There were only two true freshman defensive linemen in Penn State's Class of 2014. For a variety of reasons, both had the luxury of redshirting.
Though he was an early enrollee who used winter workouts to add muscle and spring practice to work on technique, Antoine White found himself in the middle of a defensive tackle corps that was more crowded than many anticipated.
Anthony Zettel made an extremely successful transition to the position and redshirt freshman Parker Cothren emerged as a very good second-teamer in the middle. Former walk-on Tyrone Smith and juco transfer Tarow Barney added more depth. They all joined 2013 mainstay Austin Johnson.
Meanwhile, Torrence Brown was a summer enrollee, and with a host of veteran defensive ends returning in 2014, was targeted for a redshirt from the outset. Things went just as planned.
Both spent the season on the scout team, meaning they were not under the eye of the entire defensive staff for most of the year. But when they worked out in the developmental practices leading up to the Pinstripe Bowl, their improvement was noticed by coordinator Bob Shoop.
It's not the drudgery of training camp, but it's an opportunity for those young players to get individual [instruction], go back and re-teach some of the fundamentals and the techniques and then give them some live reps, Shoop said. And I thought we took advantage of that. And I think especially it's great for us to see a guy like Torrence Brown, a guy like Antoine White up there who redshirted, did a great job on the scout team. [It] gets you excited for spring.
They're just right now getting used to the speed of the game and stuff, another source said. It's going to be exciting to see where they go.Torrence Brown
When they get the opportunity to prove themselves will likely rely on the depth at their respective positions. For Brown, it figures to be sooner rather than later, as 2014 starters C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes are both gone (so is backup Brad Bars).
Brown was the last player to commit to Penn State's Class of 2014, flipping from Southern Mississippi on Signing Day. The Tuscaloosa, Ala., native was only a two-star prospect, in part because he missed a portion of his high school career with a torn ACL, in part because he played multiple positions in high school and in part because many viewed him as an even better basketball prospect.
But Penn State saw the then 6-foot-4, 235-pounder as an athletic defensive end. And it looks like head coach James Franklin and his staff, who began recruiting Brown when they were at Vanderbilt, were right.
We really knew him, we knew his family very well, defensive line coach Sean Spencer said. He's a tremendous basketball player, which equates to his ability on the football field. He was the small school basketball Player of the Year in the state of Alabama. He has a tremendous, tremendous upside. He can rush the passer and he's gained a lot of weight. I think he came in at 230, 235, he's up to 250 pounds now.
He gives us an element to rushing the passer that is gonna be consistent with those guys who (were) playing ahead of him, Spencer added.
As Spencer noted, Brown is already checking in at just over 250 pounds.
Another source said, He brings lot of speed and quickness to the table. Torrence, if he listens to the coaches, and does the right things on and off the field and in the weight room, he's gonna be a great player for us in the next couple of years. He works hard to improve his craft for us every day and he's gonna be good for us.
Brown's 34-inch vertical last summer was the best of any of the PSU defensive linemen.Antoine White
Since the backup Smith (who graduated) is the only 2014 regular gone from the D-tackle rotation, there is not quite as much urgency for White to make an impact. He arrived at Penn State in January of 2014 weighing less than 280 pounds, but now carries about 295 on his 6-1 frame.
He is extremely athletic for his size.
How much so? Check this out:
Antoine White is kind of like Torrence, a source said. They bring the explosiveness, the speed and the quickness. They just need to get their fundamentals down and they'll be great.
His work ethic on the practice field and in the weight room prompted the coaching staff to tab White as the defensive player of the year on the scout team.
Meanwhile, his quick-twitch skills have led to one of the best nicknames in the program.
We call him the 'Salt Shaker,' because every time he pass-rushes, his entire body goes into convulsions like a salt shaker, Spencer said with a laugh. So that's his nickname. He loves it, man.
He's a unique kid. Very outgoing. Creative mind, another source said. He's a very funny kid. It's just great to be around him. And 'Salt Shaker,' that name is priceless.