How Do the 2022 Penn State Early Enrollees Fit?

How do the 2022 Penn State Early Enrollees fit? There are nine new Nittany Lions enrolled for the Spring 2022 term. We look at them here.

Now that class has been in session for almost a month, it is time to look at the Penn State early enrollees for Spring 2022. Nine of the 27 commits have enrolled a semester early for the Nittany Lions. So, who are those nine? Two quarterbacks enrolled early for Penn State, three-star Beau Pribula and five-star Drew Allar. In addition, a duo of running backs with Kaytron Allen and Gatorade Player of the Year, Nicholas Singleton. A host of receivers enrolled early as well, tight end Jerry Cross, and wide receivers Kaden Saunders and Omari Evans. Finally, offensive tackle JB Nelson and defensive lineman Zane Durant rounded out the newcomers.

2022 Penn State Early Enrollees

There are many offensive playmakers enrolled early for the 2022 Spring term. Most notably are Allar and Singleton, both five-star prospects according to the 247Composite ranking. It is no secret that the Penn State rushing attack needs a lot of help before the 2022 season. Getting two runningbacks enrolled early was key to that improvement. The upside of enrolling early is having the ability to learn from current players for a longer period of time. As well as getting a better understanding of college football during Spring camp. Let’s take a look at the different early enrollees and which current players and coaches will help get them ready for the upcoming season.

The Quarterback Position

Head coach James Franklin has stated early in this Spring semester that starting quarterback Sean Clifford will continue that role for his final upcoming season. In his weekly press conference to start February, Franklin stated, “Sean’s our returning starter. There’s no doubt about that. But yeah, there’s competition at every position.” It makes sense, Clifford has been in the Penn State system for five years and 2022 will be his sixth. The competition behind Clifford, with Christian Veilleux and Allar and Pribula, will either make the super senior step up and be the playmaker that he has shown flashes of, or there is now quality behind him ready to step in.

Allar is a consensus five-star prospect out of Medina, Ohio that has been compared to Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. He is a pro-style quarterback that enters Penn State at six-foot-five-inches and 225 pounds. He only threw seven interceptions in 514 attempts in 2021. Allar was impressive in the Army All-American Bowl. It didn’t take a lot of effort to sling the ball 40-50 yards downfield with velocity. His arm strength is a definite positive for the Nittany Lions who have speedy receivers that have really improved over the last few seasons. Mr. Ohio will benefit from enrolling early this Spring to help with the speed change from high school football to Big Ten football. He will need to get the ball out quickly with accuracy. Something that likely won’t take him too long to adjust to.

Three-star quarterback out of York, PA, Pribula also enrolled early for Spring 2022. Pribula held offers from Nebraska, Northwestern, and Buffalo to name a few. The Pennsylvania prospect enters Penn State at six-foot-two-inches and 205 pounds. The Nittany Lions finally have a deep quarterback room of talent again. This showed to be an issue in 2021 when Clifford went down with an injury against Iowa. Pribula brings depth, good arm strength, and mobility to the quarterback room.

The Running Backs

Allen and Singleton look to be the running backs of the future for a Penn State team that needs a lot of help at the position. At one point during the 2021 season, the Nittany Lions were ranked 114th in rushing attack. There are 130 teams in the rankings. There were articles all season titled, “Can Penn State Contend Without a Threatening Run Game?”. The answer turned out to be “no”. While it wasn’t all on the running backs to get things going, the offensive line struggles didn’t help anyone, it is still refreshing for these two to enroll early to have hopefully one, or both, contribute in 2022. Former starter Noah Cain has transferred to LSU and John Lovett exhausted eligibility, which leaves Keyvone Lee, Devyn Ford, and Caziah Holmes as the returners in the Nittany Lion backfield. Lee will likely start out as the starter for Penn State, but Singleton is the number one running back in the 2022 class and will likely be gunning for that starting role. That will leave Ford, Holmes, and true freshman Allen vying for the third spot in the order.

Singleton garners comparison to Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb. Not only was the Pennsylvania product named Gatorade Player of the Year, but he was also named the Maxwell Football Club offensive player of the year. Previous winners include Trevor Lawrence, Bryce Young, and Derrick Henry, just to help understand the magnitude of the award. He rushed for over 2,000 yards in 2021 and averaged 12.4 yards per rush. Singleton is explosive and has good size. However, his pass-catching abilities are relatively unknown. It isn’t a huge deal with the talent that Penn State has at receiver, but it is something to look at going into the Spring. While Singleton has his strengths, so does early enrollee Allen. Allen is a four-star prospect from IMG Academy. He has good vision and strength through contact. Allen also shows promise in the passing game. Both early enrollees bring a set of skills to the running back room and look to contribute early.

The Receiving Corp

Two wide receivers and a tight end enrolled early for Penn State this Spring. Saunders is a four-star prospect out of Westerville, Ohio. He shows great speed and agility that would fit well as a slot receiver. However, the Ohio native could likely play in any receiver package. With Jahan Dotson leaving for the NFL, Daniel George transferring, and Cam Sullivan-Brown departing it could be time for the young guys to shine. However, the Nittany Lions still have Parker Washington, Keandre Lambert-Smith, Malick Meiga, and at least two other redshirt freshmen in the mix. Washington was second on the team, behind Dotson, in receptions in 2021 with 64. He also tallied four touchdowns and 820 receiving yards. Lambert-Smith was third with 34 receptions for 521 yards and three touchdowns. Finally, Meiga saw action in four games and hauled in one touchdown. This doesn’t rule Saunders out for the 2022 season. The early enrollee might not be able to be kept off of the field.

Another wide receiver, Evans, also enrolled early. The Killeen, Texas native is fast. He also competed in track & field in high school. Why will it benefit Evans to enroll early? He was primarily a quarterback in high school. He will be able to use this time to get more comfortable at the wide receiver position. Evans likely won’t see much action in 2022, but look for him to make an impact over his four years at Penn State. Finally, the tight end position rounds out the group of three. Cross is a four-star tight end out of Wisconsin and stands at six-foot-six inches. Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson are returning for the Nittany Lions, so don’t expect to see much of Cross in 2022.  However, he has the potential to be a future playmaker once he gets with the Penn State strength and conditioning staff and learns a little bit more from the other tight ends in the room.

The Linemen

The Penn State offensive line has been a topic of discussion amongst college football. It hasn’t been very good so it is a good thing that Lackawanna College offensive tackle, Nelson, enrolled early. He has good body control and balance, and will definitely benefit from this Spring in the weight room. Look for Nelson to make an immediate impact in the Fall given that he has the ability to move around on the line. The defensive line also sees an early enrollee in Durant. The four-star Orlando, Florida native finished high school with 57 career tackles for loss. He comes in as a defensive tackle and is getting comparison to Kevin Givens due to his size. It is unlikely that Durant burns his redshirt in 2022 due to the depth of young guys at this position, but crazier things have happened.

Future is Looking Bright for Penn State Early Enrollees

Nine new Nittany Lions have been on campus for almost a month. This is an uptick from seven early enrollees a year ago. Each early enrollee needs to use this time in different ways. Whether that is extra time with the veterans, an early start with the strength & conditioning staff, or just getting used to the speed of the Big Ten to make an immediate impact. Each path is going to be different, but look for each of these nine to find the place where they fit over the next few years.

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