On Friday, tight end Theo Johnson announced that he’ll be foregoing his final year of eligibility and declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft. With 32 catches for 325 yards and six touchdowns this season, the 6-foot-6 Winnipeg, Manitoba product won’t be easy to replace. Yet, Penn State seems to always have an answer at that position.
Since James Franklin took over the program in 2014, the Nittany Lions have pretty seamlessly transitioned from Jesse James to Mike Gesicki, to Pat Feiermuth, to Brenton Strange, to Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren. In the wake of Johnson’s decision, it seems relevant to forecast who is next in that lineage.
Warren caught 29 passes for 295 yards and led the team with seven touchdown grabs this year. He’ll be the obvious beneficiary at the position, but he might not be the next top NFL draft pick or focal point of the offense. That player is Luke Reynolds, the crown jewel of Franklin’s 2024 recruiting class and the No. 29 overall player in the 247 Sports high school recruiting rankings.
A lot of the focus will be on the transfer portal this offseason, and rightfully so with a quarterback in place and a team that is right on the cusp of championship contention, but high school recruiting is still the foundation of a college football program and Franklin has done a good job by bringing in Reynolds, and getting him to commit early.
The Nittany Lions beat out Army, Boston College, Cincinnati, and Coastal Carolina for the Cheshire, Connecticut five-star, and it’s crucial for Franklin to be early on prospects before they rise up the rankings and draw the eyes of Ohio State, Michigan, and even the SEC powerhouses.
Reynolds may not star in Andy Kotelnicki’s offense in 2024, at 6-foot-4 220 pounds he will need to add some weight to stick as a Big Ten tight end, but Kotelnicki loved to use oversized receivers at Kansas and as a freshman, Reynolds will fit that mold.
Beyond his freshman year, Reynolds could be the best player on Penn State’s offense for multiple seasons. Tyler Warren will be a big key next season without Theo Johnson, but make sure to keep an eye out for the true freshman who could be the next Mike Gesicki or even more.