Penn State defensive tackle Givens’ raw talent on display during drills
Rising redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kevin Givens was on Penn State coach James Franklin’s radar after posting impressive weight-room numbers during offseason training.
Less than a week into spring practices, though, Franklin has dubbed Givens more than just a “weight-room warrior.”
“(Givens) is kind of the talk of spring ball right now,” Franklin said. “He’s just so explosive. He’s just so strong. He’s been a guy that’s really stood out so far.”
At the first practice, Givens went against offensive lineman Derek Dowrey in a one-on-one drill.
In size terms, the Givens-Dowrey battle was a mismatch in favor of the latter. Givens weighs just more than 270 pounds, which is on the lighter size for a defensive tackle. Dowrey weighs about 335 pounds.
Givens, however, drove Dowrey backward with consistency.
“The dude’s just like a ball of muscle,” linebacker Jason Cabinda said about Givens. “He’s going to be a disruptive guy.”
Cabinda, who started for the Nittany Lions last season at middle linebacker, is in a position battle with Nyeem Wartman-White. Cabinda took over at middle linebacker after Wartman-White suffered a season-ending injury against Temple in the first week of the 2015 campaign.
Despite the battle for the starting job at middle linebacker, the players are embracing the competition. Whoever wins the role, Cabinda said, will make the team better.
However, because of this make-the-team-better mentality, both players would be willing to make the switch to outside linebacker if it were for the good of the team.
“We’re very flexible,” Cabinda said. “We’ll be willing to play whatever position is necessary in order to put the team in the best position to win.”
Transitioning to new coordinators poses challenges for the Lions, though Cabinda said having a familiar face take over as defensive coordinator has aided the process.
Brent Pry replaced Bob Shoop as the Lions’ defensive coordinator after Shoop took the same job at Tennessee. Pry served as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for his first two seasons with the team. He knows the skills and shortcomings of each player, which adds a level of comfort to a new coaching situation.
New offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who previously was the head coach at Fordham, has implemented a new system — one that relies on up-tempo play-calling and quick decision-making.
Franklin said players are adjusting to the new offense rather smoothly compared to what normally happens when teams install a new playbook.
With the departure of quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who declared for the NFL Draft following the team’s 24-17 TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia on Jan. 2, a new passer will be under center for the Lions in 2016.
Rising redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley has shown to be more consistent than rising redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens, Franklin said, but that mostly is because McSorley has more collegiate experience.
Matt Martell is a freelance writer.