3 freshmen who need to be key contributors for Penn State football in 2024

Penn State has a veteran-laden roster, but with James Franklin being relatively reserved in the transfer portal, the Nittany Lions will need young players to make a big impact for a run to the College Football Playoff.
Penn State Spring Football Game
Penn State Spring Football Game / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Penn State football players have begun arriving on campus for summer training and that includes the most recent wave of true freshmen. 

Peter Gonzales, Caleb Brewer, Mylachi Williams, and Anthony Specca all showed up in Happy Valley on May 12. All four of those players early-enrolled and have already spent a semester in school and with the team but the six players who did not graduate high school early to take part in spring football, Dejuan Lane, Corey Smith, Donovan Harbour, Tyseer Denmark, and Kenneth Wosely are making their first official appearances. 

Gonzales, Denmark, along with other freshman wide receiver Josiah Brown could all play a role on a team that desperately needs talented players on the outside for Drew Allar to throw to. However, Julian Fleming and Harrison Wallace should give the Nittany Lions and new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki enough reliable snaps to keep the young three-stars off the field next fall. 

While the 2024 class may need to sit and wait, even highly-rated offensive linemen like Cooper Cousins and Liam Andrews and four-star running back Quinton Martin, there is one true freshman who will play a key role on offense. Penn State also needs two redshirt freshmen to make a big impact if James Franklin is finally going to break through to the College Football Playoff. 

491. . Ta'Mere Robinson, LB. player. . redshirt freshman. robinson. 2023 4-star. Ta'Mere Robinson, LB. 3

Curtis Jacobs left for the NFL and Abdul Carter moved to the defensive line, so redshirt sophomore Keon Wylie was expected to play a key role in a rotation with Kobe King, Dominic DeLuca, Tyler Elsdon, and true sophomore Tony Rojas. However, Wylie suffered a significant injury which kept him out of the Blue-White game and will likely keep him out for much of next season. 

Rojas and King are likely to take most of the snaps at linebacker, but Penn State desperately needs depth within the linebacker group because with Carter moving to edge, the group is suddenly quite thin. Last season, Robinson, who came in as a safety, but moved to linebacker while retaining some positional versatility, played just seven total defensive snaps. 

Kaveion Keys is another rising redshirt freshman who will factor in the linebacker rotation, but Robinson’s background as a safety could earn him a few snaps in the slot or defensive secondary to curb the loss of King Mack in the transfer portal. 

. . true freshman. Luke Reynolds, TE. player. 491. reynolds. 2. 2024 5-star. Luke Reynolds, TE

Penn State is thin at wide receiver, that’s well-established, but Franklin has kept his tight end room well stocked during his tenure at Penn State. Reynolds is the next in line of great Penn State tight end, but he does have some competition for reps as a true freshman. 

Tyler Warren will be TE1 and after receiving 49 targets last year, the second most on the team, he could be the featured receiver for much of 2024. Kotelnicki’s offense at Kansas typically favored oversized receivers, so Warren, Khalil Dinkins, and Reynolds will all see the field and a healthy portion of the offense. 

Reynolds is an elite athlete and has college-ready size at 6-foot-4 228, so he’ll be on the field from the very start of his career and an inactive spring transfer portal window from Franklin may indicate he believes the talent in his tight end room can make up for the lack of elite receivers. 

491. redshirt freshman. 2023 4-star. Anthony Donkoh, RT. 1. player. Anthony Donkoh, RT. Donkoh. .

There is a battle for the left and right tackle spots, but judging by the Peach Bowl to end the 2023 season, Donkoh is the pace-setter on the right side. As a true sophomore, Drew Shelton filled in for Olu Fashanu against Ole Miss, but once Caedan Wallace checked out of the game at halftime to preserve himself for the NFL draft, it was Donkoh, not Alex Birchmeier or J’Ven Williams who replaced him. 

Penn State added Shelton and JB Nelson in the 2022 class, and Shelton will likely start on the left side this year with Nelson in at guard, but Franklin’s 2023 high school class was even more loaded with tackles. Williams and Birchmeier were Penn State’s two highest-rated players in that class, Williams a five-star and Birchmeier a high four-star. Donkoh was an overshadowed addition that offseason as a four-star freshman tackle, even Chimdy Onoh was more highly-regarded, but Donkoh has emerged. 

In the Peach Bowl, Donkoh played 46 snaps, his first at tackle after playing 49 snaps throughout the year, all at guard. Even without much experience, Donkoh acquitted himself nicely, allowing just one pressure in 35 pass-blocking reps as Penn State attempted to come back against its SEC opponent.

Next. Penn State surprisingly thin at linebacker. Penn State surprisingly thin at linebacker. dark