Penn State Football: Four Freshmen to Watch in Preseason Practice
As the second day of Penn State's preseason practice gets under way, the Nittany Lions will have their entire roster together for the first time as the freshmen class will join the returning players to complete the 2012 Penn State football roster.
The class of 2012, which includes 19 players, will likely play a pivotal role in the stability of the Nittany Lions' football program over the next four years.
Jamil Pollard, a four-star defensive tackle from Westville, N.J., currently is the only freshman to transfer following the NCAA's announcement of wide-sweeping NCAA sanctions against Penn State which included a four-year postseason ban.
Penn State will march on, facing a limit of 65 scholarships in 2014, a sanction that will not only increase the need for talent, but put pressure on coach Bill O'Brien and his coaching staff to land players who will be able to contribute.
While a few prospects that don't pan out in a class of 25 may not be noticed, a few players who don't meet expectations in a class of only 15 could be the difference between winning and losing.
The Nittany Lions' current freshmen class will face a similar cause as they attempt to fill the holes that nine transfer players, many major, have left only a few short weeks prior to preseason camp.
While players like Silas Redd and Anthony Fera may never truly be replaced, here are four freshmen to watch this preseason as they look to make an immediate impact in O'Brien's first season.
1. Eugene Lewis - Wide Receiver
The departure of wide receiver Justin Brown to Oklahoma this weekend instantly increased Lewis' potential to see significant playing time this year. A 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Lewis' frame and athletic ability makes him an easy target for quarterback Matt McGloin, who will likely need all the help he can get this upcoming season.
2. Akeel Lynch - Running Back
After toying with the idea of a departure to Iowa, Lynch reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State this weekend, adding to recently depleted depth at running back following the transfer of Silas Redd to USC. Bill Belton will be the feature back until further notice in O'Brien's offense, but Lynch could provide Belton with a rest if not substantial carries himself.
3. Da'Quan Davis - Defensive Back
After practice Monday morning, Bill O'Brien noted that the Nittany Lions' secondary was running a little thin. Da'Quan Davis, a three-star defensive back out of Baltimore, Md., could provide some answers in the secondary. The starting position should be locked down already by the likes of Adrian Amos, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, and Malcom Willis, but Davis might just see himself enter that rotation. Freshman Jake Kiley also has potential to fill a role in this area.
4. Jesse James - Tight End
While returning starter Garry Gilliam is the favorite to win the starting spot this year, O'Brien's offense, which may feature two-tight end sets, could lead way for James who was a bright spot in spring drills. At 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, James is already built for the college game and has the blocking skills to add to it. Adam Breneman, a 2013 commit, has created the most buzz as the nation's top tight end prospect, but James very well could have an equally important role in the coming years.