Penn State hosts Central Michigan for its second home game of the year, and the Chippewas have some weapons on both offense and defense that could pose a threat for No. 14 Penn State.
Central Michigan is off to a 1-2 start and has only won against Bucknell 41-0, but the Chippewas did come back and threaten to upset now-No. 9 Oklahoma State.
The offense has the firepower to put up a lot of points behind quarterback Daniel Richardson, while the defense also has the ability to shut teams out as it did against Bucknell.
Here are some players Penn State has to keep an eye on come Saturday.
Lew Nichols III, running back
Like Auburn a week ago, Central Michigan likes to run the ball, and the Chippewas give the rock to sophomore running back Lew Nichols.
Nichols is Central Michigan’s physical back, getting the ball on the earlier downs to pick up a couple of yards.
The 5-foot-11, 222-pound sophomore is the Chippewas’ leading rusher through three games, racking up 258 yards and five touchdowns.
In Central Michigan’s game against Bucknell, Nichols rushed 30 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve been impressed on that side of the ball with their running back Lew Nichols, a kid out of Detroit, Michigan,” Franklin said Tuesday.
Nichols is the main back for Penn State to watch out for, but fellow sophomore running back Myles Bailey is the pass catcher out of the backfield who the Nittany Lions’ linebackers should also be aware of.
Jalen McGaughy, receiver
Central Michigan’s most skilled player on the offense is its sophomore receiver Jalen McGaughy.
McGaughy has a slim build but is really fast and can turn a slant route into a touchdown over the middle of the field.
He leads the team with 200 yards and two touchdowns and showed up in the close loss to then-No. 12 Oklahoma State, where he had six receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
McGaughy can get lost in coverage, especially in the red zone, and if he’s not wide open, he has the focus to make contested catches.
Penn State’s secondary has to keep an eye on McGaughy because he easily breaks loose at any moment. Franklin said he’s been impressed by what he’s seen out of McGaughy, highlighting his 6-foot-4, 225-pound size.
Joel Wilson, tight end
Central Michigan’s run game is the focal point of the offense, but when sophomore quarterback Richardson throws the ball, his favorite target is his tight end, Joel Wilson.
Wilson, like Brenton Strange to Sean Clifford, is Richardson’s security blanket when his other options aren’t there, especially on third down.
The Petoskey, Michigan, native leads the Chippewas with 16 receptions and has two touchdowns. He ranks second behind McGaughy with 165 receiving yards.
Thomas Incoom, defensive end
On the defensive side, Central Michigan’s pass rush starts with defensive end Thomas Incoom.
Incoom is one of the more athletic players on the squad and finds his way into the backfield often.
He already has three sacks on the season for 23 yards. Incoom also has done well stopping the run and has 10 tackles to his name.
Wilson usually lines up on the left side, which could pose a threat to Penn State’s weaker side of the offensive line on the right.
“We’re impressed with their defensive end No. 9,” Franklin said, talking about Incoom.
Dante Kent, cornerback
Central Michigan has some young talent in the secondary, spearheaded by sophomore corner Donte Kent.
“Their cornerback, Donte Kent, has been playing well for them, a freshman All-American a year ago,” Franklin said.
In 2021, Kent led the team with 14 pass deflections, double the amount of the second-most on the team.
The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native was a 3-star defensive back out of high school and didn’t receive a Power 5 offer, according to 247Sports.
This season, Kent has three pass deflections in three games, which is two shy of freshman De'Javion Stepney, another player Penn State should keep an eye on.
Clifford will have to have an eye out for Kent, No. 4, because he did also secure an interception a year ago.
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