Meeting with the media last week, Dwight Galt promised “fireworks,’’ at Penn State’s Pro Day March 25.
Pro Day is when draft-eligible players undergo workouts and physical testing before NFL scouts. You’ve got to be really into power cleans and shuttle runs, which Galt is, as Penn State's associate athletic director for performance enhancement, to consider a normal Pro Day boffo entertainment.
This year will be different, though, for several reasons.
There will not be an NFL Scouting Combine, or in-person workouts with NFL teams, due to the pandemic.
The NFL will “work with the schools to encourage consistency in testing and drills across (college) pro days and ensure that all clubs have access to video from those workouts irrespective of whether the club is represented at a particular workout,’’ according to a January press release.
Galt seems good with that.
"I've made sure that all the NFL scouts - all 120 of the ones I've talked to this past year - know what's coming,’’ he said. “I don't want any surprises."
Three Penn State players, linebacker Micah Parsons, tight end Pat Freiermuth and defensive end Jayson Oweh, are likely to be early-round picks in this year’s draft, which will be held April 29-May 1.
All three are training together in California. Parsons and Oweh are among the draft’s most athletic players, and have long had a friendly rivalry regarding the measurables.
Bleacher Report reported last week that Parsons, at 6-3, 245 pounds, recently ran a laser-timed 4.41 40. Oweh, at 6-5, 256, has run an insane 4.34.
That’s a defensive end who at least as fast as Saquon Barkley.
Parsons is ranked as the draft’s fourth-best player, regardless of position, by ESPN analyst Todd McShay. He is almost certain to be the first LB chosen, and a top 15 pick.
Oweh is a different story. He made first team all-Big Ten in 2020, but did not have a sack, despite his raw gifts.
Freiermuth played just four games as a junior due to a shoulder injury, although he did have 23 catches for 310 yards in those games. He won’t be the top TE in the draft - Florida’s Kyle Pitts emerged as a monster in 2020 - but Freiermuth could go in the first or second round.
Other Nittany Lions like to be drafted, and to be watched closely at Pro Day: center Michal Menet, defensive end Shaka Toney, safety Lamont Wade and offensive tackle Will Fries.
Galt on Clifford: Sean Clifford, Penn State’s presumptive starter at quarterback, has seemed to wear down physically over the course of the past two seasons. Clifford is big (6-2, 217) and athletic enough. He has bench-pressed 350 pounds and squatted nearly 500, according to Galt.
Still, Galt said he “took him to the next level,’’ this winter.
“You guys know my philosophy of training quarterbacks - it's a quarterback-slash-running back,’’ Galt said. “(Clifford is) almost 23, he’s got a great foundation. I really wanted to focus on a lot of unilateral, one-leg, one-arm type of things with him for stability.
“One leg was very close but not quite as strong as the other, so we corrected that. So it’s been kind of a different approach."
Nit-notes: Spring practice begins Monday. Head coach James Franklin will meet the press virtually at noon. There has been no definitive announcement yet on whether there will be a Blue-White game, the once-annual, open-to-the-public intrasquad game that used to cap off spring ball. …
Former Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis was hired last week to join the recruiting staff. Zemaitis was a three-time all-Big Ten player and team captain. …
Penn State plans to return to in-person classes this fall. Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, appearing on the Penn State Coaches Show last week, said she will “push really hard,’’ to have fans in the stands at Beaver Stadium and other campus venues.
The relaxing of restrictions announced by Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf last month would allow spectators to attend games up to 20 percent of stadium capacity. In theory, that would allow about 20,000 fans at Beaver Stadium, even if the restrictions aren’t relaxed further before the 2021 football season.