Penn State Football: 5 Breakout Stars to Watch in 2024

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Football: 5 Breakout Stars to Watch in 2024

Penn State Football returns most of its talent at the skill positions on offense in 2024, and are adding an experienced veteran in Julian Fleming.

Meanwhile, on the defense, there are plenty of starting positions to fill as the Nittany Lions lost six key figures to the 2024 NFL draft. With plenty of young talent on the roster, the question is who will step up and break out for Penn State in 2024.

5 breakout candidates for Penn State Football in 2024

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Penn State Football linebacker Tony Rojas has been named a player to watch for the 2024 season. (Image via IconSportsWire)

Linebacker Tony Rojas

As a true freshman in 2023, Tony Rojas flashed his high potential, playing in all 13 games and accumulating 22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, an interception, and a forced fumble.

In 2024, with Abdul Carter moving to defensive end and Curtis Jacobs off to the NFL draft, Rojas is in line to take over as a starter and feature as a key piece to the Penn State defense.

Rojas should have the opportunity to play both Will and Sam roles in 2024 and show off his natural talents that earned him playing time in all 13 games as a true freshman.  

Penn State Football, Tom Allen
Tom Allen of the Indiana Hoosiers reacts to a play against the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Cornerback AJ Harris

Penn State Football needs to replace three starters at cornerback in 2024 as Daequan Hardy, Johnny Dixon, and Kalen King all left for the 2024 NFL draft.

At cornerback, the Nittany Lions dipped into the transfer portal to pick up two players to bolster the young cornerback room in Jalen Kimber and AJ Harris. While Kimber comes to Happy Valley with 28 games of SEC experience.

AJ Harris has limited experience playing only seven games for the Georgia Bulldogs last season.

Harris will be competing with Kimber, Cam Miller, Zion Tracy, and Elliot Washington for starting positions and playing time this fall. As a former five-star recruit in the 2023 class and the number 2 cornerback in the 2023 class according to 247 Sports, Harris’ ceiling his very high and he has the potential to be a star on Penn State’s defense in 2024 and beyond.


Defensive end Jameial Lyons

With Abdul Carter and Dani Dennis-Sutton expected to start at defensive end, Jameial Lyons could follow in the footsteps of Dennis-Sutton in 2023 and Chop Robinson in 2022, not starting a game but playing a key role on the defensive line and playing starter level snaps. As a true freshman, Lyons flashed in limited action in 2023 recording six tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, and a sack. Lyons is primed for more playing time and a bigger role in 2024 in his sophomore season and could even find himself on the field alongside Carter and Dennis-Sutton on passing downs.

Penn State Football, Drew Allar,
Penn State Nittany Lions Quarterback Drew Allar (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Center Cooper Cousins

Playing in the Big Ten as a true freshman is very rare, but Cooper Cousins is no ordinary true freshman. As the longest committed member of Penn State’s 2024 class, Cousins took every opportunity to get to Penn State camps as a prospect and get coached up by Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein.

By enrolling early, Cousins also gets the benefit of winter conditioning and spring practice to get up to speed with the new offense under offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki ahead of fall camp.

At 6-foot-6 inches and 319 pounds, Cousins will have the opportunity to compete with fifth-year senior Nick Dawkins for the starting center position and could see playing time as the backup center even if he doesn’t win the competition this fall.

Penn State Football
Penn State Nittany Lions Tight End Khalil Dinkins (16) is congratulated by Penn State Nittany Lions Wide Receiver Omari Evans (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Wide receiver Omari Evans

Wide receiver Omari Evans seemed primed for a breakout campaign after a stellar spring game in 2023.

However, when the dust settled in the 2023 season, Evans only caught four passes for 94 yards and one touchdown.

Against Michigan State in the final week of the regular season, Evans flashed his potential with a long 60-yard catch to set the Nittany Lions up on the 1-yard line as Evans was able to blow the top off the defense to get open.

With a brand-new offensive coordinator in 2024, Evans will again have the opportunity this spring and fall to earn playing time in the new offense ahead of a pivotal year for the Nittany Lions.

With Penn State looking to replace key starters and find a step forward to earn the Nittany Lions’ first playoff spot in 2024, these five players could play key roles in 2024 for the Nittany Lions. 

MORE: James Franklin Ranked as One of Elite Coaches in College Football

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