Penn State

Beat writer Donnie Collins keeps you posted with in-depth analysis and commentary

A look at Penn State’s latest quarterback recruit

Things have been busy on the work front lately, with some extra columns and a few other assignments mixed into the typical weekly stuff, so I had to push off some of the more recent Penn State recruiting news until I had a few spare minutes, or just needed a break from all the other stuff. I have encountered the latter.

So, let’s take a look at how Penn State’s 2020 recruiting class is starting to fill, starting with the latest of the five high school stars to commit to the Nittany Lions.

This is quarterback Micah Bowens, a dual-threat quarterback from Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School who the recruiting services pretty much agree on right now. Rivals.com, 247sports and ESPN all rank him as a three-star prospect.

Bowens clearly has some playmaking ability, and he shows off a pretty loose throwing arm in the passing game as well. In that way, he’s not unlike the two quarterbacks Penn State landed in the 2019 recruiting class, Michael Johnson and Ta’Quan Roberson. Physically speaking, he’s similar to Roberson and Penn State’s old star quarterback, Trace McSorley, as he’s listed as 6-foot. All three are tough runners. All three keep their eyes down the field.

None of this is particularly surprising, of course, because that’s the type of quarterback that fits the Penn State offense, and it’s the offense they want to continue to run in the future. Offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne recruited Bowens, after all, and Rahne has done a tremendous job bringing in quarterbacks that fit what the program needs. The big question, though, is whether Penn State will continue to pursue adding more quarterbacks in the 2020 class, even with Bowens on board and a pretty loaded room on campus this fall, with Tommy Stevens, redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford and redshirt freshman Will Levis already in the fold with Johnson and Roberson joining them. Only Stevens will not be on scholarship by the time Bowens is able to sign in December.

Two quarterbacks in this class is not a necessity. But, it might be a good idea.

After all, it’s the only position on the field where there is only one playing job, and teams generally don’t intend to rotate quarterbacks during the meaningful minutes. So, the job is either yours, or it isn’t. Penn State got lucky in a sense, because Stevens decided not to transfer last offseason when he could have, because if he did, they’d have just one experienced quarterback on the roster this season. But the deregulation of transfers that has been such a big story this offseason is going to be a major one for quarterbacks who aren’t at the top of the depth chart.

Penn State has already shown a bit of how it is approaching the 2020 class with the five players who have verbally committed to it already. Two are linebackers, four-star prospects Derek Wingo and Curtis Jacobs, and another is offensive tackle Grant Toutant. All three come in at positions that need to be replenished. The fifth member of the class, so far, is cornerback Joshua Moten, and Penn State has hit the defensive backfield hard in recent years on the recruiting trail.

Expect Penn State to seek out a few more linebackers and offensive linemen leading up to December, but it will be most interesting to see how hard they press for another quarterback. Sticking with just Bowens in this class might signify how comfortable the coaching staff is that the quarterbacks currently on the roster will stay patient until playing time arrives. Adding a second is probably a sign that they’re going to hedge their bets at the position until some more consistent trends start to develop with quarterbacks and the transfer market down the road.

Penn State lands its first graduate transfer of the portal era

Penn State lands its first graduate transfer of the portal era

Receiver George Campbell will leave Florida State to round out his career at Penn State. PHOTO COURTESY OF FLORIDA STATE ATHLETICS

The transfer portal taketh away. It also giveth to teams in need.

Penn State got some receiver help from the transfer market today when Florida State wideout George Campbell announced he will be transferring to the Nittany Lions in 2019.

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You may have heard of Campbell before. He was one of the most heralded players in the nation in the 2015 recruiting class, a five-star prospect who some recruiting services ranked among the top 10 high school seniors in the nation. But he developed a hip injury in 2016 that required surgery, and he missed all but a handful of games as a sophomore in 2017 due to some rare complications from the surgery. He wound up playing in seven games as a junior last season, making four catches for 42 yards. In his Florida State career, he caught 13 passes for 206 yards.

Penn State was actually a bit of a player in Campbell’s recruitment early on during his high school days in Tarpon Springs, Fla., and clearly, that relationship head coach James Franklin and his staff built with the 6-foot-4, 207-pound Campbell withstood the test of time. What impact he can have at Penn State remains to be seen, but Campbell could provide a steady veteran presence in a receivers room that is trending quite young. His leadership is unquestioned, even through his own physical problems, and it could be just the kind of thing the younger receivers need to get to the next level.

FSU wide receivers coach David Kelly said.

“George Campbell is a tremendous individual who’s going to be extremely successful in life after football,” Florida State receivers coach David Kelly told The Tallahassee Democrat last summer. “He has that personality, he has that attitude, he has that work ethic, he has that intellectual ability.”

Kick time set for Blue-White Game

Kick time set for Blue-White Game

We knew the Blue-White Game, the annual spring scrimmage that draws tens of thousands to Beaver Stadium, would be held on April 13 this year.

Until today, we didn’t know when that game would start.

Well, Penn State announced today it will be a mid-afternoon kick time, officially.

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More change coming on PSU staff

More change coming on PSU staff

Penn State special teams coordinator Phil Galiano speaks to the media during a press conference last August. (Phoebe Sheehan/Centre Daily Times via Associated Press)

Here’s an interesting start to your Friday, if you’re a Penn State fan.

The university posted a help wanted ad for a special teams coordinator today (H/T to my intrepid colleague Mark Woegenrich of the Allentown Morning Call for noticing).

Only thing is, the current special teams coordinator, the embattled Phil Galiano, hasn’t been publicly let go.

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Juwan Johnson heading west

Maybe the worst-kept secret in college football became official today.

It appears former Penn State receiver Juwan Johnson is going to play his final season this fall at Oregon.

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Johnson announced in January he had entered the transfer portal and planned to play his graduate transfer season away from Penn State. Johnson had 25 catches for 352 yards and a touchdown last season, as he battled some injury and inconsistency issues.

Recruiting staffer Sanders heads to Oregon

Recruiting staffer Sanders heads to Oregon

You can probably argue that this one is the biggest loss Penn State has suffered in the year of the transfer portal.

Kenny Sanders, who has worked in the Nittany Lions’ recruiting department since 2014, announced that he is heading to the University of Oregon to become director of recruiting for the Ducks.

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REPORT: One more name in the portal for Penn State

REPORT: One more name in the portal for Penn State

Looks like there could be at least one more player looking for a new opportunity away from the Penn State football program.

Lions247 is reporting that receiver Cameron Sullivan-Brown is entering the transfer portal.

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Thorpe evidently back to offense

Every day during winter workouts, Penn State’s assistant coaches take time to tweet messages of congratulations to members of the team for strong performances, hard work, dedication, or anything else, really, they choose to point out.

It isn’t always particularly newsworthy, but today, offensive line coach Matt Limegrover offered some information that does affect the roster: C.J. Thorpe is apparently back on the offensive line.

The Big Dog BROUGHT IT yesterday at our 2nd winter workout! Great job Grinding and COMPETING @Truk_Savage #OLPride #Today pic.twitter.com/fHxF7tmsqC

— OLineCoach Limegrover(@CoachLimegrover) February 7, 2019

Penn State rather surprisingly moved Thorpe, a backup guard who was seeing some playing time, to defensive tackle. There was a need there at the time after Ellison Jordan went down with an injury, and Thorpe filled it. But head coach James Franklin said at the time that some coaches weren’t exactly excited to let Thorpe make the move, and he left the door open for a return to offense.

It made total sense it happened sooner rather than later.

Penn State loses starting guard Connor McGovern, the Lake-Lehman grad who declared for the 2019 NFL Draft, and the need for offensive line depth likely now exceeds the need on the defensive line. We’ll go over this more next week, when I start breaking down the spring roster position by position here on the blog. But by my count, I have 19 scholarship players on the defensive line — 12 of which have been in the program before. And there are, again by my count, 12 scholarship players on offense now with Thorpe being added. But just nine have been in the program.

So, clearly, Penn State needed a boost of experience on the offensive side, and Thorpe makes a lot of sense to provide it.

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: T.J. Jones

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: T.J. Jones

Graphic courtesy of Penn State Athletics

Times Shamrock newspapers’ Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins is breaking down every member of Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class who has signed their letter of intent. This is a look at receiver T.J. Jones, who is ranked as the No. 48 receiver prospect in the nation by ESPN.

Height: 6-1

Weight: 175

School: Columbia HS (Fla.)

Projected position: Wide receiver

Ranking: Four stars by ESPN; Three stars by Rivals.com and 247sports

Other offers: Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, East Carolina, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Marshall, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee, Temple, Texas A&M, Troy, UCF, Utah, Virginia, Wake Forest.

Enrolling: Summer semester

Strengths: Jones plays like a bigger receiver than he is. He has good height at 6-foot-1, but he runs after the catch like a 200-pounder. … Very physical with the ball in his hands. Not afraid to lower his shoulder and get the extra yard or 2. Not a lot of video out there of him choosing to run out of bounds rather than seek out the contact. … Not afraid over the middle. … Good, strong hands that enable him to take an initial hit, protect the call and still make a push to get physical. … Jones has a style that is reminiscent of the way a good tight end would play. But, every once in a while, he shows quick enough feet to be able to get around a defender in a tight space.

The questions: Jones was a really good prospect as a junior who was expected to take a big jump as a senior. And, he just didn’t. … He doesn’t always show an extra burst of speed in the open field, and while he shows flashes of quickness in the box, they’re just flashes. … He’ll need to improve as a route runner at the next level, as he doesn’t show every route consistently on film. … He had a ton of big offers, but many of those programs lost interest over time. The big question with Jones is where his potential can get him, and at the end of the day, can he get to another level?

Projection: Jones is interesting, because he shows you a little bit of everything. But mostly, he looks like a possession receiver. If Penn State can get him to that next level, it might have a real steal on its hands. If not, there’s no reason Jones can’t give Penn State the same kind of presence that Juwan Johnson conceivably could have: A toughness over the middle, and a chain mover. One thing is for sure, the competition isn’t going to scare Jones, and with as physics as he is, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him carve out a role by 2021.

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: Joseph Darkwa

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: Joseph Darkwa

Graphic courtesy of Penn State Athletics

Times Shamrock newspapers’ Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins is breaking down every member of Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class who has signed their letter of intent. This is a look at defensive tackle Joseph Darkwa, who is ranked as the No. 67 defensive tackle prospect in the nation by ESPN.

Height: 6-5
Weight: 260
School: Dusseldorf (Germany) Panthers
Projected position: Defensive tackle

Ranking: Three stars by Rivals.com, 247sports.com and ESPN
Other offers: Cincinnati, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Rutgers, UCLA

Enrolling: Summer semester

Strengths: Darkwa is the true definition of the word prospect. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, he has the build you want to play anywhere along the defensive line. … He has long arms and looks leaner than his 260 pounds, which means he can put on some good weight and build himself into a more prototypical defensive lineman. … On film, he can dominate a game. He beats double teams frequently. He can stuff the run and get after quarterbacks, and on special teams, he is a force up the middle on punt coverage and field goal block teams.

The questions: He looks like a man amongst boys on film because, in most every way, he is one. He plays in Germany, where the competition isn’t anywhere near as good as it is in the states, and that makes it very difficult to determine if Darkwa has skills or if he just has more athleticism than anybody around him. … The jump in competition for him is going to be an immense hill to climb.

Projection: Darkwa is a total wild card. He can come in and be a dominant player, or he’ll never get on the field. It’s difficult to predict which way he’ll go, because it all depends on how he adjusts to that jump up in competition. But he’s got a terrific frame for the position Penn State is going to want him to play, and the program can probably get by with building him into the type of player he needs to be for a few years without needing him to actually get on the field and contribute. If he can, it will be a major plus for the Nittany Lions defense, but he’s a purely developmental prospect at this point.