It’s here folks: I have reached peak off-season optimism about this team.
I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to Penn State football - every year I think they can Win the Big One™ and that This is the Year™, then when they lose some dumb game in a dumb way I switch to This Team is Garbage™ and Why Do I Spend My Time on this Crap™.
I’ll make no apologies for vacillating so, but I just wanted to give you a disclaimer that when Penn State drops a game against Minnesota because of a deflected pass that somehow gets caught by a different receiver to set up the game winning field goal, I’ll be first in line with my pitchfork.
But for now?
It’s 15-0 or GTFO season, baby!
Let’s start with the offense.
Up front, we lost our two best offensive linemen, and one of them didn’t even get drafted! How is the team supposed to actually have a line? Well, allow me to retort! While having McGovern and Bates back would have been yuuuge, I’m very optimistic about the line with the additions of C.J. Thorpe and Rasheed Walker. They’re fantastic athletes with nasty streaks in them, and they’re being inserted on opposite sides of the line - right guard and left tackle, respectively. They’ll have established veterans around them to help cover any learning curve.
Then we’ve got quarterback, and let me just say that I’m all aboard the Sean Clifford Hype Train™. Guy can sling it, and can scramble pretty well. He’s no McSorley in the run game, but he won’t have to be when he drops pinpoint dimes all over the field.
Then there’s the rest of the skill players - Ricky Slade, Journey Brown, Noah Cain at running back . . . Justin Shorter, KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson at wide receiver . . . Pat Freiermuth, Nick Bowers, Zack Kuntz at tight end - that is a LOT of firepower.
And lastly, Ricky Rahne is going to continue to tweak the offense and improve as a second year coordinator. This offense will be just fine.
And what’s better is they won’t have to go it alone.
Brent Pry is going to have the most talented defense he’s ever had at Penn State. Up front, Robert Windsor AKA Big Bobby Dubs will lock down the 3-Tech, while PJ Mustipher is going to actually eat people at the 1-Tech. A defensive end combo of Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney is sack lunch city baby, num num num num.
Then there’s the linebacking unit - Micah Parsons, Jan Johnson or Ellis Brooks, and Cam Brown is stupid talented, and the backups are just as good.
In the secondary we’ll have John Reid, Garrett Taylor, Lamont Wade, and Tariq Castro-Fields, one of the best defensive backfields in the conference.
This defense is gonna be good, y’all.
And let’s not forget special teams! Joe Lorig comes in and brings with him an excellent history of coaching STs. Blake Gillikin is going to continue putting returners on an island, Jake Pinegar has a year of place kicking experience under his belt, and Rafael Checa is working toward becoming a touchback machine. KJ Hamler AKA The Human Joystick and Journey Brown AKA The Human Turbo Button on returns? Hoo boy.
All three phases of this team will be good-to-great, with exceptional depth across the team. There are no glaring weaknesses, or locations where an injury would suddenly derail a season.
15-0 or GTFO, let’s gooooooooo