STATE COLLEGE –Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry was asked Saturday about one of his favorite topics – Jan Johnson.
Johnson, the former Gov. Mifflin standout, is back for his second season as the Nittany Lions’ starting middle linebacker. And by Pry’s account, he’s become even better.
“Jan has had a really good spring,” Pry said after the Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium. “He continues to impress everybody, including his peers and his coaches. He’s so smart and he’s so intelligent.”
Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology last August and is on track to receive his master’s degree in management and organizational leadership next month. Not surprisingly, he was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team last year.
“He’s what he is out there (on the football field),” Pry said. “He’s a graduate student of the game.”
The 6-2, 236-pound Johnson ranked second on the team last year with 72 tackles and had an interception against Illinois. As much as Pry admires Johnson, he wants to see him speak up more and direct his younger teammates.
“I’d like to see him be more vocal and be a little bit more of a commander the way Jason Cabinda was,” Pry said. “Take charge of things a little bit more and be more pronounced.
“He’s had a great spring. I’m looking forward to him having a big senior year.”
Spring awards: Former Exeter standout Michal Menet was one of several players to be recognized at halftime of the Blue-White Game for their performances during spring practice.
Menet, a junior and the starting center for the Nittany Lions, received the Red Worrell Award as the most improved offensive player.
Yetur Gross-Matos, a junior and a starting defensive end, received the Jim O’Hora Award as the most improved defensive player.
Offensive tackle Will Fries, punter Blake Gillikin and running back Nick Eury received the Frank Patrick Total Commitment Award.
And safety Jonathan Sutherland received the Special Teams Award.
TD results in scholarship: Penn State senior Dan Chisena caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from Will Levis in the third quarter Saturday and was quickly rewarded.
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin grabbed a microphone and announced to Chisena and the estimated crowd of 61,000 that he was putting the wide receiver on scholarship.
Players from the Blue and White teams sprinted onto the field to congratulate Chisena.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” said Chisena, a Downingtown East graduate. “It really didn’t feel real but it’s just a testament to God’s perfect timing and I’m very blessed to be in that position right now.
“I had no idea. It was very special.”
The 6-3, 203-pound Chisena came to Penn State to run track after he won PIAA Class 3A gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400 relay in 2015. He competed for the Lions from 2016-18 before deciding to return to football last year.
He played in two games in 2018 and was an Academic All-Big Ten pick.
“He’s one of the fastest guys on the team,” Franklin said. “He’s catching the ball confidently. We always had high hopes for him. He’s had a real consistent spring. He’s smart and mature. We like where he’s at.”
Two more commitments: Penn State added two linemen to its Class of 2020 Saturday, giving the Nittany Lions eight commitments from high school juniors.
Four-star defensive tackle Cole Brevard of Carmel, Ind., committed shortly after the Blue-White Game. The 6-4, 280-pound Brevard is rated the top player in Indiana.
Earlier in the day, three-star offensive lineman Reuben Adams (6-3, 314) of Woodbridge, Va., committed.
The commitments improved Penn State’s recruiting ranking to No. 10 by 247 Sports and to No. 11 by Rivals.
Millen returns: Former Penn State All-American Matt Millen, who underwent heart transplant surgery in December, served as analyst for the Big Ten Network Saturday at the Blue-White Game.
The 61-year-old Millen worked his first game since he called the Purdue-Nebraska game Sept. 29, 2018. He then waited for a heart donor and underwent surgery Dec. 24.
He received a loud ovation when the public address announcer recognized him at the end of the first quarter.
“It was pretty emotional,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Matt came into my office the other day and he looked good. He looked really good. From what he’s been able to overcome, both physically and mentally, what he means to this university, family and community, it’s just special.
“He’s a legend here. He’s a legend for us. He’s a legend for the Raiders. To see Matt be able to battle through it and for somebody to donate what Matt needed is awesome and it’s special.”