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Penn State football: James Franklin offers early update on SEC transfer portal additions

Penn State football coach James Franklin is happy with the progress made by a pair of SEC transfer portal additions on the defensive side of the ball.



Penn State football, James Franklin, AJ Harris, Jalen Kimber, transfer portal
Sep 17, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators cornerback Jalen Kimber (8) reacts after breaking up a pass against the South Florida Bulls during the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football took a big swing in the transfer portal this offseason, and came away with what is likely the best portal class of the James Franklin era. The Nittany Lions made a particularly notable push to replenish a defensive back room depleted of veteran talent, adding SEC cornerbacks AJ Harris and Jalen Kimber. Last week, Franklin offered insight into the transition of his SEC additions two weeks into spring practice.

Franklin “pleased” with progress of Jalen Kimber and AJ Harris early in spring ball

The Penn State cornerback room in 2024 will look much different from the one that has been among the best in college football over the last two seasons. Gone are NFL Draft hopefuls Kalen King, Daequan Hardy, and Johnny Dixon, presenting opportunities for new faces to step up and take charge.

With only one combined start across the room heading into the offseason, the Nittany Lions needed veteran voices for 2024. James Franklin turned to the transfer portal, bringing in AJ Harris from Georgia and Jalen Kimber from Florida. Last week, Franklin provided an update on how his newest additions are transitioning to Happy Valley.

“I just think their maturity and their presence [has been impressive],” Franklin said on Tuesday. “Kimber has played a ton of football, and, as you guys know, AJ was a very, very highly recruited young man. And both of them, I think, have adjusted really well. They both adjusted extremely well. I think they’re enjoying themselves. I’ve had a bunch of meetings with those guys; I think they’re happy, and they’re enjoying themselves, and playing well.

Kimber’s situation in terms of [being] kind of late in his career is different than AJ’s situation. But I’ve been very, very pleased with their adjustment, and they seem happy.”

How will these SEC additions factor in for Penn State football?

We don’t have to wonder what a trial by fire could look like for a young Nittany Lion secondary in 2024. Look no further than December’s Peach Bowl, when Penn State football surrendered 394 yards through the air.

Jalen Kimber will provide a much-needed veteran presence for the young unit. The Mansfield, Texas, native started 11 games for Florida last fall, recording 23 tackles and five pass breakups. A former four-star recruit, Kimber appeared in 25 games for the Gators over two seasons. He also spent three years at Georgia, where he appeared in three games, missing the 2022 season with an injury.

AJ Harris, on the other hand, will be a much longer-term transfer portal addition for the Nittany Lions. A former five-star recruit, Harris made eight tackles in seven games for Georgia during his freshman year. The Phenix City, Alabama, native will likely factor in with Penn State’s other young corner talent, including Cam Miller, Zion Tracy, and Elliot Washington, for playing time in 2024.

Undoubtedly, cornerback will be one of the most exciting positions to watch on the defensive side for Penn State football coming out of the spring and into fall camp. The steps taken by the young room will likely help decide if James Franklin and the Nittany Lions can get out of a crowded Big Ten and make a push in the first year of an expanded College Football Playoff.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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