As Penn State football makes the turn into its second week of spring practice, we take a look at six players positioned to make an impact on the squad this coming season.
Paris Palmer, JR, OTIt's no secret PSU's offensive line is in search of a left tackle. A unit that gave up 44 sacks last season, the offensive line's LT spot is current working Palmer (shown above), redshirt junior Albert Hall, redshirt freshman Chance Sorrell and true freshman Sterling Jenkins at the position this spring. While Palmer is focused on "fundamentals, technique and the learning aspect," as head coach James Franklin put it, he's "gotten significantly stronger" and the staff likes how he's adjusted to the weight program. At 6-foot-7, and a listed 278 pounds, the key for Palmer is adding size to his massive frame. The staff would like to get his close to 310 pounds, which "will take some work."
Mike Gesicki, SOPH, TEThe Nittany Lion tight end position is one where Franklin and staff have focused on expanding into a multidimensional role of run blocker and pass catcher since Bill O'Brien's departure. The challenge and focal point this spring has been on the former skill of run blocking. “We have a bunch of tight ends that were high school wide receivers and weren't asked to block," explained James. With veteran Kyle Carter back and Adam Breneman returning from injury, many eyes are focused on Gesicki who has added nearly 25 pounds to his frame and has been focused on improving his blocking technique. In terms of the passing game, last season he caught 11 balls for 114 yards (10.4 YPC). He has shown "consistency grabbing tosses" in the early spring sessions.
DeAndre Thompkins, RS FR, WRWhile the Lions' wide receiver unit has a solid foundation with veterans that include Big Ten receiving leader DaeSean Hamilton (82-899/2 TD), Geno Lewis (55-751/2 TD), Chris Godwin (26-338/2 TD) and Saeed Blacknall (10-95/1 TD), the staff likes what Thompkins has put on display with his hands and route-running. Listed at 5-11, 187 pounds, Thompkins has shown some "flashes in the slot," and "has been consistent, particularly with short, speed routes." If he continues to progress he could add another dimension to the passing game.
Carl Nassib SR, DEWith the departure of Deion Barnes and C.J. Olanyian at the end positions, PSU's in search of some players to step into the primary roles. With guys like Curtis Cothran, Evan Schwan and Torrence Brown in the mix, the early sentiment seems to be centered on Nassib, who saw some limited rotation work in 12 games last season and ended up with seven tackles (four solo) and a sack and forced fumble. At 6-6, 270 pounds, Franklin has referred to Nassib as “Mr. Consistent,” which has been echoed by others, one of whom said Nassib has been "hyper-focused on nailing down his technique." He, along with Garrett Sickels, both of whom saw action off the bench last season, are expected to be strong components of Sean Spencer's rotation.
Troy Reeder, RS Frosh, LBSaid to be "progressing quickly" with his block-shedding technique in 1V1 drills, Reeder was impressive in scout ream play last season. At 6-1, 235 pounds he "carries his size well" and "has good quickness." The staff also likes his flashes of aggression and want him to "use it more." With all this he's expected to make a run at an outside spot assuming the middle position is maintained by Nyeem Wartman, but is probably a "more natural fit inside."