All 105 is a Nittany Sports Now series profiling each Penn State football player. Here is a profile of safety Zakee Wheatley.
Weight: 194 pounds
Hometown: Crofton, Maryland
Before Penn State: Wheatley, a four-star recruit who was Penn State’s fourth-highest rated signee according to 247Sports, came to Penn State after playing at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Maryland. Covid-19 limited Wheatley’s senior season to just two games, but in that time, Wheatley scored two touchdowns and picked off two passes.
In his last full high school season as a junior, Wheatley stood out on defense and offense, having five interceptions and catching 56 passes for 810 yards and seven touchdowns. Wheatley’s play got him selected to the Big 33 Game, which is an All-Star exhibition between the best high school football players in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
At the end of his high school career, Wheatley was rated the 10th best overall player in Maryland by Rivals.com. He also twice lettered in basketball and played baseball his freshman year.
Wheatley has six siblings; four brothers and two sisters.
2021: Wheatley redshirted his freshman season, appearing in four games.
Last year: Wheatley played in 12 of Penn State’s 13 games, intercepting two passes and forcing a fumble, the later of which a key play in the team’s season-opening 35-31 win the lights at Purdue. Additionally, Wheatley had 27 tackles (21 solo) and broke up a pass.
Where he stands: In two years, Penn State has lost two fine safeties to the NFL in current Chicago Bear Jaquan Brisker and current San Francisco 49er Ji’Ayir “Tig” Brown, who was a mentor to Wheatley over the past two seasons.
When Brisker went to the Bears, Penn State and its fans expected Brown to become the new leader of the safeties room, and that’s exactly what happened. Now, with Brown gone, there’s no clear answer to that question. But regardless of if anybody emerges as a true leader in the safeties room, Penn State has a talented group, and Wheatley is part of that. Wheatley’s classmate, Jaylen Reed is also ready to make a big splash in 2023, and fifth-year senior Keaton Ellis— who coach James Franklin announced had been named a team captain after this year’s Blue-White Game— will provide stability.
On the younger side, ‘22 signees KJ Winston, Tyrece Mills and Mekhi Flowers all have promise.
Coordinator Manny Diaz loves to use a lot of defensive backs, so Wheatley will have his chances to shine. All he has to do is make the most of them.
A quote by Wheatley: “It’s not anything I try to do or think about. I’m just out there playing the game. I’m getting to my spot. I’m trying to read the quarterback, read the running back, wherever that takes me, that’s just where it takes me, honestly. – Wheatley from this year’s spring practice on his ability to find the football.
A quote about Wheatley: ”(He) just seems to find the football. The ball likes him. He likes the football, and he’s kind of standing out right now.” – Coach James Franklin from before the 2022 season.