Along with head coach James Franklin, many of Penn State’s assistant coaches were on hand to talk with reporters Wednesday afternoon on the team’s practice field outside Holuba Hall.
One of the highlights of safeties coach/co-defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter’s winter was when safety Ji’Ayir Brown announced his return for the 2022 season.
Brown led the nation and interceptions last season with six, and his return gave a Penn State secondary that lost its most prominent player, Jaquan Brisker, who is now with the Chicago Bears, a boost.
Brown undoubtedly hopes to go to the NFL someday soon, but Poindexter doesn’t feel that Brown saw this winter as the right time to pursue the draft.
“Me and him had talked several times; I don’t think he was ready to go,” Poindexter said. “I think he was right on the fence of, “go, not go.” He’s excited that he decided to come back.”
A lot of eyes will be on Brown this season, and somebody who fans might not watch as closely is cornerback Johnny Dixon.
Dixon transferred to Penn State from South Carolina after the 2020 season, and even if he doesn’t start at corner in 2022, cornerbacks/associate head coach Terry Smith said Dixon is a good place to play a role.
“Johnny had a great spring for us,” Smith said. “He put himself in position to play a lot of football for us. Obviously, Joey Porter (Jr.) is going to play a lot (along with) Kalen King, and Johnny’s in that mix right now. I’ve been here eight seasons, and for my eight seasons, I’ve played a minimum of three guys on the regular rotation, typically four guys. So Johnny’s in that mix. He’s going to play a ton of football.”
Penn State fans have criticized offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich for how his offense performed under him in his first season. Penn State finished 10th of 14 teams in points in 2021
What does Yurcich want Penn State’s offensive identity to be for year two and beyond?
“We always want to be a physical offense,” Yurcich said, “we want to be a smart offense and we want to be a very skilled offense. Those are the three things that we try to identify with as an offense each and every year.”
A big part of the offense, naturally, will be the quarterbacks. Yurcich, who is also the quarterbacks coach, feels that projected starter Sean Clifford, along with Christian Veilleux, Drew Allar and Beau Pribula, all progressed over spring practice.
“I think Sean had a tremendous spring,” Yurcich said. “I think CV (Christian Veilleux) shows a lot of good traits. Very good with his footwork; he puts the ball where it needs to be, has the right arm strength, the proper arm strength to get all the throws that we need to get done in this offense. He can make all those throws.”
Yurcich went on to say that Veilleux, a redshirt freshman from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, is “locked in.”
“I think he’s more aware, he’s anticipating better, and I think you can say the same thing for the two young guys (Allar and Pribula),” Yurcich said. “The progress that they’ve made, it seems like they’re on schedule.
Hear from Poindexter, Smith and Yurcich below.