While Saturday’s spring practice was certainly different than a normal Penn State Blue-White weekend, the Nittany Lions still got a chance to face off in a game-like situation.
The first, second and third stringers lined up across from their own groups rather than splitting the talent evenly. No score was kept and special teams units were used only for special scenarios.
The crowd, made up of freshmen and family members only, stacked up at 7,521 for the first public attendance in Beaver Stadium since 2019.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the first look at James Franklin’s 2021 squad
Kalen King turns heads
All spring long, Franklin and the rest of the defensive coaching staff have raved over incoming freshman cornerback Kalen King.
Franklin noted that King, a four-star recruit from Detroit, Michigan, is one of the most mature freshmen he’s seen in his tenure at Penn State and he has traits that would normally be seen in a veteran defensive back.
The hype surrounding the 5-foot-11 corner was put on display early as he intercepted quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson and took it 25 yards for a touchdown.
In addition to that big play, King added another interception off of Sean Clifford and was able to impress in coverage all afternoon. He will vie for playing time behind Joey Porter Jr. and Tariq Castro-Fields this season.
Devyn Ford’s return
Devyn Ford, who went down with an injury last season as a part of a banged-up running back room, made his return to the field Saturday.
Ford’s explosive nature was surely missed at times in the three games he was absent for last season, and he showed exactly the impact he brings to the table early in the scrimmage.
While he busted off a few solid runs on Saturday, his biggest play was on special teams as he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Kick return was an area of struggle at times for the blue and white in 2020.
With the depth that the Nittany Lions have in the running back room this season, Ford’s impact could be as important on special teams as it is in the offensive backfield alongside Sean Clifford.
Arnold Ebiketie makes his debut
Another newcomer that has been complimented by coaches all spring is Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie.
Ebiketie was brought in to fill a hole on the defensive line as pass rushers Jayson Oweh and Shaka Toney departed for the NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-3 defensive end was noticeable at many points during the practice, coming up with some big stops and getting into the backfield with ease.
His veteran presence is going to be crucial for the Nittany Lions in 2021 as he and fellow transfer Derrick Tangelo will be among the most experienced members of the defensive line.
MORE FOOTBALL COVERAGE