Just off the top of my head, with the exception of maybe John Reid, Cam Brown and Steven Gonzalez (who were all valued backups on that magical run to the top of the Big Ten mountain in 2016), the seven Iron Lions scheduled to perform with their respective position groups this week represent the final wave of an era that brought Penn State back from the brink of darkness. From here on out, it's up to a collection of young, new faces to battle Buckeyes and Wolverines for the right to return to the hallowed grounds of Lucas Oil Stadium to create memories of their own. As we speak, they’re hard at work under the watchful eye of head strength coach, Dwight Galt, as he guides them through the winter workouts that will ultimately lead into spring ball in March and the Blue-White game on April 12th.
There are no sure-fire first rounders, a la King ‘Quon, at this year’s combine but McSorley and the Iron Lions will do their best to duplicate the kind of buzz generated by last year’s group in Indy. Along with #9 (who, coincidently, will also be featured in this year’s edition of ESPN's ‘Hey Rookie' in the weeks leading up to the draft), Ryan Bates, Shareef Miller, Connor McGovern, Miles Sanders, Amani Oruwariye, and Kevin Givens will all give it their best shot at proving they belong at the next level. McGovern and Oruwariye reportedly have the best chance of any at seeing their names called on the first or second day of this year’s draft and Sanders stands to make the most noise with a good showing. Miller and Bates are solid mid-to-late round picks as of today and need to come in strong to solidify their standings. Givens has the most to prove this week, as very few if any have him projected higher than an undrafted free agent.
And then there’s Trace, the unquestioned leader of this year’s prospects and last year’s too, for that matter. He's too short, not strong enough, needs to improve his accuracy, blah…blah…blah. He’s heard it all before and so have we. All he needs is a shot I say, and to date, he’s done nothing to diminish the opportunity. All the man does is collect victories or goes down swinging wherever he’s been and that poses a major conundrum for all the scouts huddled around the same field where #9 put on a second-half magic show and elevated the Nittany Lions to an unexpected conference championship in 2016. A new era has already dawned and is underway in Happy Valley but this week in Indy, it’s one last time for our Iron Lions to flex their muscles as a collective group before moving on to the next chapter.