Every player on Penn State’s 2020 roster is eligible to return in 2021. That hardly means “everybody’s back,’’ as we have seen almost daily since the season ended Dec. 19.
Every Nittany Lions can transfer and play elsewhere right away. Every player elsewhere can transfer to Penn State and play right away. Every player who’s three years removed from his high school graduation can turn pro. Every senior can stay for another year and not count against the 85-scholarship limit.
More than ever, there’s free agency in college football. The Penn State transaction wire, as this is written Wednesday, looks something like this:
Seniors not returning: DE Shaka Toney, OL Will Fries, DE Shane Simmons.
Toney was first-team all-Big Ten this season. At 6-3, 252 and very athletic, He could go in the 3rd or 4th round in a draft considered weak for edge rushers.
Fries was not an elite recruit or a brilliant college player. He does have enough size (6-6, 3-5) and versatility to have an NFL career.
Simmons was an elite recruit out of DeMatha High in Maryland, but never got much footing at Penn State. He says he’s done with football and starting a business career.
Leaving early for NFL: TE Pat Freiermuth, DE Jayson Oweh.
Freiermuth won the Big Ten’s tight end of the year award despite playing only four games in 2020, before calling it a year and having surgery for an undisclosed injury.
Before the emergence of Florida matchup nightmare Kyle Pitts, Freiermuth might have been the top TE prospect in his draft class. He’ll still likely go in the second round, or maybe late first.
As a redshirt sophomore, Oweh had two years of eligibility left. He also made first team all-Big Ten. At 6-5, 252 with crazy speed and athleticism, his physical gifts probably exceeded his college production. Still, the NFL loves edge rushers.
Transfers out: DT Judge Culpepper, DT Antonio Shelton.
Culpepper, a redshirt sophomore from Tampa, played in all nine games this year. He seemed like a long shot to be a foundational player at Penn State, though, and is likely looking for a place where he can start.
Shelton’s transfer is a mystery. A marginal recruit from Columbus, Ohio, ee did start, all of this year and most of last, and emerged as a team leader on defense. Shelton will be 24 years old next season.
He didn’t offer much explanation when he wrote, on Twitter, “My time here has been wonderful, but now I feel like it is time to step out on faith. God is pushing me in a different direction, and I have to listen."
Transfers in: DT Derrick Tangelo (from Duke), RB John Lovett (from Baylor), DB John Dixon (from South Carolina).
Tangelo, 6-2, 310, is from a familiar Penn State recruiting ground, the Bullis School in Gaithersburg, Md.
He has good career numbers for a DT - 114 career tackles, 12 TFLs and five forced fumbles in 45 career games.
Dixon played in 22 games for South Carolina despite missing most of the 2019 season with a knee injury. His transfer is likely connected to the Gamecocks’ coaching from, from Will Muschamp to Shane Beamer.
Dixon was recruited by Penn State out of high school.
Lovett is a graduate transfer. He averaged over five yards per carry over four seasons, for a total of 1,803 yards and 18 touchdowns.