Thursday, we broke down the Class of 2014’s offensive players and the ability/likelihood of each making an immediate impact (as in, during the 2014 season). Today, it’s the defense (in alphabetical order):
S Marcus Allen
Allen is big enough (6-2, 200) and a hard enough hitter that he appears to have the ability to contribute immediately. Most important, he joins the team at a position of little depth that had its shaky moments last season. Odds are, Allen will be given a long look to earn an opportunity to make an early impact at free safety.
DL Tarow Barney
If Penn State played a game tomorrow, Barney might well garner the most consideration of any of the incoming freshmen to start it. Both 2013 starting tackles are gone, and there’s precious little experience there. A junior-college transfer, Barney is older and his body is most ready for the rigors of the major-college game. At the moment, among the group of Barney and redshirt sophomores Austin Johnson, Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia, two very likely will be starting.
DE Torrence Brown
The 25th and final member of Penn State’s Class of 2014, Brown is one of only two players who was tabbed as merely a “two-star” prospect by one of the four major recruiting services (Scout, while the other three all gave “three stars”) – for what that’s worth. At 240 pounds, Brown falls into something of a “tweener” category between end and linebacker. Anything is possible with the lack of experienced depth the Lions enter the season with, but the better bet for Brown’s meaningful impact is more down the road.
LB Jason Cabinda
There figures to be opportunity for freshmen to contribute at linebacker, what with the position currently thinned by sanctions. After Mike Hull, a couple sophomores in Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell join junior Ben Kline as the lone linebackers with appreciable experience. One of just two scholarship recruits listed at linebacker, odds are the athletic Cabinda will see the field in some meaningful capacity in 2014.
DB Christian Campbell
There are jobs to be won in the secondary, and there seemingly always is a need for a defensive back-type who can tackle on special teams. Six players in the incoming class are listed as defensive backs, so even though the position is in dire need of some new blood, not everyone will figure prominently. Campbell fits the James Franklin mold of “length” in the secondary.
DB Koa Farmer
Arguably, the most intriguing recruit of all. Farmer has legitimate potential to be a standout, starting true freshman – but conversely he also is a candidate to need a year or two to settle not only into a role but into a position. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Farmer likely projects as a safety – but don’t discount the possibility he ends up at linebacker. Farmer is versatile enough and has a well-rounded enough skills package that coaches will find ways for him to contribute to a thin defense.
DB Grant Haley
At 5 feet 10, Haley is the shortest player who was recruited to Penn State by Franklin and his staff (only athlete/quarterback Trace McSorley is within even three inches). Think Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, both in body type and his quickness/shiftiness. Pending Trevor Williams’ spring and preseason, there figures to be a job at cornerback for the taking. Even if Haley doesn’t make his initial impact there, he will very likely get a long look in the return game – and maybe even a little on offense in certain packages – as a freshman.
DB Amani Oruwariye
Oruwariye, by all accounts, is a special teams dynamo, as his four blocked punts as a high school senior exhibit. That alone should make him an on-field regular this fall. Whether he gets playing time outside of the punt, field goal and kickoff defend teams is something that will need to play out. What we do know is that the depth chart at cornerback is extremely thin – there’s legitimate question whom the No. 2 corner is, let alone the nickel or dime backs or backups.
LB Troy Reeder
Reeder has the same listed weight as Glenn Carson, whom is preparing for the NFL Draft after being a three-year starter for Penn State at middle linebacker. It’d be foolish to predict Reeder would be able to instantly replace Carson as a true freshman, but it’s not unreasonable to think he’s the odds-on favorite to take over the position at some point during his Penn State career. As far as 2014 goes, again, jobs are there to be had at linebacker for Linebacker U.
DL Antoine White
Being a January enrollee figures to help White in his quest to make an impact as a freshman. If his future is replacing the NFL-bound DaQuan Jones at tackle, adding a few pounds will be the objective. White, it’s said, also could play end. It’ll be interesting to see which direction the coaching staff goes – we should know by spring practice. Like with just about every position, there’s roles for the taking available for the freshmen.
DB Daquan Worley
Worley is a versatile athlete most likely pegged for cornerback, although he is said to have versatility to play safety or even on offense. A torn ACL in late October stands as perhaps the biggest obstacle to Worley’s chances to play in 2014, as it’s possible – if not likely – Worley won’t be at 100 percent in time for preseason camp.
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