Penn State Football Safety Rising at Perfect Time for 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

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 Safety Rising at Perfect Time for Nittany Lions

Penn State Football fans have heard the excitement from inside the program about Zakee Wheatley before, but this offseason, it seems the buzz about the redshirt junior from Maryland is different in a good way.

Just when the Nittany Lions need it the most, the buzz around Wheatley could lead to a much bigger role on the Penn State defense for him in 2024.

Penn State’s 2022 offseason “takeaway king” was Penn State’s third most used safety last season, behind returning starters Jaylen Reed and KJ Winston. Although Wheatley may not break into the starting lineup with the two incumbent starters ahead of him, he still should be in line for an increased role in 2024 for the Nittany Lions.

Zakee Wheatley’s Best Offseason

James Franklin, Penn State Football
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

At the beginning of spring practice, Penn State Football head coach James Franklin noted Wheatley’s offseason has been “by far his best…not even close.”

Franklin added that Penn State’s staff is expecting Wheatley “to take a big step” in 2024, adding that it has been “pretty cool to see the lights turn on.”

Again after practice a week later into spring practice, Franklin again reiterated that Wheatley has been “playing his best football by far.”

Wheatley’s Penn State Football Career

 

In his Penn State career, Wheatley has accumulated 53 tackles, two interceptions, and one forced fumble over three seasons. After redshirting in 2021, Wheatley carried his “turnover king” offseason in 2022 into the 2022 season, forcing three turnovers in the first four games. In 2023, Wheatley saw the third most snaps for a safety on the Nittany Lions defense.

<< BUY PENN STATE TICKETS FOR 2024 SEASON >>

Potential Role for Zakee Wheatley

Penn State Football
Penn State Football Defensive End Chop Robinson (44) and Safety Jaylen Reed (7) and Cornerback Kalen King (4) and Safety Keaton Eillis (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

While both starting safeties are returning for Penn State in 2024, there may be a new wrinkle in the defense that will allow Zakee Wheatley to take on a larger role in the defense.

This offseason, Penn State is implementing a new “Lion” position into the defense, which is the nickel defensive back position.

While Franklin has said it is too early to name the starting “Lion” for next season, the prospect of having Jaylen Reed, Wheatley, and KJ Winston on the field at the same time is “exciting.”

After practice Wednesday, Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Allen called the “Lion” position “an athletic type safety or a big corner” who can “do multiple things.” Allen also noted that Jaylen Reed is competing with cornerbacks Cam Miller, AJ Harris, and Zion Tracy at the new “Lion” position.

While still early in the competition, if Reed is able to earn reps at the “Lion” position, it will open a spot for Wheatley on the field at the safety position.

 

The praise for Wheatley isn’t just coming from Franklin, however.

Earlier in the offseason at the end of winter workouts, Penn State strength coach Chuck Losey also complimented Wheatley as a player he is really proud of. Wheatley also earned competitor of the day honor from safeties Coach Anthony Poindexter twice throughout Penn State’s winter workouts as well.

 

With a few more weeks of spring practice remaining, Zakee Wheatley is trending upwards at an ideal time to increase his role on Penn State’s 2024 defense.

Time will tell whether Reed will see time at the “Lion” position in the fall, but either way, expect to see more of redshirt junior Zakee Wheatley on the field for Penn State this fall.

MORE: Why 2024 is a Turning Point Season for Penn State

Penn State Football

A note to our readers; If you make a purchase through one of our affiliate links, we may receive a commission.