Youngsters benefit from bye week

By Thomas Schlarp

For the Mirror

UNIVERSITY PARK — The bye week is more than just an extra seven days for players and coaches to have free-reign, doing as they please. Instead it is a crucial period allowing for fine-tuning of units and opportunities for young players to step up and gain valuable experience that is otherwise reserved for veterans during the normal grind of the season.

Young players are not the only ones who pick up extra reps during the bye week as graduate assistant coaches are allowed to leave a bigger thumbprint on practices.

“You’re able to take some of the wear and tear and the running off of the vets but still get some work done,” James Franklin said. “Each practice we had a bunch of stuff for the young guys. Tomorrow we’ll have only (graduate assistants) run practice, which is great for them from a developmental standpoint. It’ll be just the G.A.’s and non-travel guys.”

Of the freshmen that have made noticeable impacts at the first few practices this week, running back Journey Brown made the biggest splash on the scene in Franklin’s opinion.

“I would say Journey (stood out),” Franklin said. “We knew he could run, but being able to run fast on a track and being able to do it on this level, he’s really shown something these last couple weeks.”

Brown, a high school track standout, won the 2016 PIAA Class AAA State Championship in the 100-meter and ran the 10th-best time in the country with a 6.87 mark in the 60-meter dash in the 2016-17 indoor track season.

“He has the ability to break tackles, which you didn’t know because in high school he was just faster than everybody,” Franklin said. “There’s a lot of excitement from the older running backs about him.”

Buchholz acts as mentor

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Ryan Buchholz has done more than just lead on the field in a season in which the Malvern, Pennsylvania native has made his first career starts.

The defensive end has also taken on the responsibility of advocating for additional playing time for freshman stand out Yetur Gross-Matos and redshirt freshman Shaka Toney at the defensive end spot.

“Buchholz is a real mature guy,” Franklin said. “He’s a great teammate and leader. He’s been a guy that was a huge proponent of playing Yetur Matos this year. He wanted to take him under his wing. He’s also a big proponent of Shaka.

With the loss of defensive end Torrence Brown for the year to injury, the decision by coaches to consider Buchholz’s advice in playing Gross-Matos and Toney has yielded huge dividends. This past week at Northwestern Toney recorded two sack and forced a fumble while Gross-Matos recorded a quarterback hurry.

“(Buchholz is) just one of those vets that gets it from a developmental aspect, a leadership and mentoring aspect,” Franklin said. “He’s also a guy that’s willing to give up some of his reps for Shaka or Yetur. You just wish you had 20 guys like him.”

PSU adds wideout walk-on

Penn State has added a wide receiver to its 2018 recruiting class and didn’t even have to extend a scholarship offer to do it.

Brandon Clark, the son of Nittany Lion Lombardi Trophy winner Bruce Clark, announced on Tuesday that he would accept an offer to join the program as a preferred walk-on.

The 6-foot-3, 192-pound Clark is kind of a do-it-all player for State College Area High School. He leads the Little Lions in receiving this season with 15 catches for 230 yards. Eight of his receptions have gone for touchdowns.

Clark also plays defense, punts and returns kickoffs, and he has blocked a punt this season.

Penn State currently has 23 scholarship commitments for this class.

— Philip Cmor