive end, Holland has settled in at his new position and could give the Nittany Lions a legitimate option to rest Gesicki a bit during games in 2017. Nick Bowers, another intriguing tight end who missed last season with an undisclosed injury, did not play.
Juwan Johnson had 7 catches for a game-high 81 yards and a touchdown in the final seconds. He was the breakout star of spring practice on offense and cemented his chance to replace Chris Godwin in the starting lineup.
DeAndre Thompkins had 5 catches for 84 yards, including a nice play on a deep ball from Stevens that went for 50. He had another long catch waved off because his foot came down out of bounds.
DaeSean Hamilton had 5 catches, mostly on underneath stuff. Saeed Blacknall and early-enrollee KJ Hamler did not play. Brandon Polk made a nice adjustment on a juggling catch that he turned into a 31-yard touchdown.
Connor McGovern was perfect snapping the ball in the shotgun formation. He is moving from guard to center, like Brian Gaia did last season.
Seniors Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon did not play. Redshirt freshman Michal Menet did not, either. That allowed sophomore Zach Simpson and early-enrollee Michael Miranda to start and earn a lot of repetitions.
The first-team line allowed 1 sack but opened plenty of holes for the running backs.
This group had 4 of the Blue team’s 5 sacks and held the White team to minus-23 rushing yards. Shareef Miller was the defensive MVP with 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss.
Daniel Joseph had 5 tackles for the White team, and Shaka Toney was in on a couple. Those two, plus Shane Simmons, are redshirt freshmen who could help as rotation players. Ryan Buchholz did not play.
Jason Cabinda and Jake Cooper didn’t play, but the Nittany Lions showed some newfound depth. Sophomore Cam Brown had 7 tackles for the White team, and converted safety Jarvis Miller impressed with his speed off the edge in a couple of passing situations.
Manny Bowen had a sack for the Blue team. Koa Farmer, another converted safety, looked comfortable and could be the third starter. The difference in depth from this point last season is remarkable.
This is another group where the Blue team didn’t get much work, but a few players on the White team had big afternoons. T.J. Johnson and Ayron Monroe each had 5 tackles and an interception.
Monroe nearly had another interception. Both of those guys are trying to squeeze into crowded situations.
Early-enrollee Lamont Wade played a lot and fit in well. Nick Scott and Troy Apke, the two leading contenders to replace Malik Golden at strong safety, played a lot because free safety Marcus Allen had the day off. Cornerback Grant Haley did as well.
Tyler Davis connected on both of his field-goal attempts. He doinked one off the left upright and in, which practically counts as a shank for Davis. Joey Julius did not participate, so Davis kicked off.
Blake Gillikin averaged more than 50 yards with his punts. There weren’t any real special-teams returns, and who fields punts and kickoffs will be something to watch for in the fall.