Penn State Football

Penn State Football Should Prioritize Getting These 6 Players Reps vs. Delaware

With West Virginia in the rear-view mirror, No. 7 Penn State Football moves to week two at 1-0 and looks to make corrections and get healthy before heading to their first road test against Illinois in Week 3.

Although Penn State will surely want to get their starters reps to make corrections for things that did not go well in Week 1, Penn State should use the second half of an easier matchup against Delaware to build depth and allow players to heal up before tougher tests ahead.

6 Players Penn State Football Must Prioritize Getting Reps for vs. Delaware

1. Center Nick Dawkins

At his weekly press conference, James Franklin announced that starting center Hunter Nourzad was dealing with “bumps and bruises”, which has become Franklin’s go-to language for non-season ending injuries.

With Nourzad banged up, Penn State needs to take advantage of a lower-tier opponent and get backup center Nick Dawkins experience.

With the grind of the Big Ten schedule awaiting and Penn State’s lofty expectations for the season, the Nittany Lions cannot afford to lose Nourzad later in the season if the injury worsens without Dawkins having game-reps with starting quarterback Drew Allar.

With a trip to Illinois looming, Penn State should consider sitting Nourzad as early as possible, for the whole game if possible, to allow him to heal up as much as possible before next week’s road trip. Dawkins has appeared in 13 games in three years at Penn State, primarily on special teams.

Franklin on Hunter Nourzad: “has bumps and bruises” right now that they need to have him get healed up. Had a “really good camp”.

— Penn State FB Thoughts (@PSU_FB_Thoughts) September 5, 2023

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CB Cam Miller

Cam Miller was thrust into a larger role in Week 1 against West Virginia as Daquon Hardy missed the matchup with the Mountaineers.

While his status is unknown other than he will not miss the entire season, Penn State should prioritize getting Cam Miller extra work this week to handle the extra playing time that comes with Hardy being unavailable.

Franklin noted at his weekly press conference that Miller would come in at corner in nickel packages while Hardy is out and Johnny Dixon will play nickel corner.

While Miller appeared in 11 games as a true freshman in 2022, the sophomore corner recorded only five tackles in limited action. With King and Dixon having plenty of experience for Penn State, getting Miller in the game early for plenty of reps should be priority this weekend.

Franklin: In nickel, Johnny Dixon will play nickel corner, Cam Miller will see time at CB.

— Penn State FB Thoughts (@PSU_FB_Thoughts) September 5, 2023

3. Linebacker Tony Rojas

Linebacker Tony Rojas has been getting plenty of attention since enrolling on campus in January.

The four-star product out of Fairfax was given the green light to burn his redshirt by Franklin in his press conference August 31 before the season.

With Curtis Jacobs, Dom Deluca, and Abdul Carter all above Rojas on the depth chart, this week’s matchup is the perfect opportunity to get Rojas experience without taking Carter or Jacobs off the field during a bigger matchup.

While getting Rojas reps on special teams throughout the season is important, Penn State should prioritize getting him reps at linebacker this week.

Tony Rojas → Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Watch List 👀#WeAre | @Tony_Rojas5 pic.twitter.com/0OTSsRIDyg

— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) August 31, 2023

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4. Quarterback Beau Pribula

Beau Pribula’s one and only drive against West Virginia caused quite a controversy on X among the college football community as Beau Pribula and Penn State’s second team offense scored a touchdown with six seconds remaining in the game to cover the spread against West Virginia.

Franklin addressed this controversial score at his weekly press conference Tuesday, asserting that Penn State’s second team offense earned the right to play and compete when they got into the game.

In past seasons, particularly 2021, Penn State has struggled when their starting quarterback was injured, due to backups having a lack of game experience. Last season, Franklin tried to rectify this by getting Drew Allar reps in 10 games.

This season, Penn State again has a new backup quarterback without game experience and getting Pribula experience against Delaware should be a priority before beginning Big Ten play.

As long as the game goes according to plan, Penn State should bring Pribula in by the third quarter to get as many drives as possible against the Fightin’ Blue Hens.

Franklin on scoring late with second-team offense: The two’s have earned the right and opportunity to compete.

— Penn State FB Thoughts (@PSU_FB_Thoughts) September 5, 2023

5. Guard Vega Ioane

Vega Ioane was the prize of the regular signing period in 2022 after Penn State offered the offensive guard from Washington late in the cycle.

After a true freshman season where he maintained his redshirt but appeared in four games and earned Penn State’s coaching staff’s developmental squad offensive player of the week against Purdue, in year two in Happy Valley Ioane finds himself in prime position to provide valuable depth and playing time for Penn State.

After the surprise medical retirement of Landon Tengwall, JB Nelson went from backup guard/tackle to starting left guard and Vega Ioane moved up to backup guard on the depth chart.

With the offensive line position being so critical to the offense and a position where Penn State has recently seen plenty of injuries throughout a season, Penn State should rotate Ioane into the line as much as possible against Delaware to get him game reps.

6. Safety King Mack

Safety King Mack is another true freshman green lit to burn his redshirt, but lower on the depth chart for many reps during bigger matchups.

Behind at least Jaylen Reed and Zakee Wheatley, Mack will be fighting for reps at safety during the meat of Penn State’s season.

However, Mack will play a vital role on special teams this season even if he is not getting many reps at safety. Called “very explosive” by Keaton Ellis earlier this offseason, King Mack projects as a key player for Penn State’s future at safety and any reps that Penn State can get the young safety this season will be valuable for his development.

 

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Robert Casturo

Expertise: College Football, Penn State Football Education: Saint Vincent College, Penn State Law School Location: Washington, DC Experience: Robert Casturo has covered Penn State football for NittanyCentral since 2022. Casturo previously covered Penn State football through a social media presence (@PSU_FB_Thoughts on X) since 2019. Casturo earned his bachelor's degree from Saint Vincent College in 2015, where he was a punter for 1 season on the Saint Vincent College football team and worked in the athletic department for 2 years as a student manager. Casturo earned his JD from Penn State Law in 2018 where he was a senior editor of the Penn State Law Review.