Penn State is cautiously optimistic that veteran tight end Theo Johnson will return to action on Saturday when the Nittany Lions take on Auburn.
According to coach James Franklin, Johnson had to deal with bumps and bruises. Franklin offered similar optimism ahead of Penn State’s season opener two weeks ago, but Johnson didn’t play in the game despite traveling.
“Yeah, we’re hopeful. No decision, no final decision has been made yet,” Franklin said after practice Wednesday. “But we are hopeful. He does a little more every day and a little more every week. So we are hopeful.
Johnson dressed for practice at Penn State on Wednesday, but the media sees only a limited portion of the procedure, making it difficult to gauge Johnson’s availability for the full assortment of exercises. The third-year tight end didn’t dress for Penn State’s home opener against Ohio and was seen on the sidelines in street clothes.
In his place, the Nittany Lions relied on a capable and familiar duo of Brenton Strange and Tyler Warren. Penn State also went with offensive lineman Bryce Effner in some short-range red-zone situations that involved an extra offensive lineman or tight end. Freshman tight end Khalil Dinkins caught his first touchdown pass against Ohio in a game that saw 17 different Nittany Lions catch a pass from quarterbacks Sean Clifford and Drew Allar. Freshman Jerry Cross was also in street clothes Saturday as Penn State upset the Bobcats.
While Penn State has certainly proven it can do without Johnson’s services for two weeks of the season, the Nittany Lions will need everyone on deck as they look to go 3-0 on the year. and sweep Auburn at home. and-house series.
Strange was Penn State’s second-leading receiver in the Nittany Lions’ 28-20 win over Auburn last year with four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Johnson had a catch for 37 yards, while Warren was also helpful in the win, rushing for a short-range touchdown and catching a 22-yard pass on the night.