No matter how you want to slice it, the Penn State Nittany Lions are having a successful season. Their win total was set at 8.5 prior to the start of the regular season and 2019 was viewed as a rebuilding year. Well, the Nittany Lions are now a victory over a Rutgers team on Senior Day away from finishing the regular season 10-2 and possibly earning a New Year’s Six Bowl birth. That’s a pretty successful rebuilding year.
A big reason for the team’s success this season has been the emergence of young players. Jayson Oweh, Journey Brown, Noah Cain, Rasheed Walker, and Sean Clifford all come to mind as breakout players in 2019. Now, opportunity is knocking for other young Nittany Lions.
Saturday’s game should be a blowout. This creates the opportunity for the Nittany Lions to finish the season strong while showcasing young players looking to take the next step.
After leaving the Ohio State game due to an injury, Sean Clifford may not play this week. Regardless of how much he does or does not play on Saturday, we will likely see a lot of redshirt freshman Will Levis who nearly sparked what would have been a historic rally against the Buckeyes. This is a great opportunity for Levis to get valuable game reps.
The biggest disappointment on offense this season has been the inability for a wide receiver not named KJ Hamler or Jahan Dotson to emerge. Saturday afternoon should present plenty of opportunities for redshirt freshmen Daniel George to show he’s in a position to take that step entering 2020.
With Ricky Slade having become a non commodity and Cain still battling injury, true freshman running back Devyn Ford could see plenty of playing time against Rutgers. In limited action this season Ford has flashed averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Saturday could be a coming out party for Ford.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions will lose a good bit of talent after the season ends. Luckily for James Franklin, Brent Pry and company, there is a ton of talent waiting in the wings. Saturday’s game should present the opportunity for future key defensive cogs such as Adisa Isaac, Damion Barber, Jonathan Sutherland, Judge Culpepper, Keaton Ellis, and Marquis Wilson all fit this bill.
It would not be a surprise to see true freshmen that are not in danger of burning their redshirts see plenty of reps on Saturday. Wide receivers John Dunmore and TJ Jones, tight end Brenton Strange, defensive linemen Smith Vilbert and Hakeem Beamon, and safety Tyler Rudolph all come to mind. Also, with Clifford potentially out, it would not be a shocker to see TaQuan Roberson and/or Michael Johnson Jr. get a series at quarterback on Saturday afternoon.
There are a lot of pros to finishing the regular season with an opponent such as Rutgers. One of the biggest is the ability for young players to have the opportunity to accumulate invaluable game reps, while also finishing their season on a high note to build confidence. That opportunity is knocking for the Nittany Lions this Saturday.