On Wednesday, we took a look at some of the most pressing questions facing Penn State Football as they prepare for the 2017 season. Today we continue with the next five questions:
Will this be Joe Moorhead’s final season as Penn State’s offensive coordinator?
Moorhead proved the be even better than advertised as he took an offense that had been stuck in neutral (which is being very polite) and transformed it into one of the most dangerous in the nation in his first year as offensive coordinator. It didn’t take long for others to take notice, and by season’s end he was receiving strong interest from Purdue and UCONN for their head coaching vacancies. With a more experienced line and major talent throughout the skill positions, Penn State’s offense should be among the nation’s best from start-to-finish in 2017. If this happens, Moorhead could receive some very big offers at the end of the season- including one that may be just too good to turn down.
Which Penn State player could make a name for himself nationally in 2017?
Thanks to James Franklin’s abilities as a recruiter, Penn State has untapped potential throughout the roster that have fans itching to see what they can do once they see the field. Despite all the upcoming talent in the pipeline- especially at defensive end, the secondary, running back and receiver- I’ll go with a player who is preparing for his final season in a Penn State uniform- defensive tackle Curtis Cothran. He may seem like an odd choice, but Cothran showed massive improvement throughout 2016 and should only get better from here. The defensive line was significantly better with him in the line-up following a four game suspension to start the season, and as the season grew, so did his penchant for snuffing out ballcarriers in the backfield and making big plays. I’m betting that Cothran is among the national leaders in tackles for a loss and comes out of nowhere to become one of the Big Ten’s top defensive lineman in 2017.
Will Penn State’s offensive line finally take the next step to become one of the best in the Big Ten?
After years of atrocious play upfront the answer finally seems to be...Yes, you betcha, correctamundo. The offensive line got off to a slow start in 2016, but became visibly better with each passing week. This was a tremendous accomplishment considering the rash of injuries that forced many young players to see action earlier than expected, and oftentimes learning a new position on the fly. The unit somehow managed to put on a masterclass against one of the nation’s best front sevens in Wisconsin with four freshman (including two guards playing at tackle out of necessity) starting, which should tell you all you need to know about the potential of this unit moving forward. While the run blocking still has much room for improvement, an offseason working on technique and building strength should do wonders and possibly turn it into a strength- a rather exciting prospect when you consider #26 running through open lanes.
What’s the one game everyone should circle on the 2017 schedule?
Sorry for being Captain Obvious, but the Oct. 28 clash at Ohio State is the easy choice. While it’s typically Penn State’s biggest game each year, the 2017 version of the “rivalry-that’s-not-really-a-rivalry” should shape up to be the most significant in this series for some time. Both teams enter the season with huge expectations and possible top-five rankings. While Penn State returns more total starters, both welcome back loads of talent from a very young roster in 2016. This may not only be the Big Ten’s biggest game of the season, it could very well be among the most impactful game of the regular season with a potential playoff spot on the line.
Will Penn State repeat as Big Ten champions?
On paper, the easy answer is ‘yes’ considering the amount of starters who are returning and serious talent that has been waiting in the pipeline. But that is always easier said than done, especially when you share a division with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, who seems likely to bounce back after a poor season where they struggled to replace several key players from the 2015 playoff squad. The schedule sets up in a way where Penn State meets the three aforementioned teams in consecutive weeks- Michigan at home (Oct. 21), followed by trips to Ohio State (Oct. 28), and Michigan State (Nov. 4). Following this key stretch, we’ll have a much better idea if Penn State will be returning to Indianapolis to defend their Big Ten crown.