Four Penn State true freshmen are seeing green as the 2015 season approaches.
Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin and his staff designate rookies in three color categories: green means they will play; yellow means they are likely to redshirt but will be prepared to play just in case; red means they are ticketed for a redshirt.
Wednesday, Franklin announced that only four true frosh have been green-lighted for 2015 so far. Here is a rundown, with our analysis of why they are needed.
Three talented running backs are coming off redshirts (Mark Allen, Nick Scott, Johnathan Thomas). But Thomas has been slowed by an undisclosed injury. Allen is a small (though tough) change-of-pace back in the mold of Mike Archie. Scott is quick (sub-4.5 40) but not a bruiser (he weighs 198).
So Barkley, who goes 5-11, 215 and can run with power and speed, is in the mix behind projected starter Akeel Lynch. Barkley is also being given a look as a kickoff return man.
The Penn State wideout corps lacked a big, athletic red zone threat last season. Now it has two of them in Johnson and fellow rookie Irvin Charles, who both go 6-4, 213.
But it would have made no sense to have both on the same eligibility timeline. Johnson got the nod because he was more consistent in camp.
WR Brandon Polk
This is the biggest surprise. Polk is tiny (5-6, 163) but explosive. Like Johnson, he brings an element to the wideout corps that was missing last season -- a game-breaker in the slot.
So what is so surprising? Polk’s game is very much like that of redshirt freshman DeAndre Thompkins, who may not be quite as quick, but is still a burner and is a bit bigger (5-11, 185).
Polk’s ability to return punts likely played a role in the staff’s decision to green-light him.
CB John Reid
Though not the biggest DB (5-10, 186), Reid is extremely athletic. But even more important than that, he has picked up the defense very quickly.
Besides earning a spot as a second-team corner, Reid is also in the mix to play in nickel and dime packages. The staff has used him all over the field.