Nittany Lions reap benefit of transfer portal

Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Marcus Childers is sacked by Duke Blue Devils defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo during the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26, 2017, in Detroit. Tangelo announced his decision to transfer to Penn State on Tuesday.

STATE COLLEGE — During interviews this spring, Penn State coaches routinely commented about how well four of their offseason transfer additions have fit into the program’s culture.

On Saturday, the quartet was introduced to the general public as Penn State held its 12th of 15 allotted practices this spring. The Nittany Lions on Friday will conclude their spring practice program in front of a senior-class-only audience at Beaver Stadium.

Three of Penn State’s offseason transfer additions logged playing time Saturday: cornerback Johnny Dixon (formerly of South Carolina), defensive end Arnold Ebiketie (Duke), and defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo (Temple).

Running back Josh Lovett (Baylor) didn’t participate Saturday. Former Harvard offensive lineman Eric Wilson is scheduled to arrive on campus next month.

Ebiketie wasted little time establishing a presence on the defensive line. The 6-foot-3, 244-pound edge rusher got into the backfield on multiple occasions to harass Penn State quarterbacks. He showed range, too, moving east to west on plays track down ballcarriers.

“AK has been dominant on the edge,” Penn State linebacker Curtis Jacobs said of Ebiketie. “His speed off the edge is crazy. I’ve rarely seen that from other people.”

Ebiketie’s presence on the defensive line could be the answer Penn State is looking for as it will need to replace Shaka Toney.

Tangelo flashed some skill from the interior over the weekend, and he should prove a good bookend with starter PJ Mustipher. Although Tangelo is new to Penn State’s program, he brings a chunk of experience to his new school, as he played in 37 games (amassing 113 tackles) during a four-year career at Duke.

Kalen King received well-deserved acclaim Saturday for a performance that included two interceptions — one returned for a touchdown and the other made in the end zone — but secondary newcomer Dixon impressed in his public Penn State debut, as well.

Dixon looked comfortable playing the position and locked up well with receivers. One of his biggest assets, according to Penn State’s defensive coaching staff, is his versatility.

“He’s a mature guy,” Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry said over the weekend. “He’s got nice size and strength. He’s a confident guy, also, and (has) a good skill set. I’m excited that he’s here, and I think he’s only going to get better as he learns our system. He’s a guy who has flexibility. He’s got some safety qualities; he’s got corner qualities. He’s playing some at the nickel spot, so he’s going to play a lot of football for us.”

This offseason has been the most active for Penn State with the NCAA’s transfer portal in recent memory, but the Nittany Lions have actively sought fits not only talent-wise, but ones in line with the program’s aim.

So far, it’s worked out well for all involved.

“Really smooth transition,” Pry said. “All three of the guys we signed out of the portal from other places have been really nice additions defensively. Defensive tackle, defensive end, and with Dixon.”

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