There may have been no Blue-White Game for us to pick apart through the summer, but James Franklin and Co. gave us a first look at what the team could look like on the field this fall.
The 2020 edition of Penn State Football offers some intriguing potential, with a delectable mix of returning talent and emerging players with untapped potential. Let’s jump right into how the team is shaping up a good four-and-a-half months (or so) before the start of the season:
-All eyes will be on the wide receivers from the very start, as the offense looks to replace KJ Hamler a year after no clear other options emerged as hopes. Jahan Dotson is the clear leader of the group, but it’s uncertain how things will look behind him. Daniel George is a former four-star prospect who saw quality time as a redshirt freshman, but had just nine catches for 100 yards on the season. Redshirt freshman TJ Jones has impressed enough to get the early nod, but has almost no experience after appearing in one game as a true freshman with no receptions. Jones entered Penn State as three-star prospect out of Lake City, Fla.
-It’s not a bold statement to say Penn State has the nation’s best tight end in Pat Freiermuth. 6-7 Zack Kuntz is slated behind him, and could help cause some fun mismatch opportunities when paired with Freiermuth.
-Fans should be very excited about a starting offensive line of Rasheed Walker, Mike Miranda, Michal Menet, C.J. Thorpe and Will Fries from left to right. There is a load of proven talent across the board, with plenty of star-power ready to join the mix behind them.
-Once again, there’s no shortage of talented running backs. Journey Brown leads the way, and a hot finish to the season has helped him make a name for himself as one of the top returning backs in the nation. Noah Cain and Devyn Ford return after strong true freshmen seasons. And incoming freshman Caziah Holmes has the plamaking potential that could make him the next huge name on Penn State’s offense. There’s also Tank Smith, a 5-7, 220 lb. unit who seems like the type of guy you would want to get the ball in short yardage situations, but what do I know?
-Sean Clifford and Will Levis return as QB1 and QB2 as expected. Clifford has the ability to blossom into a standout by finding more consistency in his second year as a starter, while Levis showed the athletic ability to get on the field while waiting for his chance to take over behind center.
-On defense, Antionio Shelton and PJ Mustipher will be the mainstays in the trenches. There’s plenty of potential behind them, but like the receiver group, it will be vital for a few to emerge early in the season.
-Shaka Toney decided to come back for his senior season, and could be prepping for an all-Big Ten year. Jayson Oweh has blinding speed and the potential to be an absolute terror on the other side. True sophomore Adisa Isaac could be primed for a breakout year after proving productive in limited quantaties last season.
-This linebacker group seems to be the best from top to bottom for some time in Happy Valley. Micah Parsons is very likely the best defensive player in all of college football heading into 2020. Brandon Smith, another five-star ‘backer, is penciled in on the other side after showing the ability to fill the hole and deliver a punishing hit in nanoseconds as a true freshman. Yet another five-star backer is listed right behind Smith, as Lance Dixon figures to see the field as a redshirt freshman. Ellis Brooks gets the nod to take over for Jan Johnson in the middle ahead of Jesse Luketa, but both will see plenty of time and play a key role for the defense this fall. There will be plenty of mixing-and-matching with this group, with little to no dropoff as more players see the field.
-Lamont Wade returns for his senior season after emerging as one of the defense’s top players as a junior. He will be opposite of Jaquan Brisker, a JUCO transfer in 2019 who saw his playing time increase throughout the course of the season. Tariq Castro-Fields returns and should bounce back after a disappointing junior season when he played through nagging injuries, while Donovan Johnson is set to fill the shoes of John Reid,
-We all became enamored with Jordan Stout’s big leg last season, but it appears he’s in for much more in his second year at Penn State. Stout is listed as the team’s kicker, punter, kickoff specialist AND holder, meaning he will be holding his own field goals confounding physicists and special teams coaches alike. Now that would have added some excitement to this year’s Blue-White Game. Fortunately, Chris Stoll is set as a longsnapper, meaning at least Stout won’t have to snap the ball to himself.
-Micah Parsons is listed as the kickoff returner, but I’ll believe that when I see it.
Penn State wasn’t finished though, as they released a second depth chart following....well, nothing. The updated depth chart didn’t offer too many changes, but Jake Pinegar reclaimed his role as starting kicker and Journey Brown and Devyn Ford found their way back as kickoff returners.