Injured John Reid doing what he can, 2,700 miles away

STATE COLLEGE — John Reid is injured and 2,700 miles away from the rest of Penn State’s players, but he’s still doing everything he can to be a great teammate.

Reid has been a big part of the Nittany Lion program the past two years, and he would have been a very valuable component this season as a junior. But the cornerback suffered a knee injury in spring ball and is expected to sit out the upcoming season.

The injury closed a door for Reid, but it opened a window for him to take on a new opportunity in life.

The data sciences major is currently serving an internship with technology giant Intel in Portland, Ore., spending his summer working not on his cornerback skills, but on skills that should benefit his life long after his playing career is over.

“(He) actually had the opportunity to do the internship last year and just didn’t feel comfortable making it work with his football responsibilities,” PSU coach James Frank­lin said. “So he had accepted that internship this summer.”

Even while he’s away from the team, Reid is finding ways to remain a part of the Nittany Lions through today’s advanced technology.

“Our guys can get on the computer on their laptops and watch the tape like 20 minutes after practice,” Franklin said. “It’s downloaded, and they don’t have to be here to do that.

“So I found out (last week) that every night, John Reid is sitting in his hotel room or his apartment or whatever it is watching all the tape.”

Reid, as it turns out, also has been texting cornerbacks coach Terry Smith, as well as texting and calling the players to give them his input.

“(He’s) saying, ‘Hey, you did this in Zorro coverage or you did that. Why are we teaching it differently right now? Or is he not using a technique that we want?'”

That type of dedication to the team is what makes Reid one of the Lions’ most respected leaders.

He will be missed on the football field this season, in a number of ways. He not only would have been Penn State’s best cover corner, he also was third in the Big Ten a year ago in yards per punt return (7.5).

Reid will be back with his teammates before too long, and he no doubt will be looked upon to help lead the squad even if he can’t get on the field.

“John is going to have a huge impact for us this year,” Franklin said. “We’ll see how it plays out (with his injury), but either way, he’s going to have a huge impact.”

Third-string QB

A lot of attention is always paid to battles for the starting quarterback job, but Penn State doesn’t have one of those this season. Trace McSorley is clearly the guy, and Tommy Stevens is the backup.

But what about the No. 3 quarterback spot? That brings about a decision that has a big ripple effect?

“I’d say that’s probably one of the more interesting story lines as coaches,” Franklin said.

Redshirt freshman Jake Zembiec and true freshman Sean Clifford are battling for the third-string spot and will continue to do so throughout preseason camp. Zembiec has been with the program more than a year, while Clifford just arrived this summer, so one would think Zembiec would have the upper hand.

Whether that turns out to be the case remains to be seen. There were reports last year that Zembiec was a bit slow in making the adjustment to the college game.

Whatever happens in the competition, it stands to impact Penn State’s quarterback situation in the future.

“Say your No. 3 ends up being Jake,” Franklin said. “OK, fine, then you’re in a situation where you could redshirt Clifford. OK, that’s wonderful. Well, what if Clifford ends up being No. 3?

“So if you get in a situation where you get an opportunity to get your No. 3 in the game, we may do what we did with Trace, where we actually put the No. 4 guy in the game to maybe be able to redshirt the other guy, depending how that thing plays out.”

Waiting their turn

The Lions are in a much healthier state than a couple of years ago with regards to depth throughout the roster, and that leads to a different mentality and expectation for younger players in the program.

Franklin shared the following story about that on Saturday.

“When we were at 65 scholarships, there was a struggle,” the coach said. “A challenge that we had is a lot of walk-ons were playing significant roles on the team and a lot of walk-ons were being put on scholarship, and we felt like that was normal. So there became a little expectation of that’s how it is. But that’s not normal. So that was a challenge for us in terms of locker room dynamics.”

Now, back up to 85 scholarships and a lot more quality players on the team, the dynamic has changed.

“Guys felt like what we had been going through the last couple years was normal,” Franklin said. “And what I mean by that is, Miles Dieffenbach, the story I always tell that Miles told me is, when he got here as a true freshman, he was fifth team on the offensive line and didn’t get one rep in practice his entire freshman year. Since we’ve been here, the guys showed up, and they were in the two-deep right away, and some guys were forced to play.”

“Now we’re in a situation where guys that redshirted last year, they have seen the evolution, and they’re saying to themselves, ‘Well, all the redshirt freshmen the next year have huge roles.’ Well, that’s not necessarily the case anymore. You’ve got to come in, and you’ve got to earn those roles.”