Let’s pick up where we left off on Tuesday by taking a close look at Penn State’s offensive line and tight end positions for 2019.
Starter: Pat Freiermuth
Reserves: Nick Bowers, Jonathan Holland, Zack Kuntz, Danny Dalton,
The most pleasant surprise of the Nittany Lion offense in 2018 was the play of true freshman Pat Freiermuth, who performed well beyond his years and showed serious All-American potential. Freiermuth is also an exceptional blocker, and the team’s primary red zone threat, catching eight touchdowns in 2018 and four in the final three games.
Nick Bowers is a threat in the passing game when healthy, and ended the season with his best performance by catching three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl. Zack Kuntz should see the field as a redshirt freshman, and could create all sorts of match-up problems at 6-foot-7. This is all without mentioning senior Jon Holland, who started four games this past season.
It looks like Penn State is well-stocked with talent at tight end for the foreseeable future.
Starters: LT - Will Fries, LG - Steven Gonzalez, C - Michal Menet, RG - Mike Miranda, RT - Rasheed Walker
Reserves: LT - Alex Gellerstedt, ; LG - Bryce Effner; C - Zach Simpson, Juice Scruggs; RG - Des Holmes, CJ Thorpe; RT -Anthony Whigan, Gellerstedt
Even with the early departures of Ryan Bates and Conner McGovern, Penn State still returns three starters and plenty of experience in 2019. The left side of the line returns intact, with Fries, Gonzalez and Menet ready to step back into their starting roles. Mike Miranda has played well as a reserve, and has done nothing but garner praise from the coaching staff since joining the program. The only real question mark heading into the season is right tackle. Rasheed Walker is coming off a redshirt season but is expected to do big things in Happy Valley. Walker is a four-star prospect who was ranked as the second-best player in Maryland in 2018, and picked Penn State over Ohio State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Michigan and many others. Another possibility is Anthony Whigan, a four-star JUCO transfer who joined as part of the current 2019 class. Whigan will have two years of eligibility at Penn State, and is already with the team as an early enrollee.
While the offensive line hasn’t dominated as fans have hoped, there is still reason to be very optimistic about the future of the unit. James Franklin has successfully recruited blue-chip prospects in the trenches, adding depth and talent that had been lacking when he took over in the midst of the NCAA sanctions. If it feels like we’ve been saying this for years, it’s because we have- the offensive line has made major progress, but still can’t be pointed to as a strength. Perhaps 2019 is the year that finally changes.
Expect true freshman Caedan Wallace to see time up to the maximum four games worth of action while keeping him in redshirt. Should Penn State land Doug Nester, the same could be said for him.
C.J. Thorpe’s position heading forward is a mystery at this point. He switched to defensive tackle early in 2018 and saw time, but it was only supposed to be a temporary move to help with depth issues. However, he may remain on defense where he could compete for a starting position, or at the very least be a key reserve who is a regular part of the rotation.