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Penn State Football: Three Freshmen Green Lit For Early Contributions

by on August 25, 2016 12:20 PM

With the opening game of the season just over a week away, at least three Penn State true freshmen could get their first taste of college football against Kent State according to coach James Franklin.

Officially, running back Miles Sanders, lineman Connor McGovern and punter Blake Gilikin have all been "green lighted" for the season. The terminology representing a player's preparedness and level in the pecking order as a freshmen. Players can be green, yellow and red lighted, red players likely headed for a redshirt season while yellow players may only be an injury away from playing if need be.

McGovern is perhaps the most expected of the bunch as Penn State's offensive line looks to find stability. The freshmen arrived on campus in January as an early enrollee, giving him a leg up on most of his fellow freshmen.

“Obviously [he] is in a different situation because he came in as a freshman but had graduated early [from high school],” said Franklin. “McGovern came in a powerful, strong guy. He’s already over 300 pounds.”

Sanders and Gilikin both seemed poised to make an immediate impact as well. Sanders, rated the top running back prospect in his recruiting class is undoubtedly too talent to watch from the sidelines even if Saquon Barkley is still the primary back. In early July strength and conditioning coach Dwight Glat noted that Sanders was physically prepared to play, it was just a matter of getting the rest of the pieces of the puzzle together. Something that has seemingly occurred.

Likewise it comes as no real surprise that Gilikin, a highly rated punter --a rarity in its own right-- is on schedule to start Week 1. Penn State's special teams unit has been much maligned the past several years and a scholarship punter flipping the field is a far cry from the 30-yard shanks fans had become used to seeing.

While all three players appear to be the most prepared to contribute early and often, as Franklin noted after practice on Wednesday, it's a fluid situation.

“If we tag a guy a green we’re basically saying ‘He’s a go from the first game,’” Franklin added. "A red is a guy we’re planning on redshirting, but if I remember correctly, last year Manny Bowen and Jake Cooper (linebackers) were both reds who became greens in the first game on the sideline. So you can go from yellow to green, or even red to green. It depends on the circumstances.”

Equally true the possibility of never playing after getting the green light. Last season freshman receiver Juwan Johnson joined Barkley and safety John Reid as green lit players, only for Johnson to redshirt the season as Penn State's pass attack struggled and the emergence of Chris Godwin continued.

Nevertheless it seems safe to assume a few of the biggest names in Penn State's freshman class are set to try and live up to their own hype from the outset.

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