Route 15 bridge construction to begin in June

Here are five Penn State football players to watch this spring

JON SAUBER
Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Western Kentucky wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley (5) runs past UTSA cornerback Tariq Woolen (3) for a touchdown after making a catch during the second half of an NCAA college football game for the Conference USA championship Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Spring football began Monday for Penn State, with the Nittany Lions conducting their first of 15 practices.

James Franklin's crew is coming off a 7-6 season that started about as well as it could have and ended in the exact opposite way.

They have stability on offense with second-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and redshirt senior quarterback Sean Clifford — who returns for his fourth season as the team's starting signal caller.

Defensively, however, there's plenty to learn, with new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who is replacing Brent Pry after Pry took the head coach position at Virginia Tech.

With that in mind, let's take a look at five players to watch during Penn State's spring practices.

Wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley: Penn State made a notable transfer portal addition before its 2021 season was completely over and he should have a large role this season. Tinsley committed to the Nittany Lions in December after spending last season in Western Kentucky's high flying offense and will have big shoes to fill now that he's in Happy Valley.

His new offense has a vacancy in the passing game now that all-time great wide receiver Jahan Dotson has moved on and entered the 2022 NFL Draft. Tinsley — who will wear Dotson's old No. 5 — should be able to help bridge the gap in production that's left behind. He's a big, physical receiver that doesn't play much like Dotson, but should take over the mantle as Clifford's most reliable target. His ability should translate to the Big Ten, but spring ball will be his first chance to prove it on the field.

Defensive end Adisa Isaac: Isaac's inclusion here is less about proving what he can be on the field and more about that he can be on the field. The defensive end enters his redshirt junior year as a player who should be the team's best pass rusher, and could have been that last year as well. However, a non-football injury suffered last offseason kept him out for the entire 2021 season.

He may or may not participate in spring practice and even if he does it remains to be seen how much he'll be able to do. Getting him on the field and getting him reps if he's physically ready would go a long way in helping the team's pass rush in 2022. It's not necessary that he's ready to go just yet, but if he is it will be a positive sign that he'll have extra time to fully prepare for the year.

Cornerback Kalen King: King was one of the breakout stars of last year's spring practices, with teammates and coaches alike praising the work he was doing as a freshman that had enrolled just a couple months prior. Now King must turn a promising freshman year into an impactful sophomore one as a potential starter at cornerback. The Lions will be replacing cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields, who entered the 2022 NFL Draft, and the sophomore is the most likely player to fill his shoes.

He played plenty last year but showed the typical mistakes you'd expect from a freshman. He got caught in traffic on occasion and allowed wide receivers to take advantage of his miscommunications with his teammates. Now he must step up and show he can not only start, but potentially help Joey Porter Jr. lead the cornerback room this season.

Running back Nicholas Singleton: It's rare that freshmen are worth watching in spring ball, but there are a couple of candidates in what was a high profile 2022 class for Penn State. We'll start with Singleton, who should have the best chance of making an immediate impact. He's a physically imposing back despite the fact that he was in high school less than four months ago.

Singleton is listed at 6-feet, 219 pounds and is already ready to play based on his size alone. He has the speed and power to go with his measurables, with the ability to make one cut and break off a big run. Penn State has a crowded running back room with Keyvone Lee, Devyn Ford and Caziah Holmes returning, along with Singleton and Kaytron Allen joining as early enrollees. Singleton is still good enough to make an impact and that begins by impressing this spring.

Quarterback Drew Allar: Allar is the most obvious candidate to monitor this spring. He was a five-star recruit and has the hype behind him that hasn't been seen in a long time for Penn State at quarterback. That being said, it's highly unlikely he's ready to be a Big Ten quarterback this spring. Rather, this is about seeing some of the upside that made him such a highly touted high school player.

The freshman quarterback has the arm strength to make every throw and spring ball should be an excellent opportunity for him to put that on display. He'll need to work on some of the other aspects of the game — working through his progressions and getting physically prepared from a strength standpoint — but Allar is going to be worth watching. throughout spring, even if he isn't going to play much, if at all, as a freshman.