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Penn State football notes: Jesse Luketa impresses at defensive end

Jesse Luketa, who has played only linebacker at Penn State, made an impact at defensive end during training camp, according to coach James Franklin and left tackle Rasheed Walker.

The 6-3, 247-pound Luketa started eight games at weak-side linebacker last year, but had an uneven season.

Franklin said in early August that Luketa would receive work at linebacker and defensive end during camp.

“We’ve kind of always viewed Jesse like this,” he said. “I think his future is probably in this area as well. We see him as a guy that’s going to play both linebacker and d-end for us. He’ll probably be in the rotation at both positions.

“We’re going to need him to play both. He’s shown that he’s able to handle it. He’s extremely smart, football smart.”

Franklin was unclear whether Luketa will play in the middle or on the outside at linebacker. At end, he joins a relatively thin position that includes Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie, Nick Tarburton, Smith Vilbert and Zuriah Fisher.

“From the first practice to the last practice, Jesse has been like a whole different person,” Walker said. “He really learned how to use his body and play in the trenches.”

With Luketa alternating positions, Franklin confirmed what everybody already knew in the spring, that sophomore Curtis Jacobs will start at strong-side linebacker. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry moved Jacobs there in the spring and praised him for how well he played then.

The 6-1, 230-pound Jacobs and Brandon Smith, who moves from the strong to the weak side, will flank senior Ellis Brooks at linebacker.

“His athleticism, his ball skills and his playmaking ability really translate to that field backer position for us,” Franklin said. “He’s big and strong and fast and physical, but he also has the ability to cover in space. We think he’s got a chance to have a big year for us.”

Backup plan >> It also was not surprising when Franklin said that sophomore Ta’Quan Roberson will be the backup quarterback behind Sean Clifford.

The 5-11, 197-pound Roberson played in only two games in his first two years at Penn State and threw just one pass. He was rated a four-star prospect by Rivals and ESPN coming out of DePaul Catholic in New Jersey.

“He has done some really nice things,” Franklin said. “He’s thrown for a high percentage. For a while there, his attempts without an interception were ridiculously high. The ball jumps off his hand.

“When he’s confident pre-snap with what to do, he’s very effective post-snap. It’s getting him consistently confident pre-snap. I think he’s opened a lot of eyes this camp. We’d love to get him some meaningful reps in games.”

On guard >> Anthony Whigan and Harvard transfer Eric Wilson will rotate at left guard, Franklin said.

Whigan transferred to Penn State from Lackawanna College in 2019 and played in nine games last year as a reserve. Wilson played in 22 games at Harvard from 2017-19 before the Ivy League canceled its season last year because of the pandemic.

“Whigan has really had the right attitude and the right approach,” Franklin said. “He’s worked his tail off. Eric’s a young man who transferred in. I think it was an adjustment when he first got here, but he continues to get better.”

No depth chart >> Penn State joined several other Big Ten football teams in deciding not to make its depth chart public.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was the first in the conference not to release a depth chart.

“There have been multiple schools in the conference that haven’t been releasing it for a number of years,” Franklin said. “This year we found out that Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Purdue either were not releasing it or thinking about not releasing it.

“It just didn’t make sense for us to do it if others weren’t.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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