A possible John Reid replacement “had the best offseason he’s ever had,” and more Penn State notes
STATE COLLEGE — The running joke within the Penn State football program this spring is that Christian Campbell has had the best offseason of his career because he’s in a contract year, so to speak.
He’s not, of course; college players don’t have contracts like NFL players do, but in a way, Campbell is in a position similar to the one a pro player is when one contract is running out and he needs to prove that he’s worth the next one.
Or in Campbell’s case, his first one.
The long, athletic 6-foot-1, 191-pound corner from Alabama has yet to complete a full winter of workouts because of a bump here or small issue there, but he’s a senior now, meaning he has one last chance to put an exclamation point on his college career while also helping his pro potential once the 2017 season comes to a close.
Penn State has always considered Campbell like a third starter at corner, but it doesn’t hurt that this sudden surge of consistency and availability is coming at a time when junior John Reid, a 16-game starter at the position in blue and white, reportedly has a knee injury that is going to sideline him for significant time if not all of the upcoming season.
“We’re expecting big things from [Campbell],” head coach James Franklin said. “He’s one of the fastest guys on our team, and he had to get bigger and stronger, and he’s done that.
“He’s played a lot of football for us, and obviously he’s going to have a little bit more of significant role this year. He’s going to get a few more reps.”
That’s as close as you’ll get to hearing the fourth-year head coach confirm last week’s news that Reid is injured. Earlier Wednesday, before the Lions wrapped up spring practice No. 11 with just over a week to go before the Blue-White game on Sat. April 22 at Beaver Stadium, Franklin said when asked about Reid:
“I’m happy to talk about practice, I’m happy to talk about guys that are practicing right now, I’m happy to talk about the upcoming season,” Franklin said.
“But as you know, I don’t get into those types of specifics.”
He sure doesn’t, never has save for divulging when a player is guaranteed to miss an entire season, which to read between the lines does leave some hope that Reid might be able to hit the field at some point this fall.
Still, Campbell, along with January enrollee Lamont Wade and maybe a few others, will be thrust into the spotlight. The early returns indicate both are ready for it.
Penn State’s Grant Haley on senior year and some of his influences
Gauging progress as spring winds down
Reid isn’t the only player missing time this spring, as Franklin noted last week that he wasn’t completely thrilled with the number of guys missing practice for one reason or another.
Yet, at the same time, it gives the program a different way to see where strides have been made in the offseason.
“You’re evaluating individually, but you’re also evaluating how we’re doing as a team,” Franklin said. “When somebody can’t practice, for whatever reason it may be, then the next guy goes in; are you able to stop people on defense with substitutions in? Are you able to move the ball on offense? I think overall, it’s been good. We have more depth than we’ve had in the past.”
He also pointed out the value of early enrollees in that regard, pointing specifically to two players from this year, Wade and guard Mike Miranda, that fall into the category of making big impressions with the extra work they’ve been given.
Checking in with the QBs
Trace McSorley hit Mike Gesicki on a nice crossing route with a rocket of a pass late in practice that was maybe the highlight of the portion open to the media, but neither player is doing much this spring since they are veterans and have already proven their value.
No matter, McSorley and backup Tommy Stevens have made strides this spring, specifically in the power part of their game when it comes to putting something behind the deep ball and also when driving through the medium range throws that have to come in hot.
“[Trace’s]s not the biggest guy, he’s not 6-3, but you look at his lower body development, he’s a powerful guy, and that translates to being able to throw the ball,” Franklin said. “He’s still got room for growth in those areas. I really think that’s where you’ve seen Tommy develop, as well. Those two guys have really done a good job of developing.”
As for if McSorley is treating this spring differently than last spring because he’s the incumbent and not one of a few guys chasing the starting job, Franklin said that wasn’t really the case.
“I thought through the recruiting process, I thought that Trace was quiet and that it would change over time, but that’s who he is,” Franklin said. “When he speaks, people listen. He’s not afraid to speak up, he’s not afraid to talk, but I see him probably a little bit more in terms of holding teammates together and getting guys going and stuff like that.
“He’s not a rah, rah guy, and he’s never going to be, but he’s kind of a no nonsense, blue collar guy.”
Penn State’s James Franklin on Trace McSorley’s progress