by Emmet Mahon
Trying to predict how a professional sports draft will unfold six months ahead is precarious, at best, foolish, at worst. To engage in a similar exercise for at least 18 months out is borderline insane. Draft 412 tries to maintain focus on the current draft cycle. However, when a major college football program schedules an FCS opponent, it affords one the luxury of peering into the future and what might be. As expected, Penn State pummeled the outmanned Minutemen 63-0 on a cold, dreary, homecoming weekend. The usual prospects excelled and did not devalue themselves in the eyes of scouts. PSU Head Coach James Franklin limited evaluation of younger prospects by keeping his starters on the field for three quarters.
By providing substantial reps to established players, newer players, such as four-star safety, King Mack, could only contribute only on special teams. Other new highly regarded players, notably true freshmen outside linebackers Tony Rojas (four tackles), Ta’Mere Robinson (two tackles), and cornerback Zion Tracy (three tackles), managed to get their names into the box score after the contest had been decided. The contribution of players not yet eligible for the NFL came from familiar names. There are no guarantees in the projection business, but most of the younger players that stood out against Massachusetts are solid bets to be selected as soon as they are allowed to declare for the NFL Draft.
QB Drew Allar- 16-23, 162 yards, 3 TD, 0 Int, 1 rush, 1 yard, 1 TD
Fans and evaluators were no closer to solving the mystery that is Drew Allar after his performance against the Minutemen. The talent is abundantly obvious. The production does not match up to what the eye sees, especially considering the caliber of opponent to date. He has done a tremendous job protecting the football. The expectations for Allar was an offense on jet fuel. That has not occurred yet. It might be a function of letting him grow into the offense. It could be Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich not wanting to show his hand to the big boys on the upcoming schedule. Saturday was once more of Allar being efficient but unspectacular. Nothing he has done has dampened enthusiasm of scouts, and he remains a player who will be an early selection in the 2025 NFL Draft.
RB Nicholas Singleton 15 rushes, 79 yards, 0 TD, Long 10 yards
Singleton is the speedster, the home run threat of the Penn State two-headed rushing attack. Like Allar, the expectations of many explosive plays has yet to happen. Against Massachusetts, he was a step away from breaking explosive runs. He reads the holes well and attacks them, but he has a tendency of stringing out runs in search of bigger gains, sometimes to his detriment. He has been somewhat hampered by the interior of the Nittany Lion offensive line’s inconsistency. For Singleton, the question is not if the breakout play will occur, but when. The crucial portion of Penn State’s schedule starts against Ohio State. It would be a good time for him to rediscover the form that earned him 2022 Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. Should he declare for the 2025 NFL Draft, he would be in contention for first running back selected.
RB Kaytron Allen 9 rushes, 68 yards, 1 TD, Long 18 yards
Allen pairs well with fellow sophomore Singleton. Not as explosive as his speedster counterpart, Allen has been far more consistent. While splitting reps almost equally, Allen has rushed at a rate of 4.8 yards per carry to Singleton’s 4.1. He has been the more decisive runner of the two, willing to plunge into the line for positive yardage. Allen is slightly more physical than the two rushers. Of the two, Allen is more likely to use all his eligibility and position himself as the top running back for the 2026 NFL Draft.
QB Beau Pribula 6 rushes, 59 yards, 1 TD, Long 31 yards
Pribula, the Swiss army knife of the Nittany Lion quarterback room, was not asked to throw a pass in mop up duty against the Minutemen. Like his previous appearances, Pribula was tasked with advancing the football, keeping the clock moving, and avoiding turnovers. The “Mini Me Trace McSorley” succeeded on all counts. His 31 yard touchdown run is the longest of the season. He displays exceptional speed and athletic ability at the quarterback spot. Yurcich has kept his passing to a minimum, calling on him for only 13 passing attempts. He is not solely a running QB, as evidenced by his 5,826 prep passing yards at Central York (York, PA) High School. Franklin has hinted at formations where both Allar and Pribula have shared the field. Penn State has not done so yet, perhaps saving those looks for games that might be more closely contested. He will be the first option at quarterback in 2025 after Allar has departed.
LB Abdul Carter 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss for 3 yards
The highly touted sophomore linebacker from Philadelphia did not post gawdy numbers in the box score, he was noticeable on the field for his aggressive and instinctive play. Carter is a worthy heir to the mantra as the next great player from Linebacker U. Fast, strong, with a nose for the ball, Carter is a natural disrupter. Penn State has employed him both as a pass rusher and in coverage. He has been up to the task. He has sacked the quarterback once while registering three hurries. He has broken one pass and intercepted another. He is all but certain to enter the 2025 NFL Draft, and his name will be called early on night one.
CB Cam Miller 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss for 11 yards, 1 sack
The sophomore cornerback was noticeable for being actively engaged throughout his time on the field. Was effective in both run and pass blitz, disrupting plays behind the line of scrimmage. He is a key rotational player that can hold his own with starting reps. With more high octane offenses still to be played, Miller will be relied upon to help keep talented receivers in check. He has the ability to earn more playing time and catch pro scouts’ eyes going forward.
LB Kobe King 2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss for 1 yard
King, the redshirt sophomore twin brother of outstanding 2024 cornerback prospect, Kalen, has grabbed hold of an inside linebacker spot in Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz’s scheme. Solid if unspectacular, Kobe is rarely out of position and is ready to take on the few runners that get beyond Penn State’s impressive front line. If King stands out against juggernauts Ohio State and Michigan, he might consider making himself available for the 2024 NFL Draft. The more likely scenario is he returns next season and plays himself into a Day One or Two selection.
DE Dani Dennis-Sutton 1 tackle, 0.5 sack for 4 yards
Dennis-Sutton, a sophomore Delaware native and five star recruit out of Maryland, will be a high selection once he is eligible. Currently splitting time between five defensive ends, on paper, his season appears ordinary. As they say, the game is not played on paper. To the eyes, DDS has it all. Brute strength, smarts, speed, and agility. When fellow defensive ends “Chop” Robinson and Adisa Isaac depart after this season, he will be the lead dog on the 2024 defensive line. While Abdul Carter understandably gets the hype, Dennis-Sutton will probably be drafted in the same portion of the 2025 NFL Draft.
LB Dominic DeLuca 3 tackles, 1 pass break up
Once a fan favorite because of his non-stop motor and special teams prowess, DeLuca, a redshirt sophomore from West Pittston, PA, was named a co-captain for the Nittany Lions this season. His hard work and dedication has resulted in increased, meaningful, snaps with the first team defense. He has brought his all-heart mentality to the only FBS defense that averages less than 200 YPG allowed. He finds a way to be in the middle of the action every chance he gets. He has already recorded a pick six in 2023. He might not be a Combine darling, but has the desire, intelligence, and hustle to get at least a look on special teams, or situational defensive snaps, at the next level.
2024 Draft Eligible Players that helped themselves:
CB Daequan Hardy 3 tackle, 2 pass break ups, 3 punt returns, 129 yards, 2 TDs, Long 68 yards
Penn State’s star of the game. The highly athletic cornerback has been overlooked in the Nittany Lions' loaded defensive backfield room. His teammates speak highly of his abilities and effort. His speed can be game changing. He has contributed as a defender and tackler with five tackles and two three pass break ups. His two interceptions lead the team. It was his punt returning ability that stood out against Massachusetts. Hardy tied a school record for punt returns for touchdowns. He reached the endzone by astutely reading his blocks and accelerating to top end speed in the open field. His 5’9”, 178 pound frame is the primary negative on his draft stock.
DE Adisa Isaac 4 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss for 17 yards, 2.5 sacks
Playing opposite of probable high first round selection, Chop Robinson, Isaac has been ignored somewhat for his respectable 2023 campaign. Against Massachusetts, he was a demon. If he was not making tackles, his presence was redirecting the opponent to one of his teammates. There were a few plays where Isaac was not in the field of vison at the conclusion. The caliber of opponent will be taken into context, but the results cannot be ignored. This was the type of effort that will have scouts go back and look at previous game tapes, and to put Isaac on their list of players to evaluate closely going forward.
It is difficult to effectively evaluate a player’s potential against an opponent the like of the valiant, but overmatched, Minuteman. However, there were enough of the physical and mental skills on display to, at a minimum, pique scouts’ curiosity. This is a type of game that can instill confidence in young players, and depth pieces, that will be crucial in the make it or break it part of the remaining schedule.
Notes: Penn State did not report any significant injuries after the game. Game time temperature was 47 degrees, coldest of the season. The teams played through steady rain for the entire contest. The announced attendance was 105,533, a figure that was met with robust laughter in the media room after the game.
Emmet Mahon can be reached at email@example.com