Early Enrollees In The Spring Game

Story posted April 14, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Joe Esquivel-Murphy

The Blue White spring game gives young players the opportunity to improve on their skills in spring practice to earn playing time next season. This is especially true for freshmen that enroll early as they get a chance to get more opportunities over freshmen that come in August.

This year, Penn State introduces four early enrollees looking to make an impact. The four commits are positions of need for Penn State in the form of offensive line, tight end and quarterback.

The most important early enrollee is quarterback Jake Zembiec from Rochester, New York. Zembiec was the 19th best quarterback according to ESPN and attended the Elite 11 quarterback camp in the summer of 2015.

His decision to enroll early gives the 6-foot-3-inch Zembiec the chance to win the quarterback competition between him, Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens. McSorley has the advantage over Stevens and Zembiec due to his performance against Georgia in the Taxslayer bowl, but a strong spring game by Zembiec could push him to the top of the depth chart.

Stevens participated in the Blue White game last year, but struggled throughout the game and redshirted this past season. Zembiec could have the same fate in an already crowded quarterback race.

Tight end Danny Dalton is the player that might gain the most out of the spring game due to the lack of depth at the position. With Kyle Carter graduating and Brent Wilkerson being suspended, junior Mike Gesicki is the only tight end that saw meaningful playing time last season.

Dalton’s path to being the number two tight end is not going to be an easy one as sophomore Nick Bowers will push Dalton for that job. If the Semper Fidelis All-American can play to his potential, then Dalton will be the number two tight end for Penn State.

Connor McGovern and Alex Gellerstedt are in interesting positions as both players battle for jobs on an offensive line that remains mostly intact from last season. The only problem is that the line struggled with consistency last season as Christian Hackenberg was on the ground repeatedly and Saquon Barkley was constantly met in the backfield.

The offensive tackles last season seemed to struggle as right tackle Andrew Nelson was injured, while left tackle Paris Palmer was unable to keep pass rushers off of Hackenberg. Freshman Will Fries looks to contribute at offensive tackle, but he arrives in August, allowing Gellerstedt to earn valuable reps in the spring.

McGovern joins an interior offensive line that also struggled with consistency issues, but is not the only talented freshman joining the group. Under Armour All-American Michael Menet joins Penn State in August and if he is as good as they say, Menet could start the season opener against Kent State.

The fact that Menet does not arrive at Penn State until August, giving McGovern, an Army All-American, the opportunity to push himself ahead of Menet. The Blue White game this season gives this year’s batch of early enrollees a chance to secure prominent positions before the Nittany Lions start fall camp.

Joe Esquivel-Murphy is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email jje5139@psu.edu