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Penn State Football: Three New Faces And Three Big Impacts

by on June 24, 2016 6:00 AM

This Saturday the Penn State football program will welcome the remaining members of the freshman class, one of the best under head coach James Franklin and one that can continue the slow but steady revival of program. In total 20 new faces will hit the roster this summer, although five of them including quarterback Jake Zembiec have been on campus as early enrollees for months now.

While this recruiting class will undoubtedly be a part of the success or failures of the James Franklin era, in truth most of them won't see the field as freshman. The physical demands to play at the Division I level coupled with experienced players already on the roster makes it much more practical to let those players mature and grow from the sideline before throwing them into the fire.

That being said, there are three freshman to keep an eye on that might not only be new faces in the crowd but new faces in the starting lineup. 

Miles Sanders:

On paper Sanders, from a recruiting standpoint, is better than Saquon Barkley. The top rated running back in his class, nothing about Sanders' physical build or his play on the field leaves much room for the imagination. While it's hard to see Barkley losing his starting job, it's pretty simple to figure that Sanders stands to gain plenty of yards all on his own this year. How that split works out in reality is hard to say, but it's a safe bet Sanders won't be on campus long (hello NFL) so the clock is probably already ticking.

There are of course, worse problems to have than this one.

Blake Gillikin:

A worse situation for example, Penn State's punting. Gillikin comes to campus as as scholarship punter and one of the best in the class. The fact Penn State is spending a scholarship on every specialist position on the roster says equal parts how much that unit was in need of an improvement as much as how far Penn State's scholarship situation has come along. In the past Franklin and O'Brien couldn't use a scholarship on punters and kickers, if they don't pan out it's a waste. If a linebacker doesn't pan out he might be a defensive end. But not times have changed and Gillikin's leg might just be what Penn State needs to flip the field a bit farther this year than the Russian Roulette punting of 2014 and 2015.

Michal Menet:

Depending who you ask Menet's status as a five-start offensive tackle makes him an automatic starter for Penn State's frequently problem filled offensive line. While there are few positions harder to jump into as a freshman than offensive line, Menet will not only give the starting job a run but in the very least give Penn State more depth and talent to work with as the season moves along. Even if Menet doesn't play on Day 1, he'll play soon and if nothing else, his presence on the roster is a big one. 

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