As Penn State prepared to face a potentially high-flying Maryland offense Saturday, the Nittany Lions’ top cover corner was watching pregame warmups from the sideline.
After the game, coach James Franklin offered a brief explanation for why Porter wasn’t on the field in the Penn State secondary.
“The last thing I wanted to mention just so you guys are aware and there’s no gray area out there, but Joey Porter was not available tonight, and that was a non-football injury situation that we were working through,” Franklin said during the opening statement of his postgame news conference. “So I just want to be very, very clear with that so everybody knows, and hopefully, we’ll have Joey back soon.”
Without Porter, sophomore Kalen King and senior Johnny Dixon, who had been rotating opposite Porter for much of the season, were Penn State’s starting cornerbacks. Senior Marquis Wilson rotated in as an outside corner, while redshirt junior Daequan Hardy was once again the nickel corner in the slot.
The absence of Porter, a redshirt junior, turned out to not be an issue against Maryland, which boasts a talented offense featuring quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa; wide receivers Rakim Jarrett, Jacob Copeland, Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones; and tight ends Corey Dyches and CJ Dippre.
Tagovailoa was under duress for the whole game. The Penn State pass rush sacked him seven times, including two from defensive end Chop Robinson, the Maryland transfer. Tagovailoa finished the game 11-of-22 passing for 74 yards with zero touchdowns or interceptions. Jarrett, who torched Penn State during his last visit to Beaver Stadium in 2020, was the leading receiver with three catches for 30 yards.
King finished with two tackles and two pass breakups, while Dixon had one tackle and one pass breakup.
The 6-foot-2, 194-pound Porter is a potential first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and his combination of physical traits — notably his length — play on the field and his NFL bloodlines make him appealing to pro teams. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranks Porter as his No. 15 prospect, while ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., Jordan Reid and Matt Miller rank Porter as their No. 1 cornerback, while Todd McShay has him at No. 2.
Penn State has never had a defensive back drafted in the first round.
There was a host of NFL team personnel at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Porter and left tackle Olu Fashanu, the redshirt sophomore who has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury, are Penn State’s top NFL prospects currently.
“I think to date, Joey’s had a really good year,” cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said in October. “I think he’s deserving of the accolades that have come his way so far. He’s worked really hard to become a student of the game and to understand pass concepts that are coming at him, to understand the individual matchup of a receiver versus. him and the routes that that receiver is capable of running at him.”
Porter’s return will be worth monitoring. After the top quartet of King, Dixon, Hardy and Wilson, the other scholarship cornerbacks on the roster are redshirt freshman Jeffrey Davis Jr., freshman Cam Miller, who burned his redshirt earlier this season, and freshman Cristian Driver, who made his second career appearance Saturday.