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Penn State true freshman named player to watch in 2023

Penn State LB Tony Rojas has generated a lot of buzz this spring. Now, Rojas has been named one of the true freshmen to watch in 2023.



Penn State LB Tony Rojas, Penn State Football, true freshmen to watch
Penn State freshman linebacker Tony Rojas greets family, friends and fans in the stands after playing in the Blue-White game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, April 15, 2023, in State College.

Penn State football saw several true freshmen emerge as impact players last season. From Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen on offense to Abdul Carter on defense, young stars graced both sides of the ball for the Nittany Lions in 2022. Ever since pen hit paper on signing day for the class of 2023, fans and experts have been looking for the next true freshman star to surface. Now, as spring turns to summer, the Nittany Lions may have found that standout in LB Tony Rojas.

Penn State LB Tony Rojas named true freshmen to watch in the 2023 season

On Monday, Chris Hummer of 247Sports published a piece titled “The Next Wave: 100 true freshmen who will impact the 2023 college football season.” Among the list of 13 true freshmen to watch from the Big Ten was Penn State LB Tony Rojas.

Penn State’s linebacker room is deep, so it would’ve taken a special spring performance for any true freshman to draw buzz,” the piece said of Rojas. “The 6-foot-2 Rojas added 30 pounds since arriving in Happy Valley in January as an early enrollee, and he’s impressed everyone in and around the program with his effort.”

Penn State coaching staff has been impressed with Rojas so far

Rojas’s weight gain this spring has been widely discussed by the Penn State coaching staff. During spring practice, James Franklin noted that Rojas is “gaining more and more confidence every single day” and that he’s only put on “good weight” since arriving on campus. “Every time I go to the nutrition bar, he is sitting there eating — after practice, he is getting an extra pump in, and he is playing fast and carrying the weight really well,” Franklin said.

This sentiment was echoed by defensive coordinator Manny Diaz during media availability last week. Diaz mentioned that the Penn State coaches had no doubt Rojas could put on the weight, but were perhaps surprised by how quickly he did so.

“I don’t know if we knew it would happen in three months’ time, but we knew he would be exactly the size we want,” Diaz said. “I’m proud of him — proud of the way he played in the spring game, you know, I think he has picked up the defense pretty well — he’s a bright kid — and he loves to play. On his high school tape, I thought he was as good as anybody in the country, and we’re very blessed to have him.”

Rojas is primed to make an impact on the field

A four-star recruit out of Fairfax, Virginia, Tony Rojas was the No. 3 overall player in his home state in the 2023 cycle, according to 247Sports. Rojas excelled on both sides of the ball in high school, recording over 1,700 total yards of offense and 27 touchdowns as a running back, on top of 40 tackles and 7 sacks as a linebacker.

This spring, Rojas has been turning heads in more than just the weight room. The true freshman was one of the standouts of spring practice. During April’s Blue-White Game, Rojas led the team with 9 total tackles, including 6 solo tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss.

Penn State football is no stranger to standout true freshmen linebackers, with both Micah Parsons and Abdul Carter becoming standouts in their first years in Happy Valley. While kickoff against West Virginia is over two months away, Tony Rojas is taking all the necessary steps to become a mainstay in the Nittany Lion defense this fall.

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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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