1. The Offensive Line
The line should be much improved from 2014, based solely on the increased depth and experience. This season Penn State won't be forced to rely on guys who have never seen the field in a college game suddenly being tasked with stopping future NFL defensive lineman. They will not need to hand the reigns of the interior line to players who recently made the transition from defense after spending their first year or two learning a completely different position on the other side of the ball. If this line can go from 'atrocious' to 'below average,' Penn State could have a complete turnaround on offense and be a very dangerous team.
However, this is still the same unit that allowed the most sacks in a single-season in Big Ten history. Yes, we should see a marked improvement, but many Nittany Lions faithful will be holding their collective breath each time Christian Hackenberg drops back to throw until this unit proves themselves. The potential is there, but they will need to establish their ability on the field before anyone really believes this offensive line is built for a run at a Big Ten Championship.
2. Befuddling Play Calls
I consider myself an extremely patient fan, especially in contrast to the "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" mentality that suggests every quarterback be benched after an interception and every head coach needs run out of town for not having the ability to win every single game, every single season. But even I was having a hard time understanding some of the game-planning throughout the 2014 season. Yes, the struggles of the offensive line severely limited the options on offense- but why almost never use the middle of the field? Why insist on so many slow-developing plays with a line that couldn't hold their blocks for more than a split-second? I could go on all day, but let me pass the mic to bscaff, who has the best take I've come across about last season's dysfunction:
"But seriously, though - what kind of asshole steals Urban Meyer's TE Trap Read Option play, thinking he can run it with Kyle Carter - who can't block - as the trapping/blocking TE, and Christian Hackenberg - who can't run - as the read option QB, in place of Jeff Heurmann/Nick Vannett, and Braxton Miller/JT Barrett? Why would you do that? How is that smart?
Does Urban Meyer make Miller go under center, take a 5-step drop, and fire timing routes off of a progression read as a change of pace? (No, he does not.) Did Chip Kelly recruit giant, road-grading, slow-footed blocking TEs and split them out wide? Lane Kiffin. Lane bleeping Kiffin doesn't spend practice time installing read-option plays for Matt Barkley, because Lane Kiffin is not that stupid.
If you gave John Donovan a castle Lego kit, he'd try to make an airplane. That appears to be the kind of psychotic we have in charge of our offense."
3. Unhappy Receivers
This may be a reach, but with so many young receivers and tight ends expected to take a major step forward, there just won't be enough balls to go around to make everyone the breakout star we're hoping for. Great teams have the chemistry to work through these kinds of issues- everyone understands their role, and how they contribute to a successful team. But all it takes is one or two extremely unhappy players to unhinge that chemistry that creates a toxic atmosphere and even divide a locker room along the way. Hopefully this is a topic that never comes up in the fall.