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BSD Mailbag 5.6.16

You've got questions, BSD has answers!

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

What do you believe is the best record the Nittany Lions could achieve in 2016? I am talking realistically. Not 15–0 or GTFO. I am pretty excited about the offense. I think it’s a type of offense that the Big Ten hasn’t seen much with the type of athletes that Penn State has on their roster. Gerry Dincher

This season is difficult to predict, not only because we can't be certain what to expect with a young yet talented Penn State team, but also because Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State will all be breaking in plenty of new personnel in 2016. Personally, I'm expecting another 7-5 campaign with so many new starters at the defensive line and quarterback positions, as well as an offensive line still in a state of major flux. There is just too much transition at key positions, as well as the growing pains of learning a new offense, to set expectations very high.

Say everything comes together- the offensive line becomes a functional unit, Trace McSorley channels 2012 Matt McGloin, the defensive line play beyond their years, the linebackers stay healthy and Moorhead produces an explosive offense in year one- then the team could put together 9, heck, even 10 wins with a few lucky bounces. But for now, I'd say it would be wise to temper expectations while seeing if the team can progress throughout the season (something that has been sorely lacking thus far in Franklin's tenure at Penn State) with an eye on a potentially very big 2017.

What will be this season's most annoying and overplayed "Evan Royster played lacrosse"? jman07

I see two things coming up on a weekly basis. The first overly used comment will be that Saquon Barkley set a Penn State record with a 390 lb. powerclean, complete with video during one transition from a commercial break (most likely after Barkley's first big play of each game). The other will focus on Trace McSorley's size (provided he's Penn State's starting quarterback in the fall) and the fact that he had an enormous amount of success in high school.

I can already hear it...

"This McSorley kid doesn't have your prototypical size for a quarterback, but he's one scrappy player. And how about this- in high school he led his team to FOUR state championships! Who says size matters?? (chuckling at own comment)."

What's the possibility we see by design two different QBs play for PSU in the first game? psualum9931

I just don't see two quarterbacks splitting time this fall. I might feel differently if the two leading candidates had vastly different skillsets- say one pocket passer and one dual-threat, especially considering the lack of experience at the position. However, McSorley and Stevens have somewhat similar playing styles and considering Moorhead's uptempo, multi-purpose offense, it just seems like he will need to settle on one quarterback and depend on his chemistry with the other players to keep the offense running smoothly.

What player or position group excited you the most after seeing them? Which concerned you the most? Former_DC_Buck

As expected, the wide receiver group really wowed me. Something that really stood out to me was DaeSean Hamilton's footwork- we already know he runs excellent routes and has tremendous hands, but he seemed to have added some additional explosiveness during the offseason which will make him more of a threat after the catch. Chris Godwin seemed even stronger than a year ago when he had an excellent breakout season. I can see him making plenty of big-time catches with defenders draped all over him. Saeed Blacknall finally seemed comfortable in the offense and looks to play a much larger role this fall. He has the size and speed to be a dangerous weapon for the next two seasons. Juwan Johnson didn't produce any eye-popping moments that I was hoping for, but you can see him starting to put things together and should begin to reach his massive potential this fall. De'Andre Thompkins also looked more at ease and it appears that Moorhead will be able to utilize his blazing speed to get him in open space- something we had been hoping for but never really materialized in 2015.

If you want to add the tight ends to the group, Mike Gesicki's catches were a sign that he has gotten out of his own head and will be able to hold on to the ball so he can be trusted to create mismatches that come with such a speedy, 6-5 target. Walk-on Tom Pancoast also seems to be poised to be a surprise contributor this fall.

I can't believe I'm writing this but my biggest concern was the linebackers. Sure, the position is in excellent hands with the starting trio of Brandon Bell, Jason Cabinda and Nyeem Wartman-White. However, I was hoping a couple of the younger players would really stand out, and after multiple viewings i just didn't see that happen. It will be crucial for the starters to stay healthy throughout the season. If not, the offseason departure of Troy Reeder could have a major impact this season as the more inexperienced reserves continue to develop.

Talk about how the staff will divide carries among three four very talented running backs, please. Dinsdale

Assuming the trio of Andre Robinson, Mark Allen and Miles Sanders are ready to become regular contributors in 2016, it does seem difficult to figure out how there will be enough carries to go around. However, if you take a close look at the numbers, there's a way to get everyone to contribute so that Penn State will regularly have a fresh running back attacking a (hopefully) tired defense.

Moorhead has mentioned that he hopes to run 80-85 plays on offense per game. Let's say the team averages 82 snaps and 35 pass attempts (I don't see McSorley/Stevens airing it out to the tune of 40-plus attempts per game at this point). The leaves 47 rushing attempts each game. Obviously, Barkley will take the lion's share, so let's say he averages 19 carries a game. While it seems a back of Barkley's caliber should receive 25-plus carries per contest, just imagine the damage a fresh Barkley can do late in the third and fourth quarters, as opposed to a season ago when he was taxed with carrying nearly the entire offense and taking a pounding week in and out.

Sanders comes in with even higher recruiting marks than Barkley, so the superstar-in-the-making could receive about 10 carries a game. That leaves 18 to divide between Robinson and Allen, who each seem capable of doing damage with the ball in their hands.

If the aforementioned balancing act comes to fruition, it will mean extremely good things for Penn State's offense to have so many talented running backs who will remain fresh throughout the game and wear down an opposing defense. The question remains if everyone will be ready to produce by the fall. Robinson has plenty of hype and showed flashes during the Blue-White Game, but we just can't say for sure what to expect just yet. Allen continues to defy expectations and demonstrated throughout the spring that he's too good to keep off the field as he continues to progress. The biggest wildcard may be Sanders. Yes, he's expected to shine immediately as he steps foot on the field, but it's never an easy task to project the immediate impact for a true freshman at any position, let alone running back. Pretty much any elite high school running back has so much raw talent that they're able to simply run past/through defenders so it may take time to adjust and learn how to be a patient runner, wait for your blocks, learn how to use their field vision, etc. While I do think Sanders will see plenty of time this fall, it's just always best to temper expectations for true freshmen until they have time to work with their new team and acclimate to the major step up to playing in the Big Ten.

Why was McGovern at tackle? I thought he projected as a center and was recruited as a center, seems like an odd shift. I could understand guard but tackle seems odd. UPSUPhilly

Franklin was upfront about the possibility of McGovern playing tackle way back on Signing Day in February. A big part of Franklin's recruiting strategy for the offensive line is to take players with versatility who can be plugged in and perform well across the line.

"We try to recruit guys that create flexibility,'' Franklin said of offensive linemen. "I'm not a big believer in recruiting guys that are going to play guard and guard only, or center and center only. You'd like to recruit guys that create flexibility.''

I doubt McGovern will mind all that much if he lines up in a few different spots during the next four or five years. The more versatility he displays in college will only add value to his NFL draft stock down the road.