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Roster rumblings: PSU players coming and going

We’ve already seen a lot of changes and movement within the Penn State football roster this offseason, which was to be expected as the NCAA transfer portal heats up this winter. Here’s our ongoing list of the players coming and going.

Players entering transfer portal

** DE SHANE SIMMONS

Senior who could have returned for another season but announced Dec. 21 he’s decided to move on and end his college career. Had he returned, he would have been in line for a lot of playing time with Jayson Oweh and Shaka Toney departing. Simmons had a change of heart and announced April 19 that he will continue playing football but would be entering the transfer portal. He announced May 18 that he’s transferring to Marshall.

** CB JOSEPH JOHNSON III

The freshman, who never saw any playing time during his lone season in 2020, entered the transfer portal on April 20. Johnson was a 3-star recruit out of Virginia and chose PSU over the likes of Ohio State, Florida, Texas A&M and Pitt. The team has a lot of depth at cornerback, and Johnson had trouble off the field as he faced drug charges from two separate incidents in less than two months last year.

** TE ZACK KUNTZ

The redshirt sophomore entered the transfer portal on Feb. 17. He became the eighth scholarship player for the Nittany Lions to enter the portal this offseason. Kuntz was a 4-star recruit from Camp Hill High School in PA in 2018. He had a bunch of offers from power programs, including Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Michigan, Oregon and Pitt, to name a few. Read more about him here. On April 11, Kuntz announced that he is transferring to Old Dominion.

** QB WILL LEVIS

The backup QB announced Jan. 28 that he’s entering the transfer portal, leaving starter Sean Clifford as the only QB on the roster with any experience. Levis started one game this past season after Clifford was benched, but he didn’t get much chance to prove himself throwing the ball against Iowa and was replaced by Clifford, who started the rest of the season. Levis did get to play a lot this season, but it was almost always in a running role. Read more about his departure here. On Feb. 4, Levis announced he will be transferring to Kentucky.

** LB LANCE DIXON

Redshirt freshman entered the transfer portal on Jan. 28, according to 247Sports. He appeared in three games in 2019 and nine games in 2020, including one start. He came to PSU as a 4-star recruit from Michigan. Some season highlights from 2020 are below, from his PSU bio page. Dixon announced March 11 that he’s transferring to West Virginia.

Ohio State (10/31): Recorded a career-best five tackles, including four solo…Registered his first career forced fumble in the first quarter. at Nebraska (11/14): Assisted on two tackles and recorded a half-tackle for loss. Iowa (11/21): Made one stop, his first career full tackle for loss in the second quarter. at Michigan (11/28): Tallied one solo stop, a full tackle for loss, his third consecutive game with a TFL. at Rutgers (12/5): Recorded one solo tackle.

** WR TJ JONES

The redshirt freshman entered the transfer portal on Jan. 22, according to 247Sports. A 3-star recruit from Lake City, Fla., in the class of 2019, Jones appeared in one game in 2019 and seven games in 2020. He accumulated no stats but was on the participation report for eight games total. He becomes the fifth PSU scholarship player to enter the portal since the offseason began. As we wrote earlier this week, and is the case once again with Jones, prospects from outside of Penn State’s traditional recruiting region have shown a much higher likelihood to enter the transfer portal. Jones announced April 12 that he is transferring to UAB.

** QB MICAH BOWENS

A true freshman this past season, the former 3-star recruit from Las Vegas never got on the field for Penn State and announced Jan. 15 that he will enter the transfer portal, according to 247Sports. Bowens found himself in a crowded field at quarterback, behind Sean Clifford, Will Levis and Ta’Quan Roberson, and 3-star prospect Christian Veilleux was added in the 2021 recruiting class. Bowens announced Jan. 19 that he’s transferring to Oklahoma.

** DREW HARTLAUB

Walk-on special teams ace Drew Hartlaub, who reportedly has run a blistering 4.25 40-yard dash, is in the transfer portal. Hartlaub won’t be going anywhere, though, not after being put on full scholarship. And the way it happened was the stuff of legend.

** OL C.J. THORPE

Redshirt senior who began his PSU career on the defensive line for one season, switched to offensive line the past two seasons and now wants to move back to defense. He entered the transfer portal on Jan. 7. Read more about him here.

** DT ANTONIO SHELTON

Redshirt senior who could have played another season at PSU but announced Dec. 23 that he’s entering the transfer portal to play his final season elsewhere. This was a surprising departure as he was a starter who finished strong. Read more about him here. Shelton announced on Jan. 6 that he’s transferring to Florida.

** DT JUDGE CULPEPPER

Redshirt sophomore who entered the transfer portal Dec. 23. He played nine games this season, mostly on special teams, and would have provided depth at DT next season. He was a 3-star recruit out of high school in Tampa. Culpepper announced on Jan. 7 that he will transfer to Toledo.

Players staying put

** OT RASHEED WALKER

A rising redshirt junior, he announced Jan. 12 that he’ll return to PSU for another season. Walker (6-6, 310) has started all 22 games over the past two years, so having him back is a major boost for the offensive line next season. The O-line is losing starters Will Fries and Michal Menet to the NFL, and C.J. Thorpe announced he’s transferring to play D-line elsewhere. Read Walker’s bio here.

Quarterback Sean Clifford certainly is happy to have Walker returning.

** S JAQUAN BRISKER

The senior announced Jan. 11 that he will return for one more season. Brisker was a first-team All-American by Pro Football Focus, even though he was only third-team all-Big Ten. He had already accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, which made it appear he would be turning pro. Now he’ll take advantage of the NCAA rule allowing players an extra year of eligibility. Read all about Brisker’s impressive yet underrated season here.

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** WR JAHAN DOTSON

The senior announced Jan. 7 that he will return for the 2021 season. This is very important news for the Lions because Dotson was one of the best receivers in the Big Ten this season, and he could have taken his chances in the NFL draft. Dotson caught 52 passes for 884 yards and eight TDs this season. He also had a spectacular game against Ohio State and All-American Shaun Wade, catching eight passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns. Read about how Dotson deserves more respect than he gets.

** CB TARIQ CASTRO-FIELDS

He became the first PSU senior to announce he’s taking advantage of the NCAA rule allowing an extra year of eligibility when he announced Jan. 2 that he will return for one more season. This is a big deal for the secondary, as Castro-Fields is a veteran who has played a lot and can be the primary lockdown corner next season. Read more about him here.

Roster additions from transfer portal

S A.J. LYTTON (5-11, 175)

He was a 4-star recruit and top 50 national recruit coming out of high school and spent two seasons at Florida State (2018, ’19), appearing in 22 games (one start) with 28 tackles. He was removed from the Florida State roster for unknown reasons in February of 2020 and did not play college football last season. News broke June 22 that he would be transferring to Penn State. Read more about him here.

** OL ERIC WILSON (6-4, 280)

A grad transfer from Harvard, he announced Jan. 27 that he is transferring to Penn State. He becomes the fifth player to transfer to PSU this offseason. Wilson did not play in 2020 because the Ivy League did not have football. He was preseason first-team all-Ivy League by Phil Steele. He played in all 20 games for Harvard the previous two seasons. He announced in November he was going to transfer to Auburn but wound up changing his mind after coach Gus Malzahn was fired. He now will come to PSU. Ironically, Auburn plays at Penn State in week three this fall. Read more about him here.

** DE ARNOLD EBIKETIE (6-4, 240)

Redshirt junior who played three seasons at Temple and announced he’s transferring to Penn State on Dec. 31. He should be in position to become a starter next season, after the departures of DEs Shaka Toney and Jaysown Owen to the NFL. Read more about him here.

** DT DERRICK TANGELO (6-2, 310)

Senior who has played four seasons at Duke and announced he’s transferring to Penn State on Dec. 29. He should be able to step in and start immediately next season for the Lions. Read more about him here.

** CB JOHN DIXON (6-0, 185)

Sophomore who played two seasons at South Carolina and announced he’s transferring to Penn State on Dec. 28. He played a lot this season and will compete for starting cornerback job next year. Read more about him here.

** RB JOHN LOVETT (6-0, 212)

Senior who played four seasons at Baylor and announced he’s transferring to Penn State on Dec. 21. He has a lot of experience and will help provide depth at tailback next season. The starting job would be expected to go to Noah Cain, who’s coming off a leg injury, or perhaps Keyvone Lee, who was impressive as a true freshman. Read more about him here.

Players turning pro

** S LAMONT WADE

The senior announced Jan. 14 that he will be entering the NFL draft, as expected. Wade came to Penn State as an elite recruit but had a tough time in the beginning making a big impact. He entered the transfer portal in January of 2019, only to change his mind and decide to stay at Penn State. Wade has a 2-year-old son, Roman, and looking out for his family was expected to play a role in his decision to turn pro. Watch a powerful video of Wade talking about how football has helped him escape the tough place where he grew up.

** OL MICHAL MENET

The senior told his hometown paper, the Reading Eagle, on Jan. 9 that he’s moving on from college to prepare for the NFL draft. Read more about him here.

** OL WILL FRIES

Senior lineman who was versatile during his career, he told Lions247 on Dec. 29 that he’s heading to the NFL rather than seek another year of college, which he would have been allowed under new NCAA rules.

** DE SHAKA TONEY

Senior first-team all-Big Ten performer, he could have returned for another year but announced Dec. 28 he’s declaring for the NFL draft. A significant loss as he was the best player on the PSU team this season. Read more about him here.

** DE JAYSON OWEH

Redshirt sophomore first-team all-Big Ten performer, he announced Dec. 26 that he’s leaving early for the NFL draft. He’s projected to be a first-round pick. A significant loss for the defense. Read more about him here.

** TE PAT FREIERMUTH

Junior All-American who was widely expected all along to declare for the draft, which he did Dec. 20. A major loss for the offense as he was one of the best receiving tight ends in the country. Read more about him here.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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