Penn State Senior Scouting
Hello Big Ten and hello Penn State.
For the past two years it seems like the real athletic freaks of college football have been pouring out of the State College program. Mike Gesicki had 4.54 40 yard dash, 41 1/2" vertical, and a 6.76 3-cone all at 247 pounds. Saquon Barkley ran a 4.40 40 yard dash while putting up 29 reps on the bench and a 41" vertical. This past year we saw Trace McSorley run in the 4.5s at the Combine while linebacker Koa Farmer ran a 4.48 and jumped a 37" vertical at the team's pro day.
This school makes athletes.
That's why it comes as such a surprise to me that none of these guys stood out as great athletes. The slender linebacker Cameron Brown has his moments, but he is way too stiff on tape to warrant praise. Robert Windsor might get some love on the D-line, but he's pretty light for an interior guy. Even John Reid, likely the most impressive athlete of the seniors, didn't wow with his traits. It's a much weaker group than anticipated for the team, but there is a ton of room to grow with a year left.
Prospects are ranked from best tape grade to worst tape grade.
Steven Gonzalez Offensive Guard
Listed at 350 pounds which is likely going to need around 20-30 pounds shaved off heading into the pros. Carries the extra weight well, but it doesn’t prevent him from moving like a dump truck. Tick slow when working as a puller. Won’t budge when the pads clash, but doesn’t have overwhelming natural power at his disposal. Punishes defenders when they lose their balance and start stumbling. Willing to finish and finish hard. Was able to win some college matchups just on his strength.
Comfortable with combo block situations; moves to the linebacker with a surprising fluidity for his size. Hands have some issues with accuracy, as he can’t consistently find the chest of his target. Able to re-establish his anchor and lock guys up from disadvantageous situations. Punch timing in space has its flashes. Awareness and football IQ seem to be solid. Leverage isn’t phenomenal but he can get low for a bigger guy. Well-proportioned for the size he’s at. Heavy-footed mover who can’t cover much ground. UDFA Summer Grade.
John Reid Cornerback
Slightly undersized at 5’10” and 190 pounds. Quick to get going downhill and involve himself in run defense situations. Worked as both a nickel and outside corner at Penn State but could end up stuck defending slot guys in the pros. Might end up getting beat up by larger receivers. Has the foot quickness necessary to make immediate adjustments. Needs to get more depth with his backpedal. Has some experience as a returner and may have potential in that role as a pro. Click and close is inconsistent but has its moments.
Positioning is a bit reckless and out of control. Late to get in stride during man coverage reps. Not the easiest guy through his turns; may have some concerns about his hip fluidity. Willing to scrap along his routes and play physical in press. Active at the catch point and gets involved wherever he can. Might get flagged for pass interference more frequently at the next level. Might be seen more as anticipation than twitch with his movements. Eyes get back to the ball and he reacts quick to it. UDFA Summer Grade.
Robert Windsor Defensive Tackle
Decent arm length allows him to control distance and leverage himself better. Gets his hands up to disrupt passing lanes. Only listed at 290 pound and might need to add more weight as he transitions into the pro game. Can generate some movement with his bull rush against poorly anchored linemen. Gets low for his size and wins the leverage battle on most occasions. More of a momentum rusher than a high end strength guy. Too easily falls off his angles and gets turned out of lanes. Might not have the ability to work as a two gap defender in the pros.
Has a pass rush plan but he’s a little uncoordinated due to his length. High effort guy who hustles in pursuit situations. Push/pull has some potential to it. Can displace himself laterally well enough to dodge an initial punch from blockers. Tweener qualities might make finding a true home for him on the defense a difficult task. High cut guy who doesn’t carry weight evenly. Flashes first step quickness but it isn’t anything special. Could be a liability in short yardage spots. Has the tackling radius to make difficult plays in the backfield. Legs stay driving and motor stays hot while pass-rushing. UDFA Summer Grade.
Cameron Brown Linebacker
Listed at 6’4” and 230 pounds which matches up with the tape. High cut guy with a slenderness that might not work in the NFL. Length should allow him to be a mismatch against slower and smaller tight ends. Has experience working lined up across from slot receivers, although he doesn’t have the physical tools to match up with them in coverage reps. Play strength is middle of the pack and it causes him to get walked out of the way in high traffic areas. Won’t quit on a play until the ball-carrier is on the ground. Time spent playing a variety of roles for the Nittany Lions might be appealing to some teams, but his tape comes off tweener-ish.
Willing to drop his pads and play with a physical edge despite being a lighter guy. Likes to go all-shoulder rather than trying to wrap up his target. Angles need to be more conservative to avoid undercutting the ball-carrier. Tackling radius isn’t as large as it should be for a guy with his wingspan. Too slow to get moving in coverage and has to really pump the brakes to change directions. Leggy and awkward adjustments. Toolsy but has to put it together from a mental standpoint. Seems to lose himself in the mix and get out of place in coverage. Not the strongest guy as a tackler. Technique needs cleaned up a lot. UDFA Summer Grade.
Jan Johnson Linebacker
Doesn’t have the movement skills to be making big plays on the ball in coverage reps. Spots the release in a timely manner and gets his arms up to interfere with the throw. Decent proportions with a well put together body. Lacks good top end speed to run down the ball from difficult angles. Willing to meet blockers in the hole and go head to head without losing his composure. Not a powerhouse, but he can keep his hands on the runner once he makes contact. Not fast enough to keep tight ends under control if he has to go man against them. Doesn’t lose track of the ball or get distracted when he is engaged with blockers. Can make plays through linemen if he has to.
Hard-nosed style is going to appeal to teams who want a dog in the middle of their defense. Testing is going to be key to how teams view him. Has trouble getting skinny and navigating his way through gaps without being taken off course by contact. Changes of direction take too long to get through. Modest tackling radius. Gets pulled away by the quarterback’s eyes and loses his spot. Needs more discipline with his approach to make up for physical limits. Modest length makes impacting the catch point difficult. May need to make his bones as a special teams guy if he wants on a roster. UDFA Summer Grade.
Garrett Taylor Safety
Average size at around 6’0” and 205 pounds. Questionable closing speed is going to put him in a ton of difficult spots. Strength as a tackler isn’t consistent. Able to finish by himself if he isn’t coming in from the side. Too easily shaken by jittery runners. Angles have to be more precise to make up for athletic limitations. High effort guy who doesn’t quit going until the play is over. Good technique with his tackle attempts; wrap-up guy who finds the midsection. Decent length allows him to work distance against blockers.
No chance of playing deep at the next level with how slow he is to cover ground. Should not be trusted to hold up in coverage roles. Gang tackler mentality is there. Drives his legs once he starts to get into a standstill. Puts all his weight into tackles and plays tough. Way into the league will likely be through special teams impact. Game is more about saving what he can rather than making plays. Never around the catch point. Beat to the corner often. Poor recovery speed. UDFA Summer Grade.
There are a ton of reasons to be excited for the Nittany Lions this year. Underclassman back Ricky Slade seems to be taking on the role of bellcow back and should be a fine replacement for Miles Sanders. The defense seems plenty reloaded, especially with junior defensive Yetur Gross-Matos figuring to be one of the most intriguing draft eligibles in the nation.
However, the large amount of turnover on the offensive line and a new quarterback taking the reins could lead to some mixed results. We should know within a few games whether or not this team is for real, but I'd be cautious in betting on them to show out in conference.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to hit me up on Twitter @WhatsOnDraftNFL. I'd love to talk some Penn State ball with anyone who is interested. Thanks for reading!