Penn State football wrapped up spring practice this past week and with it, many evaluations and opproetunies for players to see their stock rise within the program. Of course there are plenty of known entities as well, quarterback Sean Clifford looks to head into his third year at the helm of the offense while a stable of running backs will compete for spots in the rotation.
But the spring is also a chance for new faces and new names to rise up the depth chart. This spring it was freshman cornerback Kalen King who made perhaps the most buzz en route to two interceptions in a public scrimmage two weeks ago and likely even more plays behind the scenes.
So with the old and the new in mind, here are the team awards handed out by James Franklin and the coaching staff.
Takeaway King: Kalen King
“Kalen King is probably the most advanced freshman that we have had since we’ve been here in terms of his ability to practice and compete, both physically and mentally,” Franklin said earlier this spring. “He’s really doing well. You’d come to practice and you wouldn’t think that [he is a freshman].”
Touchdown Kings: Tyler Warren and Tank Smith
Smith is a redshirt freshmen this year coming in a 5-foot-7, 231 pounds – an apt size for a powerful name. Mean while Warren, a freshman tight end appeared in two games last season and was named the Coaching Staff’s Developmental Squad Offensive Player of the Week following the Maryland (11/7) game.
Frank Patrick Memorial Total Commitment Award: Sean Clifford, Juice Scruggs and Jonathan Sutherland
Scruggs is the most anticipated new name of the group here, hoping to make an impact on the offensive line for the first time in his career after overcoming injuries sustained during a car crash. Clifford is a well documented member of the team and Jonathan Sutherland looks to wear No. 0 for a second-straight year identifying him a crucial piece of the special teams unit and an overall leader on the team this fall.
Coaches Special Team Award: Ji’Ayir Brown
The junior college transfer continues to see his name rise up the depth chart looking to make an impact at safety and on special teams this season. It seems entirely likely that Brown could find himself alongside safety Jaquan Brisker who opted to return this offseason. The duo could backstop a talented coverage unit for the Nittany Lions looking to cut down on those big chunk plays given up last year.
Red Worrell Offensive Player Award: Blake Zalar
An award given for “exemplary conduct, loyalty, interest, attitude and improvement during spring practice.” Zalar has done well so far this spring as a redshirt freshman, looking to solidify himself in the minds of the coaching staff when it comes to the offensive line rotation.
Jim O’Hora Defensive Player Awards: Tariq Castro-Fields, PJ Mustipher
Two veteran players who will be key parts of the Nittany Lions’ success in 2021. Castro-Fields is looking to bounce back from an injury filled past two seasons while Mustipher is hoping to anchor Penn State’s defensive front from the inside in the absence of NFL bound defensive end Jayson Oweh.