It may be just a scrimmage to some. For others, Saturday’s Blue-White Game will be their first time playing in front of a crowd at Beaver Stadium.
“Yeah, I think it means a lot,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “It means a lot to us (coaches) to be able to evaluate those guys and see if they are who we think they are — how close they are to being able to contribute. And for these guys, they’re able to get up there and play in that stadium, which a lot of them have seen a lot of games in as fans or as recruits. And for their families, it’s really pretty cool.
“I know for (true freshman Micah Parsons), I see his dad has rented a bus and they’ve got a crew coming up from Harrisburg. I know (true freshman Nick) Tarburton will have a bunch of people here. And so on and so forth. I know it’s exciting for those families and I know it’s exciting for those kids.”
It’s already been an eventful spring for the early enrollees. Parsons has been taking most of his snaps at weak-side linebacker after starting out in the middle.
Tarburton has shifted from linebacker to defensive end and will join Parsons on the Blue squad on Saturday.
“Literally the day we offered him, we told him, his mom, his dad that we were offering him as a big athlete — that we would give him a chance at linebacker, but he could end up being a defensive lineman for us as well,” Franklin said. “That’s where it started, and then it progressed when he showed up and stepped on the scale and he was 263 pounds. So it wasn’t really me telling him that — it was genetics.”
Tarburton has since cut down to 243 according to the Blue-White rosters, and Franklin said he showed some good things at linebacker but added that his potential was higher up front.
Isaiah Humphries, Trent Gordon, Zack Kuntz and Jesse Luketa will suit up for the White team.
Beyond them, the public will also get its first look at a group of redshirt freshmen led by wideout K.J. Hamler, who has been praised by coaches and teammates for his work this spring.
Koa Farmer has worked at both outside spots. Cam Brown in the middle and outside. The rest of the linebacker corps has limited experience.
So who’s in contention for Jason Cabinda’s old spot in the middle?
“Too many to list,” said Franklin, who noted this week that a decision on a starter there likely won’t come until late in preseason camp in August.
“At linebacker right now, we are getting a lot of players a lot of snaps,” said defensive coordinator Brent Pry — who also works directly with the unit — in a video posted by Penn State. “We’re playing guys at multiple positions. Cam Brown has started off really well. Koa Farmer, Jan Johnson — very steady. Ellis Brooks has shown some flashes. It’s been a pretty good group.
“Jarvis Miller has probably been my biggest surprise right now. He’s doing very well at the (strong-side) linebacker spot. Jarvis has always had ability and a skillset but hasn’t been able to play with them. And he’s comfortable, knows his position and he’s doing good things out there.”
The overhaul of college football’s recruiting calendar means there will be a much larger contingent of prospects in attendance, including some taking their official visits. Previously recruits had to wait until the fall of their senior year.
According to 247Sports, Penn State is expected to host more than 100 recruits over the weekend, including the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2019 class — Ohio defensive lineman Zach Harrison — and the No. 1 overall recruit for 2020 — Maryland defensive lineman Bryan Bresee.
Penn State will be looking to land its first verbal commitments since New Jersey quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson came aboard back in October.
As usual, the rosters will be stacked with projected starters and others in the mix on the Blue squad with backups on the White, which will have just four lettermen — tackle Alex Gellerstedt, defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, cornerback Zech McPhearson and safety Lamont Wade.
The game will feature four 11-minute quarters with a running clock and have a traditional scoring system.
Prior to the 3 p.m. kickoff, the Nittany Lions will host a player autograph session around the stadium from 12:15-1:05 p.m. with quarterbacks and specialists at Gate A, defensive linemen and running backs at Gate B, offensive linemen and receivers at Gate C, tight ends and defensive backs at Gate E and linebackers at Gate F.
Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse