One of the most difficult parts of being a loyal college football fan is saying goodbye. We get excited with the announcement of each incoming recruit who decide to make State College their new home, and then watch that player grow and develop as a student-athlete for the next three-to-five years until they move on to greener pastures, either to continue playing football or to follow other pursuits. In the moment, it’s often hard to imagine the team without certain players. Yet new faces step in, the world keeps spinning and the team continues to chug along.
With that in mind, which of the players who had their final season as a Nittany Lion in 2016 will be the most difficult to replace?
Chris Godwin was the most talented of the bunch, and went out on a high note with an epic Rose Bowl performance which fully displayed his immense playmaking ability. Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan were terrific bookends at defensive end, and always seemed to become more impactful as the game progressed each week. Brian Gaia was the elder statesman who helped guide a young offensive line to unexpected success. Malik Golden was the unsung hero of a talented secondary, while Von Walker provided valuable leadership as the captain of the special teams and made several key plays throughout the season. Don’t forget about Tyler Yazujian, who was nearly pitch-perfect as the team’s long snapper during the last few seasons.
The one Nittany Lion who will be hardest to replace seems to be Brandon Bell. Penn State just doesn’t have its typical depth at the linebacker position, which really pales in comparison to the extraordinary amount of young talent in other areas thanks to the recruiting prowess of James Franklin and company. Bell has incredible playmaking ability, and at several times throughout the year took it upon himself to make a resounding momentum-shifting play that helped point the Nittany Lions toward victory. His passion for the game was also unmatched, and possessed the type of leadership needed for any team to take the next step into greatness to become championship-caliber. He will be missed, but hopefully it won’t be too long before another member of Linebacker U. earns the right to don the #11 jersey as he flies around the field, making huge plays and punishing opponents each Saturday.
So what say you, BSD reader? Which departing Penn State player will be the most difficult to replace in 2017?