Carrying jersey No. 1 and No. 99, KJ Hamler and Yetur Gross-Matos have been Penn State’s smallest and largest playmakers, respectively.
After serving to the Nittany Lions rack up 20 wins over the past two seasons, the 2 have been drafted simply eight spots aside in Friday’s second spherical of the NFL draft.
First off the board was Gross-Matos at No. 38 total to the Carolina Panthers. The defensive finish was shortly adopted by vast receiver Hamler at No. 46 to the Denver Broncos.
They’re the highest-drafted gamers at their positions from Penn State in the course of the James Franklin period, for the reason that coach took over in 2014.
Gross-Matos hoped to interrupt Penn State’s decade-long drought with out a defensive participant drafted within the first spherical however didn’t get the decision on Friday night time. Defensive lineman Jared Odrick was the Lions’ final defensive first-rounder, going 28th total to the Miami Dolphins again in 2010.
This system won’t have to attend previous subsequent yr’s draft, although, as All-America linebacker Micah Parsons might very properly depart early for the professionals with a first-round projection.
Star working again Saquon Barkley stays Penn State’s solely different first-rounder in that stretch at No. 2 total in 2018.
Nonetheless, Gross-Matos is Penn State’s highest-drafted defensive lineman since Odrick whereas edging out deal with Austin Johnson (No. 43 in 2016).
“We couldn’t be extra pleased with Yetur,” the Lions coach stated by means of the varsity. “He’s a younger participant whose greatest soccer remains to be forward of him. He had an enormous yr for us, and he developed himself into one of many elite defensive ends in all of school soccer. His size, athleticism and talent to make performs behind the road of scrimmage will serve him properly.
“We’re so appreciative of Yetur for his angle and strategy he dropped at our program every day. We want him nothing however the perfect within the NFL, and we’re excited to see him compete on Sundays.”
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Gross-Matos had 35 tackles for a loss and 17 half of sacks in two seasons as a starter for the Lions. He performed as a real freshman in 2017 and went to the professionals after the minimal three years.
After he slid into the second night time of the draft, some projections had Gross-Matos going No. 36 to the Giants, the place he would have been reunited with defensive position coach Sean Spencer, who left Penn State for New York this winter.
As a substitute, he’ll play for a Penn State alum and State Faculty native in Matt Rhule, who was employed because the Panthers new head coach after main spectacular turnarounds at Temple and Baylor.
Gross-Matos stated he needed to be reminded Friday that Rhule supplied him a scholarship at Temple out of highschool. However the former four-star recruit went to go play for Penn State and defensive coordinator Brent Pry.
“Yetur has among the finest motors I’ve been round as a university soccer coach,” Pry stated by means of the varsity. “Day in and day trip he practiced with an unimaginable work ethic. He would run by means of the wall for you. For his dimension, I feel he’s received an awesome skillset. Most likely most significantly, Yetur may be very uncooked and nonetheless has his greatest soccer forward of him.”
Gross-Matos was considered one of 58 prospects whom the NFL despatched a video package to report their draft expertise, so the nation received to see his response when his title got here up.
Sitting on the sofa at his dwelling in Fredericksburg, Va., Gross-Matos initially bowed his head earlier than relations and his girlfriend sprung out of their seats to encompass him, pulling him up for a gaggle hug.
“I had some actually good discussions with the Panthers, so I knew there was an opportunity,” Gross-Matos stated on a video name with reporters. “It has simply been a blessing.”
He endeared himself to Panthers followers early by saying he needs to sack NFC South newcomer Tom Brady, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However he gained’t be counted on to do it alone, as Carolina took one other defensive lineman in Auburn deal with Derrick Brown with the No. 7 total choose on Thursday and still have final yr’s high choose, Brian Burns, on the sting as properly.
Likewise, Hamler gained’t be requested to do all of it instantly both. The 10th receiver chosen in arguably the deepest place on this yr’s draft, Hamler wasn’t even the primary wideout taken by the Broncos.
Denver chosen Alabama star Jerry Jeudy in Thursday’s first spherical to offer Denver a No. 1 goal whereas Hamler battles for a job within the slot.
And he’ll have competitors from a well-recognized face. Former teammate DaeSean Hamilton has performed there previously for the Broncos in his two seasons with the crew, having been drafted within the fourth spherical in 2018.
Hamler redshirted whereas recovering from an ACL tear throughout Hamilton’s senior season, during which he set Penn State profession data. When Hamilton left, Hamler took his spot within the slot.
As it’s, Hamler is Penn State’s highest-drafted vast receiver in 17 years, behind first-round choose Bryant Johnson, who went No. 17 total again in 2003.
The 5-foot-9 speedster is in good firm, because the Lions’ final two receivers to be taken on the second night time of the draft have been named to the Professional Bowl in Allen Robinson (second spherical, No. 61 total, 2014) and Chris Godwin (third spherical, No. 84, 2017).
“KJ shouldn’t be solely going to be an ideal match for the Broncos due to his explosive playmaking talents, but in addition his infectious persona,” Franklin stated. “Our coaches and gamers at all times wished to be round him as a result of he made apply, crew conferences and the locker room enjoyable, whereas additionally being one of the crucial ready gamers in our program.
“On the sphere, he’s an electrical, powerful distinction maker. The extra instances he touched the soccer, the higher it was for our offense. We’re so comfortable for KJ and are excited to see him on the subsequent degree.”
Hamler was Penn State’s high goal every of the final two years, declaring for the draft after his redshirt sophomore marketing campaign. Apart from a notable challenge with drops, he managed to excel regardless of having three completely different place coaches in every of his years on campus in Josh Gattis, David Corley and Gerad Parker.
As it’s, Penn State has a fourth receivers coach now in Taylor Stubblefield, so tight ends coach Tyler Bowen — who served as interim play-caller for the offense within the Cotton Bowl in December — was chosen to discuss Hamler.
“I’m thrilled for KJ,” Bowen stated by means of the varsity. “There’s not many gamers that mix his electrical energy with route working. He’s going to make the Broncos very comfortable and develop into a weapon that persons are going to find out about for years to return.”
As anticipated, Penn State had no different gamers chosen on Friday, however a handful extra might hear their names known as Saturday throughout rounds 4-7.
Cornerback John Reid, defensive deal with Robert Windsor and linebacker Cam Brown are three gamers who’ve been projected as late-round picks with different fellow seniors like guard Steven Gonzalez, security Garrett Taylor, linebacker Jan Johnson and punter Blake Gillikin additionally within the combine.