Penn State Football: 3 Critical Fall Camp Position Battles to Watch

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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: 3 Critical Fall Camp Position Battles to Watch

Penn State football is now just a few weeks away from fall camp and roughly eight weeks away from their Week 1 matchup in Morgantown, West Virginia against the Mountaineers.

The Nittany Lions dealt with a few long-term injuries at key positions (DE Zuriah Fisher and LB Keon Wylie) during spring practice.

James Franklin, Penn State Football
Oct 28, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin looks on during the first quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

At other positions, Penn State dealt with some injuries that should be cleared up before fall camp begins and battles for starting positions take shape.

Penn State Football Key Position Battles to Watch


Despite losing the top three cornerbacks from Penn State’s roster in 2023 to the NFL draft, the Nittany Lions’ cornerback room looks very healthy and competitive heading into 2024.

However, this does not mean that the starting positions or depth pieces have fallen into place just yet. With two SEC transfer additions this offseason (and one from 2023) and three returning backups from Penn State’s 2023 squad primed to take a step forward, there will be plenty of competition for playing time in Terry Smith’s cornerback room come fall camp.

AJ Harris and Jalen Kimber

Both AJ Harris and Jalen Kimber transferred into Penn State from SEC schools this offseason, albeit from vastly different circumstances.

Kimber is heading into his fifth season in college football with plenty of experience under his belt, looking for a change in scenery.

On the other hand, AJ Harris is a former five-star true sophomore heading to town with an exceptional recruiting profile, but with very limited experience at Georgia last season. Both players will have the opportunity to compete this fall with Penn State’s returning cornerbacks for starting positions and playing time.

Zion Tracy, Elliot Washington, and Cam Miller

Penn State returned three young cornerbacks from its 2023 roster who have experience heading into 2024. Zion Tracy, Elliot Washington, and Cam Miller all got extended run in the Peach Bowl after Johnny Dixon and Kalen King opted out against Ole Miss.

After playing limited roles on Penn State’s defense last season, all three will be itching to get the most out of fall camp and put themselves in a position to get more playing time this fall.

Audavion Collins

Former Mississippi State transfer Audavion Collins is a massive wildcard in the fall camp battle at cornerback. After transferring to Penn State Football ahead of the 2023 season and playing a reserve role in six games, Penn State cornerback’s coach Terry Smith said Collins was “the most consistent guy out there” at cornerback this spring.

Smith continued that Collins is “a night-and-day different player” this spring than he was when he transferred in to Penn State. If Collins continues his progression in fall camp, he could be a name to watch not only for playing time but also for one of the coveted starting positions at cornerback come fall.

Offensive Tackle

If you had asked me at the end of the 2023 season who would be starting at left tackle for the Nittany Lions in 2024, the answer would have easily been Drew Shelton.

Shelton started five games in 2022 and the Peach Bowl in 2023 for Penn State in relief of first-round pick Olu Fashanu and felt like the tackle of the future for the Nittany Lions.

However, after surgery forced Shelton to miss all of spring practice, former five-star Jven Williams had the opportunity to take spring practice reps and make the left tackle spot more of a competition heading into fall camp.

Overall, Shelton still likely has a leg up on the former top-25 overall prospect from the 2023 class, but the left tackle position can not be written in pen at least at this stage.

On the other side of the line, Pennsylvania’s former number-one overall player Nolan Rucci will be in competition with Anthony Donkoh on the right side.

Donkoh played exceptionally well in the Peach Bowl despite not practicing at tackle until bowl prep began.

Rucci has taken to the weight and conditioning program well since arriving at Penn State this offseason and has bulked up to where Penn State would like him to play to be competitive. This competition could be fierce heading through fall camp and could bleed into the season if neither player separates himself.


Penn State Football, Cooper Cousins
Penn State offensive linemen Nolan Rucci (72) and Cooper Cousins (50) talk before a play during the Blue-White game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in State College. The White team defeated the Blue team, 27-0.

After back-to-back years where Penn State’s starting center is selected in the NFL draft, Penn State will once again look for a new starter at center heading into 2024.

This time, Penn State will look to completely opposite circumstances to find a new starter.

Nick Dawkins

The first name in this competition is redshirt senior Nick Dawkins.

Dawkins was the backup center for the Nittany Lions last season and is heading into his fifth season at Penn State, appearing in all 13 games for the Nittany Lions last season.

Dawkins has appeared in 26 games for the Nittany Lions over the past four seasons but has yet to make his first start.

Cooper Cousins

On the other hand, Cooper Cousins just arrived to campus in January but has already been turning heads since he’s been on campus.

Cousins is already 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds and looks every bit the part of a starting Big Ten offensive lineman despite his freshman status.

Cousins will push Dawkins hard throughout camp as this will surely be one of the most competitive battles the Nittany Lions will see on the roster this fall.

All three of these position battles will play a major role in how high Penn State can climb in 2024.

If Penn State can find the right players to take a step forward at these key positions, Penn State can be well on its way to reaching very lofty expectations of making the program’s first college football playoff appearance next December.

We will keep you updated on all of these battles as fall camp progresses and Penn State heads into the 2024 season.

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