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Joey Porter Jr. and Parker Washington Headline Penn State's First Depth Chart

by on October 20, 2020 3:00 PM

Penn State football released its opening week depth chart on Tuesday giving fans their first real look at how the roster is shaking out as the Nittany Lions prepare for a Saturday meeting against Indiana.

In many ways the first depth chart of the season is the most accurate depiction of the Nittany Lions headed into their upcoming game as traditionally Penn State's weekly depth chart is representative of the previous game's starting lineup. In turn, any changes, injuries or modifications in the days leading up to a game are not reflected in the depth chart.

Nevertheless, with the season only days away and no Blue White game to act as even a brief introduction to players making their way up the depth chart, Tuesday was the first look at the 2020 version of Penn State football. While the vast majority of positions panned out as expected, at least two notable things pop out at a first glance.

Enter receiver Parker Washington and corner Joey Porter Jr., both atop the chart at their respective positions.

Washington, a 5-foot-10 target for quarterback Sean Clifford won't wow anyone with his size, but according to Franklin, his ball skills will make you notice him.

"Parker, he's a very mature young man," Franklin said. "He's a very smart young man and the offense kind of makes sense to him and he can kind of connect dots with some things. He's got a mature approach to meetings and practice. You're going to see him, he's almost built like a running back in a lot of ways, and he's got elite ball skills and body control. Me and Clifford were talking about it the other day at practice he caught [a pass] one handed and usually when the guy makes a one handed catch everybody goes crazy, but he's done it so many times that it's almost like it's the expectation for him now to make make those types of catches."

Washington is currently listed as a starter alongside Jahan Dotson and Cam Sullivan-Brown. 

Across from Washington is Porter, whose road to the starting spot slots him above 2019 regular rotation piece Keaton Ellis. Porter Jr redshirted the 2019-20 season and will now start opposite longtime corner Tariq Castro-Fields with safeties Jaquan Brisker and Lamont Wade behind him on the field.

"I remember talking to Joey just a few weeks ago and last year when Joey redshirted, he wasn't happy about it. He thought he was ready and now looking back, having this conversation with him the other day, he goes 'yeah I wasn't ready, I thought I was ready but I wasn't' but he is now, and then not only is he ready now he's really playing at a high level with a lot of confidence."

"I think [Porter is] a great example [of how] everybody's journey is different. Some guys come in as a freshman and they're ready to jump on the field right away and other guys it takes a year and some guys it takes three years."

Here is how the rest of the depth chart panned out.

Offensive Line: 

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There are no surprises with this bunch as Rasheed Walker, Mike Miranda, Michal Menet, CJ Thorpe and Will Fries take over the duties left to right. It seems likely that this group with shift around over the course of the season either due to intentional changes or potential injuries. Miranda is listed as the backup center while Des Holmes is backing up both left and right guards.

Quarterback:

A straightforward group here. Clifford gets the nod with Will Levis in relief. Ta'Quan Roberson is No. 3 on the depth chart, an area that Penn State hopes it never has to dip into moving forward.

Running Back:

While the news of Journey Brown's potentially season-ending medical condition does little to help the Nittany Lions, if there is a silver-lining to be had, it's that Penn State is well equipped to make up for his loss if Brown is in fact out for the year. Noah Cain is top the chart with Devyn Ford right behind him. Freshman Caziah Holmes sits at the third spot and seems likely to see action during a year when the NCAA has granted everyone an extra season of eligibility no matter how many games a player sees time in. [In a normal year more than four games counts as a season of eligibility] This group will want Brown in the fold, but should be plenty fine without him.

Receiver:

Washington is the big news here but really only Daniel George was a returning pass catcher that would have made sense in his place. Dotson and Sullivan-Brown round out this group that will have plenty to prove in 2020. A fairly young room behind the two veterans, freshman KeAndre Lambert-Smith is second behind Dotson while Isaac Lutz sits behind Washington in that rotation. Penn State will want consistency and production out of this group, so don't be surprised if the names around Dotson change as the year goes along while Franklin looks to find the right combination.

Tight End:

Pat Freiermuth is naturally atop this position while a small surprise comes in behind him with freshman Brenton Strange finds himself just ahead of Zack Kuntz. Time will tell how often Penn State ever really takes Freiermuth off the field to begin with, but Strange getting the nod over the slightly more veteran redshirt sophomore Kuntz is noteworthy for now.

DEFENSE:

Defensive Line:

No surprises here with Shaka Toney, PJ Mustipher, Antonio Shelton and Jayson Oweh all rounding out a very solid and experienced group. Oweh is the only -somewhat- new face in this group as he looks to finally make good on his potential. Penn State has rolled multiple defensive line units in the same game over the years so starting here means slightly less than it might elsewhere. In either case, Shane Simmons and Fred Hansard give Penn State good depth with Adisa Isaac and redshirt freshman Hakeem Beamon looking to make bigger impacts when called on.

Linebacker:

Jesse Luketa, Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith give Penn State a unique veteran and youth flair with Luekta taking over the outside linebacker spot in place of the now departed Micah Parsons. Smith is the most anticipated of the group given the flashes he showed in 2019 and his former five-star prospect status. Lance Dixon gives Penn State a little bit of depth at this position, but it will take some development as the weeks go along to have more clear-cut and secure depth behind the starting three. Luketa isn't a returning starter, but his playing time in 2019 effectively makes him one.

Safety:

As expected here with Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker return to give Penn State yet another solid 1-2 combo at the back of the coverage unit. Jonathan Sutherland will certainly see some time as well and add veteran experience to the group. This group will want a second shot at some of its mistakes in 2019, but all told Penn State is plenty talented in the secondary.

Corner:

Joey Porter Jr is the surprise here ahead of reliable Keaton Ellis but both ought to see time. Tariq Castro-Fields will look to have a bounce-back and healthy season in 2020 but is an early rounds draft choice when he is at his best. Marquis Wilson adds a fourth coverage option in a unit that is somewhat young behind Brisker and Sutherland, but much like the safety position there is a lot of talent and options here.

Returners: 

The last area with a bit of noteworthy substance as Devyn Ford will handle primary kickoff return duties with Lamont Wade the off returner. Jahan Dotson will handle punt returns while Parker Washington will be right behind him. Penn State isn't short on skill position players, so it's less a question of ability as it is just finding a combination that seems to click.

Kickers/Punters:

No unexpected news here with Jordan Stout taking over a punter/kicker role while Jake Pinegar will handle most all of Penn State's field goal and extra point duties. Stout will hold for Pinegar and Rafael Checa will hold if Stout is taking a long field goal attempt.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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