Twelve true freshmen have already seen Penn State play, including several who played prominent roles in the first three games.

It’s hard to remember when the Nittany Lions used so many freshmen in meaningful situations this early.

“In 20 years of coaching, I’ve never been on a football team that had as many freshmen as we did and made as much of an impact,” defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said. “It’s a credit to the freshmen and the talent in this group. It’s a credit to how hard these guys have worked to be in this position.”

Running backs Nick Singleton and Keytron Allen, linebacker Abdul Carter and defensive linemen Dani Dennis-Sutton and Zane Durant have seen the most time so far.

They’re expected to do so again when 14th-ranked Penn State (3-0) takes on disproportionately underdog Central Michigan (1-2) in a nonconference game Saturday at noon at Beaver Stadium (TV-BTN, WEEU-AM/ 830 ).

“The coaches playing freshmen have done a great job of getting these guys ready,” Scott said. “Coach (James) Franklin has done a great job getting the staff and organization ready for these kids to play. This is a credit to everyone.

“These guys that come into the game play.”

Singleton, a former star at Gov. Mifflin, opened his career with impressive games against Ohio State and Auburn. He ran for 334 yards and four touchdowns and leads the nation with 11.1 yards per carry. He is expected to start at home on Saturday.

Allen, a Virginia native who attended IMG Academy in Florida, had 23 carries for 106 yards and two scores. He and Singleton are Penn State’s top two rushers.

“We want these young guys to have a great game,” offensive lineman Bryce Effner said, “explode the ball, run 80 yards and score a touchdown. It’s also wonderful for us to experience it.”

Carter was a four-star prospect out of La Salle College High School in Philadelphia. He was ruled out for targeting Purdue on the first defensive play of his career before emerging as a force last week at Auburn, where he had a team-high six tackles, including a sack , forced a fumble and broke up a pass.

“Abdul is a freak,” Jaylen Reed said. “He’s a freak athlete. I have never seen anything like it. He shows a lot of shades of (former Pennsylvania All-American) Mickey Parsons. He is bruised.

“He’s a freak athlete, man. I don’t know what else to say. He will continue to improve and continue to play for us.”

Dennis-Sutton, a consensus four-star prospect out of the McDonough School in Maryland, also had the first sack of his career at Auburn. Durant, a four-star recruit from Lake Nona, Fla., helped fuel the Tigers’ running game in rebounding.

“Dani’s work ethic is incredible,” Scott said. “He’s getting more and more comfortable. He is playing more and more valuable minutes. He certainly gives us a lot. He’s a good passer for a young guy. He continues to improve in the running game.

“Zane played mostly on the edge in high school. When he got here, he had to really learn how to play tackle. I was very pleased with his progress. You’re going to see this guy continue his ascension and explosive growth.”

The Lions have 23 freshmen in their 2022 class and are ranked seventh or eighth nationally by On3, 247 Sports and Rivals. Ken Tully, a linebacker from Northeast High in Philadelphia, left Penn State in August and transferred to Michigan State.

Of the remaining 22 freshmen, 19 were on the travel roster for last week’s Auburn game, including Downingtown West prospect Drew Shelton and Vega Ioane.

“Drew and Vega are so athletic,” Effner said. “They picked up the offense well. They got a better handicap than I did. You will see how much work they have put in to become top linemen. I think you will see it soon.’

Scott said he thinks freshman play this early in their careers is becoming a trend.

“That’s probably the way college football is going to go now,” he said. “You’ll see more and more young guys playing. It’s a great recruiting tool. When you come to Pennsylvania, you get the opportunity. No one is holding you back because you are a freshman.

“I’m really excited about what our freshmen are doing. They have already made a big impact on our team.”


Rich Scarcella’s pick

Penn State 48, Central Michigan 14

The Nittany Lions continue to struggle against the rebuilding Chippewas, who trailed Oklahoma State and South Alabama by at least three touchdowns at halftime in their respective losses. Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols led the nation with 1,848 yards last year, but is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry this year. Penn State gets a tune-up in its final non-conference game.

https://www.dailylocal.com/2022/09/23/penn-state-freshmen-look-to-continue-to-make-impact-against-central-michigan/

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