Penn State Football: What To Watch For This Weekend During The Blue White Game
Penn State will once again wrap up spring practice and head into the summer Saturday afternoon with the annual Blue-White game.
For many players this is their last chance to leave a good impression with the coaching staff, and for many veterans, one last time to hit the field before relaxing as they get their bodies ready for the long and difficult season ahead.
In reality the Blue White game is as much a social gathering as anything else. The Nittany Lion coaching staff has been watching their team closely for the past several weeks and while there may still be unanswered questions heading into training camp, it would take a lot to surprise them this weekend.
But for everyone else wanting to see what the 2019 edition of Penn State football might look like, here are five things to watch for on Saturday.
Catch It: There are few things that can reasonably happen during a Blue White game that will directly translate to your expectations a few months down the road. The offense is watered down, the defense isn't trying to hurt people and for the most part special teams doesn't even exist. So it's the simple things that make the difference, like, catching the ball.
How do the receivers look? Forget about the size and flashy playmaking, are they catching the ball? Nobody needs to see Juwan Johnson's one-handed snag repeated 15 times on Saturday, but if everyone who is tasked with catching the ball, catches the ball, well that's a step in the right direction. Especially after last season.
Keep It Together: Penn State new-look offensive line is bound to be a point of contention heading into the fall after finally getting things together the past two seasons. Can this group replicate the kind of production of the previous group? Given some of the contact rules in place during the scrimmage, it might be hard to really get a grasp on how this bunch looks, but you know bad offensive line play when you see it. And if you don't see it on Saturday, there is something to be said for that.
This group will likely be a work in progress, so getting a first impression is important, but there will be plenty of improvement between Saturday and this fall.
Nothing Short Here: Receiver Justin Shorter is not in fact, short. But after missing pretty much all of last year due to injury, how does he look with his first real chance to prove himself? This goes back bit to simply catching the ball, but Shorter was highly touted for a reason in high school, and for the most part Penn State fans have yet to see why.
It's not fair to put much in the way of expectations on anyone during the Blue White game, but a few good catches and a few nice plays might remind fans, and Shorter, why so many programs wanted his services not too long ago. Careers are long, here's to a new Chapter 1.
Nice To See You, Finally: Lamont Wade has been on Penn State's depth chart for what feels like forever but has only just gotten to the point where it appears he might crack the top spot. Wade's opportunity has been a long time coming, and assuming he's slated to play on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how he does in a larger role in the secondary.
It's unlikely he is going to get tested, but if he does, how will he respond on Saturday? Another small piece of the puzzle, but Wade has been waiting even longer than Shorter to see the field on a regular basis. So this is his time to try and shine.
The Other Guys: Forget about Sean Clifford, forget about Tommy Stevens, hello to all you other folks in Penn State's quarterback room. We're talking about Will Levis and freshmen Ta'Quan Lewis and Michael Johnson Jr. Assuming that Stevens doesn't play or is at least limited, that ought to open the door to a whole slew of other quarterbacks taking snaps.
In fairness if Stevens is out, Clifford is almost certainly going to get the lion's share of snaps with the first team offense. This means most all of the other quarterbacks will find themselves slightly shorthanded when they take the field. Nevertheless, it will be fun to see how they throw the ball, what they look like in the backfield and just get a chance to look at someone other than No.9, No.2 and No.14 running plays.