Penn State expects it will have its hands full with Appalachian State running back Jalin Moore today at Beaver Stadium. Associated Press photo.
Here’s a look at the Appalachian State depth chart ahead of its game today against Penn State:
12 Zac Thomas (6-1, 200, So.)
7 Jacob Huesman (6-3, 203, So.) OR 13 Peyton Derrick (6-2, 182, rFr.)
Technically, there was a fierce competition for the starting job in camp. But it seemed pretty clear Thomas ultimately was going to win the job. He served as the top backup to four-year starter Taylor Lamb — one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation last year after throwing for 2,737 yards and 27 touchdowns against just six interceptions — and some think Thomas can be even better down the road, considering his dual-threat capabilities.
The running backs
25 Jalin Moore (5-11, 207, Sr.)
3 Darrynton Evans (5-11, 191, So.)
Penn State coach James Franklin raved about Moore’s freakish athleticism earlier this week.
“He has run 4.37 in a 40, and a 38.5 vertical jump, 11-1 broad jump, 390-bench,” Franklin said. “I mean, this guy obviously is a specimen and was the Sun Belt offensive Player of the Year. So that will be challenging.”
That’s all true — he was the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year in 2016 — and his production should be highlighted for the Nittany Lions. Last season, despite playing through myriad injuries, he rushed for 1,037 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He also had 12 catches. Penn State safety Garrett Taylor compared him to the former Iowa running back Akrum Wadley.
Evans missed all of last season with an injury, but he’s a third-down weapon. He massed 814 all-purpose yards as a true freshman in 2016.
5 Thomas Hennigan (6-1, 206, So.)
15 Mock Adams (6-4, 205, Jr.)
14 Malik Williams (5-10, 183, So.) OR 4 Dominique Heath (5-9, 166, Sr.)
2 Corey Sutton (6-3, 205, So.)
11 Jalen Vigil (6-1, 206, So.)
87 Collin Reed (6-4, 248, Jr.)
89 Devin Papenheim (6-6, 254, Jr.) OR 88 Henry Pearson (6-3, 243, Fr.)
Hennigan started last season as a relative unknown, had to assume a starting role because of some injuries, and wound up putting together a strong season, finishing second on the team with 585 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
The group got a boost this offseason, as Sutton and Heath — two transfers from Kansas State — became eligible to play.
The offensive line
75 Victor Johnson (6-5, 296, Jr.)
56 Nate Haskins (6-4, 280, So.)
58 Ryan Neuzil (6-3, 280, So.)
70 Cooper Hodges (6-4, 301, Fr.)
60 Noah Hannon (6-1, 270, So.)
52 Tobias Edge-Campbell (6-2, 272, Sr.)
73 Cole Garrison (6-4, 283, So.) OR 51 Baer Hunter (6-2, 286, So.)
78 Chandler Greer (6-4, 288, Sr.)
79 Luke Burnette (6-5, 268, Fr.) OR 55 Matt Williams (6-5, 286, So.)
The first-team all-Sun Belt Conference left tackle last season, Williams returns as the unquestioned best blind-side protector in the conference. He helped the Mountaineers allow just eight sacks in 2017 (the second-lowest total nationally) and he might be an even better run blocker.
Still, this group lost two other all-conference performers.
The defensive line
47 Okon Godwin (6-1, 250, Sr.)
90 Chris Willis (6-2, 245, So.)
54 Jermaine McDaniel Jr. (6-3, 223, rFr.)
92 MyQuon Stout (6-1, 280, Sr.)
98 E.J. Scott (6-3, 279, Jr.) OR 96 Markell Clark (6-0, 264, So.)
57 Elijah Diarrassouba (6-1, 250, So.)
97 Caleb Spurlin (5-10, 255, So.)
48 Demetrius Taylor (6-1, 260, So.)
Franklin said the Mountaineers’ nose tackle has an apt last name. Stout gave opponents fits in the base 3-4 defense last year, recording 41 tackles. But he was able to do the job all good nose tackles in the 3-4 do best: He commanded double-teams, freeing up linebackers to run free and make stops.
Godwin and Diarrassouba are first-year starters, but Godwin had 4.5 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries in a backup role last season.
20 Noel Cook (6-0, 212, Jr.)
10 Tim Frizzell (6-1, 223, So.) OR 31 Nick Hampton (6-3, 202, Fr.)
44 Anthony Flory (6-1, 232, Sr.)
45 Trey Cobb (6-2, 220, Fr.) OR 51 Tyler Bird (6-2, 218, Fr.)
59 Jordan Fehr (6-3, 226, Jr.)
52 D’Marco Jackson (6-1, 220, rFr.)
24 Akeem Davis-Gaither (6-2, 208, Jr.)
29 Devonte Harrison (6-0, 201, So.)
Flory is a preseason all-conference pick at linebacker and is coming off one of his best collegiate performances in the Mountaineers’ Dollar General Bowl win over Toledo. In that one, he registered eight tackles, hurried the quarterback once, and had a 19-yard interception return to set up Appalachian State’s first touchdown in a 34-0 blowout. He was named defensive MVP in that game, and as Franklin noted, his overall skill set is very reminiscent of former Penn State linebacker Brandon Bell. He’s not going to set the world on fire athletically, but he’s smart, savvy, plays with good sense and always seems to get himself in position to make a play.
17 Tae Hayes (5-10, 183, Sr.)
16 Shaun Jolly (5-9, 171, rFr.)
6 Desmond Franklin (6-0, 200, Jr)
9 Austin Exford (6-0, 200, Sr.)
7 Josh Thomas (6-0, 206, Jr.)
13 Kaiden Smith (6-1, 196, So.) OR 21 Ryan Huff (6-1, 200, rFr.)
4 Clifton Duck (5-10, 170, Jr.)
8 Shemar Jean-Charles (5-11, 1818, So.)
12 Steven Jones (5-10, 180, rFr.)
Duck against McSorley and either of Penn State’s top two receivers will be fun to watch, because an argument can be made that Duck is one of the best cornerbacks in the nation at the start of the 2018 season.
Street and Smith named him a second-team All-American in the preseason, and the Sun Belt Conference tabbed him its preseason defensive player of the year. No player in the nation has more than his 11 interceptions since he became a starter at the beginning of 2016, and Pro Football Focus says opposing quarterbacks have just a 50.4 passer rating when targeting the receiver Duck is covering with a throw. That is, according to PFF, the lowest passer rating against an FBS corner over that period. He is one of just eight FBS players since 2000 to record five interceptions or more in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
91 Chandler Staton (5-11, 184, So.)
41 Michael Rubino (6-3, 215, Jr.)
30 Clayton Howell (6-0, 183, rFr.)
39 Xavier Subotsch (6-1, 193, So.)
93 Elias McMurry (6-0, 237, Sr.)
53 Max Durschlag (5-11, 197, Fr.) OR 50 Keaton Forbes (6-0, 215, Fr.)
39 Xavier Subotsch
2 Zeb Speir (6-2, 203, Sr.)
3 Darrynton Evans
5 Thomas Hennigan
4 Clifton Duck
5 Thomas Hennigan
Staton has a strong leg, and he was pretty accurate on field goals in limited chances during his freshman season in 2017. He connected on all 31 of his extra point attempts last season, and he was 8 of 9 on field goal attempts, with a long of 53.