More snaps are coming for Eugene Lewis. Possibly as soon as Saturday.
The former Wyoming Valley Conference standout has seen most of his action this season as a kick returner. He has served as a backup at receiver to an NFL talent in Allen Robinson and a fifth-year senior in Brandon Felder.
With just three games left in the 2013 season, however, players like Lewis could be in line for a closer look for the future. This is especially true at wideout, where Felder will graduate and Robinson could very well elect to enter the NFL draft this spring.
“I would expect Geno to play more on Saturday,” Lions coach Bill O’Brien said. “Geno is a great kid. He practices hard and he’s improved. He certainly has, in my opinion, a really good future here at Penn State.”
For Lewis and another District 2 alum, linebacker Nyeem Wartman of Valley View, this last stretch of games represents an opportunity. Aside from Lewis getting more snaps, Wartman may also be in line to play more with Ben Kline out for the season with an injury.
Both players were hoping to have bigger roles when the season began, but their playing time has fluctuated throughout the year.
Lewis opened the season with the winning touchdown against Syracuse, a game in which Wartman started at outside linebacker. Headed into Saturday’s game against Purdue, both are looking to get back to those levels.
Asked about their progress, O’Brien said it was a standard pattern for a pair of redshirt freshmen, with the coach preaching patience.
“Geno has practiced hard and he has a lot of ability,” O’Brien said. “Again, he’s only a redshirt freshman, so he’s got a lot of time left here. He’s got three years left here.
“I think everybody expects redshirt freshmen to jump in and start and play right away, and in some cases it’s hard to do that. You have to learn your plays, you have to perform well in practice.”
Outside of his touchdown against the Orange, Lewis’ biggest contribution came against Indiana, where he saw plenty of snaps with Felder out with an ankle injury. Lewis made six of his 11 catches on the season against the Hoosiers.
He also got a talking-to on the sideline from O’Brien in that game when it appeared he didn’t properly adjust his route based on a blitz by the defense, causing the pass on a hot read to fall incomplete.
Things like that come with experience.
The same applies to Wartman, who saw Kline man his former spot with the first-team defense the past two weeks against Illinois and Minnesota.
Wartman has dealt with shoulder issues this season which limited his snaps at times. In that Indiana game, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong saw more reps than Wartman because of the injury.
What the coaching staff is looking for from him now is more consistency.
“Nyeem has played good at times this year and other times hasn’t played so good,” O’Brien said. “He’s made plays for us, and other times he’s missed plays, just like any young player would do. Again, he’s a … redshirt freshman. So he’s a guy that’s only going to get better.
“Nyeem will continue to play for us and he’ll continue to get better.”
With three years of eligibility remaining apiece, both Lewis and Wartman will have a shot to claim starting roles for the 2014 season as sophomores.
That path will start this week against Purdue and then continue in the final two games against Nebraska and Wisconsin.
“We have a lot of confidence in both those players,” O’Brien said. “That they will get better and that they’ll work hard at it.”
McGloin watch continues
Terrelle Pryor returned to practice on Thursday for the Oakland Raiders. Matt McGloin continued to get most of the reps with the first-team offense.
With Pryor still battling a sprained knee, McGloin is preparing to make his first career NFL start on Sunday in Houston if Pryor can’t go.
The NFL’s official injury report comes out today.
“(Pryor) got some reps with the first team and we’ll see how he looks tomorrow,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen told the Associated Press. “All you can do is watch practice and go with what you see on the practice field. If he looks like he’s at health, then he’ll be ready to go.”