For the past two seasons, Penn State's offensive line has been among the worst in the nation. While the Nittany Lions had some impressive talent throughout the skill positions, a lack of pocket time and running lanes doomed the offense to a nearly complete lack of productivity more often than not.
Looking ahead to 2016 and a new and improved offense led by freshly-minted offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, there is finally some hope for that the offensive line will begin to trend upwards as the program looks to re-join the nation's elite.
Now that the team has begun spring practice, there's no doubt that the hottest position battles will take place up front. Penn State returns many experienced players along the line, but tackle Andrew Nelson may be the only one with a starting spot locked down heading into the fall. Veterans Paris Palmer, Derek Dowrey, Brian Gaia and Wendy Laurent will now be pushed hard by younger linemen who have been waiting in the wings and preparing for the rigors of playing in the trenches in the Big Ten.
I see things working out on of three ways:
-The coaches go with experience, and we see a lineup such as Palmer, Dowrey, Laurent, Gaia and Nelson and hope they show significant progress with another offseason under their belts.
-The coaches decide to blow things up and throw several young players into the fire with an eye on the future, as Penn State once again encounters the growing pains associated with an extremely inexperienced line who are trying to learn on the fly.
-The coaches find the just the right combination of youth and experience that yields results to gradually propel the offense into a new and exciting era of Penn State football.
My guess is the final of the three, with somewhat mixed results. The line will assuredly go through some growing pains in this scenario, but has the talent to gel as the season progresses and show a marked improvement over the disasters upfront we witness is '14 and '15. It may be hard to keep players like Ryan Bates, Steven Gonzalez and Connor McGovern off the field, while Sterling Jenkins, Chance Sorrell, Noah Beh and even true freshman Michal Menet will fight tooth and nail to see major playing time this fall.
"There is reason to hope," Franklin on offensive line. Said young talent challenging for jobs is really important for older guys' motivation— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) March 14, 2016
So what say you, loyal BSD reader? Who do you expect to start upfront, and what are your overall expectations for the unit? Is it time for optimism, or should we expect more of the same for yet another season?