Penn State football: 5 biggest transfer portal needs for 2023
Penn State seems to be getting the hang of this transfer portal thing.
Arnold Ebiketie arrived from Temple in 2021 and produced a team-high 9.5 sacks, filling what turned out to be a desperate need for the Nittany Lions. This year, receiver Mitchell Tinsley and lineman Hunter Nourzad shored up holes in the offense, and Chop Robinson helped boost a pass-rush that led the Big Ten is sacks.
James Franklin and his staff have been selective, targeting players for specific needs or to take a shot on a freakishly promising athlete who seems like a good fit for the program’s culture. With a ton of young talent returning, there’s no reason to change that approach.
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Here’s a look at some spots they might be looking to address:
Mitchell Tinsley is done, and Penn State could use another transfer just like him. The 6th-year senior arrived in State College last winter, giving him time to acclimate to the program and get in sync with Sean Clifford. As a high-production, low-maintenance receiver, he blended perfectly with Parker Washington to give the Lions’ a solid 1-2 punch on the outside.
Washington, who is injured, hasn’t made any announcements about his future. If he opts for the NFL Draft, Penn State’s best returning receiver next fall will be KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who is 5th on the team this year with 265 receiving yards (on 21 catches).
Penn State has promising young receivers on the roster, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring in an experienced veteran to make life easier for a first-time starter at quarterback.
Tinsley from Western Kentucky was the ticket last year. Another like him would make sense.
Ivy League offensive lineman
Two years ago, Eric Wilson came in from Harvard. This year, it was Hunter Nourzad from Cornell, who is sticking around for a final season in 2023.
For the first time in a long time, Penn State will return a promising o-line and even some depth up front. Not all the guys have announced decisions, but Olu Fashanu, Landon Tengwall and Nourzad provide a great start as Phil Trautwein looks ahead to his 4th year coaching the group. There are also 2 highly-rated recruits coming in.
Even so, you can never have enough capable linemen. And smart guys coming off multiple years as starters — even at a lesser level of play — have filled the role perfectly the past couple years. No, it doesn’t have to be specifically an Ivy League guy. Penn State reportedly has its eye on a multi-year starter from FCS Rhode Island, among others.
Penn State might need to add a body to its suddenly extremely young quarterback room. But it’ll be hard to find a veteran willing to come in for 3rd-string duty, which is probably what Penn State needs. Maybe there’s someone out there looking for a graduate degree that Penn State offers, or some other reason to want to be a Lion.
Sophomore-to-be Drew Allar is in line to start, and redshirt freshman Beau Pribula appears to be the clear No. 2 now that Christian Veilleux has hit the portal. Behind them, it’s a couple of incoming recruits, one of them a walk-on. The coaching staff is high on Pribula, and the young man is committed to backing up Allar for a couple years and then getting his shot.
If OC Mike Yurcich can find an exact right fit, adding a QB makes sense. But don’t be surprised if Penn State rolls with what it has.
Thanks to the meteoric rise of freshman Abdul Carter, this position group doesn’t look as shaky as it did a few months ago. Kobe King and Tyler Elsdon have progressed sharing the middle linebacker spot. But Curtis Jacobs could opt to leave early and Jonathan Sutherland is out of eligibility, so this position group remains a bit thin.
If Penn State is going to add at this position, it should look to hit a home run. The roster has enough promising depth, led by Dominic DeLuca and Jamari Buddin.
A kicking game specialist
Jake Pinegar has the option to return for a 6th season and resume his kicking duties, but if he does he’ll be working with a new holder and a new snapper. Holder Barney Amor, who transferred in to Penn State 2 seasons ago, has used up all his eligibility, as has long snapper Chris Stoll.
Amor and Stoll are also key figures on the punt team, with Amor following Jordan Stout as a field position-swinging punting standout.
Penn State has options on the depth chart, of course, but I’m guessing at least 1 of these specialized spots could use someone with previous experience.