A 'retired kick returner,' Penn State's Koa Farmer might have another chance

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Penn State linebacker Koa Farmer pulls down Pitt quarterback Ben DiNucci (3) on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa. Penn State won, 33-14.

Some Penn State fans have a difficult time remembering that Koa Farmer, now a 237-pound outside linebacker, was the team’s leading kickoff returner two years ago, averaging 22.5 yards on 18 kickoffs.

Now, he says, “I’m a retired kickoff returner.”

That retirement, however, may not last much longer especially if opposing teams decide they’d rather kick to anyone but Saquon Barkley, whom coach James Franklin said will be the Nittany Lions’ man on kickoff returns for the foreseeable future.

Farmer is one of the up men on the return unit, so he could see some action when teams kick away from Barkley.

“I think when 26 (Barkley) is back there … I mean, I wouldn’t want to kick it to him,” Farmer said Tuesday at Penn State’s weekly teleconference. “I’m looking at the ball every single time we go out there to get that opportunity. I always tell coach (Charles) Huff, ‘If I take it back, you’d better put me back on kickoff returns.’

“But it’s fun. That’s how dangerous our special teams are, and that’s how important special teams are for us, and just to get that opportunity is good.”

Farmer, from Lake View Terrace, Calif., came to Penn State as a 208-pound safety but was moved to linebacker after the third game of last season and gradually has become more accustomed to his new position. In Saturday’s 33-14 win over Pittsburgh, Farmer was in on eight tackles, including a sack.

He gives Penn State, and defensive coordinator Brent Pry, a versatile player on the outside.

“I’m kind of like a safety-type linebacker,” he said. “Like safeties are fast, but linebackers are big and strong. I think I kind of have both in a way.”