By: Thomas Frank Carr
The standout perfomer of the spring put on a show in the 2nd half of the Blue White game fo rhte Blue team. Tommy Stevens has drawn praise from James Franklin going back to last year during the team’s run to a Rose Bowl berth and he continued that this spring. Once again, Stevens was the first name James Franklin mentioned after the scrimmage,
“I thought (he) continues to do some really good things. We’re really excited about his development….His approach as been awesome. He’s attacked things the right way”
It’s true that Stevens was going up against more 3rd string players than McSorley did in the 2nd half of the game, but Stevens finished with 216 yards, three touchdowns and a 71% completion percentage. Even against less talent, it was easy to see that Stevens was able to make multiple reads and throw the ball into tight windows with anticipation.
There was plenty of speculation that Stevens might transfer this offseason after losing the quarterback battle last season to Trace McSorley. Stevens though, stuck it out and has given the Nittany Lions depth at quarterback. While it’s clear that this is Trace McSorley’s team, it’s a comfort for Nittany Lions fans to know that his backup is ready to go, the way that McSorley was for Christian Hackenberg.
The only thing that the 6’5” freshman linebacker was missing last year was size. At 225 pounds, he still looks slender, lined up in the box for the Nittany Lions but Brown made his presence felt on Saturday. His was the 2nd name out of Head Coach James Franklin’s lips in the post-game press conference,
“I thought Cam Brown was all over the field – I don’t know how many tackles he had, but it seemed like he made every single one.”
Brown led all defenders with five solo tackles and finished with 7 on the day, tied for first as well. The most impressive thing is that Brown has consistently shown natural instincts as a linebacker. He flows to the ball well and now with the added size and strength, can make plays. Franklin considers him a starter even if he wasn’t on the Blue Team today.
“Jason Cabinda, Koa Farmer, Manny Bowen and Brandon Smith, we really look at those guys as four starters for us in a of ways. Cam is starting to work himself into that conversation as well. “
Miller is the only defensive player who hit a quarterback today. Miller rushed around the right side of the offensive line and got his feet tangled up with tackle Sterling Jenkins and accidentally sacked third string quarterback Billy Fessler. Outside of that unfortunate gaffe (even though he’s normally praised for hitting QB’s) Miller was a force for the Blue Team, getting into the backfield several other times on the day and playing solid run defense from the end position. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry says that Miller has a chance to be special,
“I think Shareef is a young guy with so much promise and talent. He’s still growing into the position, trust his techniques, trust his reads…He’s got a chance to be one of the most well rounded ends we’ve had in our time here. He’s physical, he can run, he has rush ability. I’m really excited about Shareef.”
Miller was credited with three tackles for loss and two sacks in the scrimmage. At 6’5” 261, Miller has the size and strength now as a redshirt sophomore to be a force at the end position. With a deep rotation of pass rushers, the Nittany Lions should be able to replace, if not increase their sack total and pressures from last season.
He didn’t have as complete of a day as the two players in front of him on this list, but Johnson did put a solid performance together today at receiver. He caught seven balls for 81 yards and a last-second touchdown from Tommy Stevens to end the Blue White game. However, he had a drop and lost focus on a route near the endzone in the first half that would have been a touchdown if he had been able to get his head around in time for the pass. Johnson has been diligent to work on two things he lacked last year; confidence and focus
“I don’t lack confidence like I did last year. Honestly I think it comes from repetition and working on things that I needed to work on in the offseason. A lot of it is just focusing on small details, that’s what it takes to be a wide receiver. It was just focus, that’s all it was. I I let distractions get to me. Honestly, just cutting certain things out of my life. Focus is a big thing if you want to be successful.”
Knowing his tendencies, Johnson plans to stay on top of himself going forward,
“I have to keep focusing and not let the spring ball carry me into the season but work on what I need to work on.”
McSorley- Thompkins Disconnect
We should start with a big red disclaimer warning that this is a scrimmage and the Nittany Lions were missing, for starts, Saquon Barkley on offense.
That being said, the offense still got out to a slow start vs the 2nd team defense. Trace McSorely didn’t look incredibly comfortable in the pocket, despite having plenty of room and time. He failed to connect again with DeAdnre Thompkins on a wide open pass up the sideline on the first side of the game. The next pass that McSorley threw to Thompkins was a floater down the left sideline towards the student section that was nearly intercepted by T.J. Johnson.
Thompkins finished the day with more yards than any receiver with 84, but he could have dominated if he connected with McSorley on a more consistent basis. The two misfired on four passes in the first half. You’re never going to complete every pass, but McSorley and Thompkins connected on only one pass in the first half for nine yards.
That’s not for a lack of effort however. Thompkins is a very intelligent, cerebral player who may think himself into and out of plays,
“When I was younger, yes. Coming in as a freshman it shows on the field and it kind of shows in practice. When you get comfortable, thinking too much can sometimes help you out because sometimes you can think of situations that will never happen but then they pop up and you’re ready for them. So it can be a double edged sword, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
If McSorley and Thompkins can get on the same page, they can be a deadly duo. Despite not being the biggest player in the receiving corps, Thompkins might be the most talented as a receiver. He’s a great route runner, is explosive, fast and has good hands. Putting it all together on every play seems to be the only issue.
Next up for the Nittany Lions:
Nothing until fall camp. Lift for Life is in July, but no organized activities until August.
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