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Penn State’s contingent of New Jersey prep players could make a big impact Saturday vs. Rutgers

What better week to discuss some of Penn State’s most talented New Jersey prep players than Rutgers week? 

James Franklin’s Nittany Lions (7-3) visit the Scarlet Knights (1-9) Saturday afternoon and PSU is a four-touchdown favorite.

There could be plenty of opportunities for the Penn State coaching staff to take a look at some promising backups in the second half, should the Lions jump out to a big lead.

And there are several Penn State starters who were New Jersey prep stars that committed to Franklin instead of staying in-state. The list includes offensive linemen Steven Gonzalez and Will Fries and wideout Juwan Johnson.

Another PSU veteran, corner John Reid, played his high school ball at St. Joseph’s Prep in Pennsylvania but Reid was born in Mt. Laurel, N.J.

Two talented true freshmen from New Jersey could see some time against Rutgers — wideout Justin Shorter and defensive end Jayson Oweh. Both players have appeared in two games this season. 

The Lions are 4-0 vs. Rutgers during Franklin’s time in State College and the Scarlet Knights have scored a total of 19 points in those contests. But Franklin downplayed the connection between Penn State beating Rutgers and successful recruiting trips to the Garden State.

“I don’t think it is a big of an impact as people make it out to be,” Franklin said Wednesday after practice in a video posted on the Penn State football Facebook page.

“Obviously, it always helps, winning helps everything. … Whenever players can come to your stadium, families can come to your stadium and see the environment here and you’re successful, that helps. Whenever you’re able to go on the road and you’re in someone’s backyard and they’re at the game and you play well, you play an exciting game of football, that helps.”

Shorter is being prepped to play Saturday and so is true freshman corner Trent Gordon and possibly offensive lineman Rasheed Walker, according to Franklin. Both Gordon and Walker have appeared in one game to date.

“Whenever you can get guys experience in games, like Trent Gordon for example, he’s going to play this week,” Franklin said.

“Now how much does he play? I’m not sure. But I’d make the argument that even if he plays six plays in the game, that’s going to be valuable for him moving forward. That’s where bowl games are so important.”

Franklin was also asked about true freshmen who have exceeded expectations and he mentioned three — wideout Jahan Dotson, Oweh and defensive tackle PJ Mustipher.

“I would say Oweh,” Franklin said.

“Oweh is a guy that probably is further ahead than we thought. Jahan is probably another guy that we knew was talented but I didn’t realize the game, mentally and physically, would come this easy to him. 

“They’re probably the two guys that jump out and probably the third guy I would say is, you never really expect to be able to play an O-lineman or a D-lineman as a freshman, so PJ Mustipher. 

“Playing as a true freshman at defensive tackle where that’s a grown-man’s game in there. He’s been able to be pretty good and I think right now (he) is really starting to come into his own. Last week (against Wisconsin) I thought was his best game by far.”

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