As we near the start of football practice, we begin our look ahead to the 2021 season which begins in just five months.
Today, we’ll check out the offense and why Penn State fans should be optimistic for what’s to the come from the Nittany Lions.
1. Mike Yurcich
The first reason to be optimistic is fairly obvious, and it’s new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.
Unlike many, I actually don’t think Kirk Ciarrocca was that bad last year and I think many of the problems the Nittany Lions faced fell on his shoulders. The opportunity to bring in Yurcich, however, was too much for James Franklin to pass up.
Since 2013, Yurcich’s offenses have averaged 6.49 yards per play, most among FBS offensive coordinators in that time. They’ve also averaged 14.03 yards per completion in that time, which is tops among power five offensive coordinators.
He’s coached star quarterbacks in Mason Rudolph, Justin Fields and Sam Ehlinger and is widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds in the country.
2. Heavy Artillery
Penn State enters the 2021 season with a stockpile of weapons that would make Lockheed Martin blush.
While it didn’t show at time in 2020, there were plenty of other reasons outside of the skill position players.
The Nittany Lions returns Biletnikoff contender Jahan Dotson as well as promising freshmen (sophomores?) Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith at wideout. Keyvone Lee looks to keep his momentum after a strong freshman year at running back and will be joined by Devyn Ford, Caziah Holmes and the returning Noah Cain.
At tight end, Brenton Strange takes over the spot vacated by Pat Freiermuth but many are expecting huge things from former big-time recruit Theo Johnson.
Yurcich will certainly have plenty of options at his disposal in 2021.
3. Sean Clifford
“But Clay, Sean Clifford was bad last year!”
Yes. Yes he was.
But I am of the belief that Clifford is not as bad as what we saw last season.
While he didn’t blow anyone away in 2019, he was significantly better than in 2020. Clifford will be dealing with his fourth offensive coordinator in as many years in 2021, but at least this time he’ll have a full offseason of preparation.
Clifford never seemed comfortable with the offense or the timing in 2020 and the lack of preparation both before and during the season never really allowed him to get settled. While I don’t believe he’ll win the Davey O’Brien anytime soon, I’m banking on Sean Clifford being at least the quarterback we saw in 2019 this time around.