Penn State’s preseason camp may not be scheduled to start until Aug. 4. But for die-hard Nittany Lion fans, it is never too early to start breaking things down in preparation for the season.
So in the coming weeks we’ll be offering a variety of unique takes on James Franklin’s squad. Be sure to get in on the conversation on our premium forum.
In this segment, we talk about the top three Nittany Lions we believe are flying under the radar as the season nears.
These are guys who are getting very little preseason publicity. But we think they’re poised for some good things in 2016.
3. RB Andre Robinson
The redshirt freshman’s low profile heading into the season is perfectly understandable considering the (deserved) hype being heaped on sophomore Saquon Barkley and the anticipation for incoming freshman Miles Sanders.
But don’t sleep on Robinson. No, he is not going to contend for the starting job. And he may not get as many snaps as Sanders, should the staff decide to play the rookie.
However, as we saw in the spring, the 5-foot-9, 213-pound Robinson excels at power running between the tackles. And while not a burner, he has enough burst to make things interesting once he smashes through the line.
Barkley excels at running around and jumping over would-be tacklers. But sometimes, you need a back who is going to grind out a yard or two, either for a first down or on the goal line. We see Robinson in that role.
2. ATH Nick Scott
Seeing the logjam of talent at his former position of RB (check out No. 3 on this list), the redshirt sophomore moved to the secondary in the spring. He spent time at corner and safety, and it is fair (and understandable) to say the move is still a work in progress.
Whether or not he actually plays in the secondary this season, Scott will make an impact — on special teams and in the locker room.
A 4.5-second 40-yard dash man, Scott has the speed to return kicks, should the staff decided to use him in that role (he led the team with a 23.8-yard average in that department last season). But he is also an excellent cover man.
Consider that Scott had eight tackles last season, which amounted to one fewer than DT regular Tarow Barney and one more than backup linebacker Gary Wooten.
We will not be the slightest bit surprised if Scott ends up making a couple of game-changing plays on special teams this season.
In the meantime, he has already emerged as a leader within the program. Making the move from RB to DB for the good of the team only reinforced his standing in the locker room.
1. CB Christian Campbell
Projected starting CBs Grant Haley and John Reid are both legit talents who saw a ton of action last season and will do the same this fall. But as we saw in 2015 — when as a true freshman Reid was technically a backup but played nearly as much as the starters — corners coach Terry Smith likes to keep his men fresh.
This year, the primary beneficiary of that approach figures to be Campbell (above, No. 1), a 6-1, 190-pound junior who has terrific size and athleticism. Campbell has the tools to develop into the top cover corner on the team. The key? Staying healthy.
He missed the last five games of 2015 with an undisclosed injury. He was slowed a bit by injuries during his true freshman season of 2014, as well.
If Campbell can put those issues behind him, expect him to do some special things in his final two seasons.