1. Will there be any coaching staff changes?
One of the big complaints of the James Franklin era is that there is always coaching turnover. While that’s largely the way of college football in the modern era, it is true that staff continuity hasn’t been a strength the last few seasons in Happy Valley. It hasn’t been since the 2017 season that Penn State returned every member of its full-time coaching staff.
Will this be the offseason where the trend is bucked? Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks has already been linked to the vacant Michigan defensive coordinator spot, so that is one where smoke might lead to fire. Tight ends coach Tyler Bowen is a rising star in the industry, and after a strong performance calling plays in the bowl game last season, it wouldn’t be shocking if he got a larger opportunity at another school.
2. Beyond Jayson Oweh and Pat Freiermuth, who else enters the NFL Draft?
The Nittany Lions already lost Pat Freiermuth and Jayson Oweh to the NFL Draft, but to be honest, those were set in stone prior to the season. Now will come the real swinging decisions for Penn State — offensive tackle Rasheed Walker, wide receiver Jahan Dotson, safety JaQuan Brisker, and cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields.
Dotson had the strongest year of the group, finishing with 52 receptions for 884 yards and 8 touchdowns, so one could argue what else does he have to prove at the college level? As was pointed out last week, Dotson had the equivalent of a 75/1,277/11 season in a normal 13-game season; are those numbers that he could outproduce next season?
The answer might likely be no, but still: does that mean that Dotson can’t get better with another season in college? I get the idea that if you’re already a good football player, you might as well get a salary for it, but the difference between a 6th round pick and a 3rd round pick is pretty drastic. If you don’t think so, look at how many third rounders get cut their rookie season versus sixth rounders.
The three others have curious cases too:
- Rasheed Walker: Despite the up-and-down play, 6-foot-6, 310-pound left tackles who flash dominance are going to get drafted. For Walker though, it’s about moving from the middle rounds to coming back for one more year to improve his stock to the 1st or 2nd round.
- JaQuan Brisker: He’s long, he’s big, he’s a really good athlete, and things were just beginning to click for the former JUCO transfer. I am biased, but a more complete season in 2021 could solidify Brisker’s draft status.
- Tariq Castro-Fields: TCF came back to improve his draft stock, but he wasn’t able to do that because of an injury that limited him to just three games. Again, biased here, but another go around in 2021 seems like it would be a good move to improve his draft stock.
3. Transfer portal: taketh and giveth?
Penn State already lost Antonio Shelton and Judge Culpepper to the transfer portal, while it gained Baylor running back John Lovett. Folks, let me tell you, this is very much only the start of what will be a wild transfer portal offseason not just for the Nittany Lions, but for the NCAA as a whole.
James Franklin warned Nittany Nation that Penn State would be “active” this offseason when it came to transfer. One look at James Franklin’s most recent Twitter follows — Temple defensive end Arnold Ebiketie and Duke defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo — shows that.
With this weird COVID season where players were granted another year of eligibility combined with the NCAA allowing players to transfer free of penalty, and it has created college football free agency. If you’re James Franklin and Penn State, as much as he might disagree with it, you have to change with the times. This offseason will be a big test just how much he’s willing to change.