SIX PACK: Early Impressions

Fight On State breaks out another trademark Six Pack, this time reviewing the true freshmen who are turning heads in preseason practice.

The season isn't quite here yet, but with about a week until kickoff against Youngstown State we figured it was time to break open a few Six Packs to review key aspects of the 2010 Nittany Lions.

In this installment, lets take a look at six true freshmen who are turning heads in preseason practice.

Khairi Fortt, LB: Fortt's physique and athleticism have drawn comparisons to fellow young linebacker Gerald Hodges. Fortt has picked up the outside linebacker role relatively quickly and has shown impressive speed.

The issue ahead of Fortt is the sheer depth of Ron Vanderlinden's unit, with the likes Hodges, Mike Mauti, Bani Gbadyu and Natan Stupar all playing outside.

While a redhsirt is possible, don't be surprised if the staff elects to use Fortt's size, strength and speed on special teams to provide a jolt to the coverage game.

Impact Gauge: Medium

Kevin Haplea, TE: With a limited number of tight ends and Andrew Szczerba sidelined and out of contact this preseason, Haplea has gotten a lot of reps with the second team and even some first-team work. Haplea has already been told by the staff that there's no plan to redshirt him given his progress and the need for tight ends.

Haplea has shown solid blocking skills and consistency with his receiving skills. With Brett Brackett penciled in to play the flex position as primarily a receiving target, Haplea's blocking ability should come into play when PSU goes to two-tight-end, short-yardage formations.

Impact Gauge: Very High

Alex Kenney, WR: Although Kenney initially got a look at cornerback, a preseason injury to Curtis Drake prompted the coaches to move the true freshman to the slow. Kenney's speed, awareness and sharp routes have made him an intriguing prospect for the coaches.

Kenney does have some speedy competition, however, in the former of sophomore Devon Smith. Both are said to have a great burst off the line, whereas Smith seems to have greater acceleration, Kenney's routes have been sharper and more disciplined, which is something near and dear to position coach Mike McQueary's heart.

Impact Gauge: High

Mike Hull: Hull got an early look at safety, which is not an uncommon path for linebackers, given that LaVar Arrington, Mike Mauti and Gerald Hodges all saw early work in the secondary. But he was moved to linebacker early in camp. Hull has a hard-nosed approach and an aggressive streak that has impressed position coach Ron Vanderlinden.

As we mentioned with Fortt, there is terrific depth at linebacker. But Hull sure looks like a player who can make an impact on special teams. Many in the program believe he has the chance to follow in the footsteps of previous outstanding linebackers, like Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, Sean Lee and NaVorro Bowman. Whether or not that starts this year remains to be seen.

Impact Gauge: Medium

Silas Redd, RB: Redd has received as much preseason praise as any freshman over the past few years. Said to be evasive, powerful and quick, Redd is also humble. He's shown impressive aptitude for the offense.

The downside is that Redd recently suffered an MCL sprain. But he is expected to be ready for action come the season.

The key question is whether Redd can get meaningful reps with Evan Royster, Stephfon Green and Curtis Dukes in the rotation? Toss in fullbacks Joe Suhey and Mike Zordich, and the opportunities become even more precious. However, Redd has shown he is that good, so the onus is on the staff to help him find the field.

Impact Gauge: High

DaQuan Jones, DE: Jones' physique and attitude have prompted rave reviews. He's acclimated well to the defensive line unit and has developed strong bonds with his teammates, which is not to be under-valued. Jones has been impressive with his conditioning and has shown solid endurance by all accounts.

In terms of his technique, he needs work to get where position coach Larry Johnson wants him. He is said to fit the profile for which Johnson has an affinity — a strong, physical foundation with little ingrained technique — so he can build with his fundamentals. Jones has a real upside, yet also has a lot of talent in front of him with a loaded and deep defensive line. Given this, it apprears to be a stretch to break into the rotation early on.

Impact Gauge: Medium

For those wondering about Robert Bolden, see our previously published Pivotal Players Six Pack.

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