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Looking Ahead: Offensive Players to Know

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2020 backups like Devyn Ford and Zack Kuntz could be see much larger roles in 2021.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Memphis v Penn State Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

While the playing of the 2020 season remains in the balance, it hasn’t stopped Penn State from opening up fall camp. Whether there is a season come this September or not, the practices over the next few weeks are pivotal for the program that saw its spring practices wiped away.

Today, let’s take a look at one player from each offensive position (sans QB) that might not play a starting role in 2020, but heads into preseason practices with a lot to gain when you look towards the 2021 season.

Note: I didn’t pick any true freshmen.


RUNNING BACK

Devyn Ford (SO)

Ford enters camp coming off a strong freshman season where he totaled 294 rushing yards on 52 carries. At a lot of schools, Ford would be the clear-cut No. 1 running back — but that’s not the case at Penn State. Instead, Ford is currently slotted as the third running back, behind Journey Brown and fellow sophomore Noah Cain. He also faces stiff competition for that third running back spot, as Penn State brought in two more four-star running backs: Caziah Holmes (who enrolled in January) and Keyvone Lee.

Although it’s tough to know what Journey Brown’s next move would be should the season be cancelled, I think the expectation going into the season was that if Journey had the season he’s capable of, that he would declare early for the NFL Draft. If that ends up being the case, it puts Ford in a prime position to see a major increase in carries come 2021 — that is, if he can hold off Holmes and Lee. Because of that, these next few weeks are big for Ford. He has the chance to not only solidify his role in 2020, but also to keep himself ahead of the game come 2021.

WIDE RECEIVER

John Dunmore (RS FR)

Honestly, any of the wide receivers outside of Jahan Dotson could be placed here, but I’m going with John Dunmore. Dunmore was a big recruiting victory for Penn State in the 2019 class, holding off the in-state Miami Hurricanes from flipping him late. While it was no surprise that the 6-foot-1 Dunmore redshirted last season — as a recruit, he routinely weighed in in the 170-180-pound area — but it seemed to be a rather quiet first year for Dunmore. That’s fine, but for someone who came into Happy Valley with as much hype as he did, you would have expected a little bit more noise.

Regardless of his first season, Dunmore is now primed with a great chance to see the field — not only in 2020, but obviously 2021 too. As he continues to get bigger and stronger (now listed at 190 pounds) and begins to use his physicality more (one of his major weaknesses in high school), he’ll bring a different dimension to Penn State’s wide receiver corps. Whether that happens in 2020 or 2021 remains to be seen, though.

TIGHT END

Zack Kuntz (RS SO)

With Pat Freiermuth almost assuredly heading to the NFL in 2021, it will finally commence the Zack Kuntz era at Penn State. If you remember, Kuntz was the higher-ranked prospect between the two back in 2018; due in large part to his massive 6-foot-7 frame. While it was no surprise that Freiermuth was ready sooner — Kuntz had just 220 pounds on his lanky frame when he enrolled — it seems like Kuntz is finally physically where he needs to be, now checking in at 252 pounds.

Kuntz isn’t going to be the complete, do-it-all tight end that Freiermuth was. But his receiving chops should be just as good — if not better — than his 2018 recruiting classmate. Again, he’s a 6-foot-7, 252-pound kid that runs like a gazelle — there’s very much Mike Gesicki 2.0 potential here.

Kuntz is in a similar place as Devyn Ford, though, because the tight end room is stacked. Rising redshirt freshman Brenton Strange might not have the ridiculous size — he checks in at just 6-foot-3, 248 pounds — but he’s athletically right there with any tight end in the country. And then there’s the 6-foot-6, 258-pound true freshman Theo Johnson, who might have the most potential out of any tight end on the roster.

Basically, Kuntz isn’t going to have the starting tight end job bestowed to him in 2021. If he takes the field against Wisconsin to open the season in 2021, it will be because he held off the rest of the thoroughbreds in the tight end room.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Caedan Wallace (RS FR)

If there is no 2020 season, Penn State’s offensive line is probably the group that sees the most change. I say “probably” because who knows how the NCAA deals with redshirt seniors. Would they still be eligible in 2021? If they are, do guys want to stick around for a 6th year? And then on top of that, there’s the chances Rasheed Walker bolts to the NFL — though, again, who knows what the chances of that. On one hand, he has just one year of game film out there. On the other hand, the 2021 NFL Draft is going to be a total crapshoot if there is no season, so perhaps it makes sense for a high-potential player like Walker to go?

My main point: there’s a scenario where Penn State is having to replace both offensive tackles in 2021. That’s where redshirt freshman Caedan Wallace steps in.

Wallace was originally thought to be an offensive guard recruit, but as he lost weight and re-shaped his body prior to his arrival at Penn State, it seemed like he could be pushed out to offensive tackle. That’s exactly what happened when he got to Penn State, with Wallace taking reps at right tackle last season.

If Fries doesn’t come back in 2021, I think it’s a safe assumption that Wallace would be the prohibitive favorite at right tackle. He doesn’t quite have the length or feet for left tackle, but right tackle should be a nice home for. He’s one large human being, listed at 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, and is a good athlete. Most importantly, he’s a smart kid that was lauded as a recruit for how quickly he was able to pick things up — definitely a strong trait for an offensive tackle.