Last Friday, I was Mr. Positivity. But here’s the thing folks: positivity doesn’t sell. Negativity does. It’s all the rage these days amongst the teens! So let’s get #emo about the upcoming season.
OPENING ON THE ROAD AGAINST WISCONSIN
This is an obvious one, as I feel pretty much anybody who is a Penn State fan is in agreement that having to open on the road at Camp Randall sucks. My question is: why is the Big Ten doing it? I’ve seen the idea of having “premier” games Week 1, but it’s not like Week 1 lacks for fantastic matchups elsewhere — Alabama vs Miami, Clemson vs Georgia, etc. — so it’s not like the Big Ten is going to own Week 1. I guess I just don’t necessarily see the upside in pitting two of your top programs against each other in Week 1.
This is a Penn State team that could really use a week or two to work out the kinks, too. New offensive coordinator with a quarterback that had to be benched last season. Some young, inexperienced players in the front seven on the defensive side of the ball. Not that I’d ever want Penn State to start on the road against a Top 25 team. I mean, I had all the confidence in the world in the 2017 team, and we saw their struggles once they went on the road.
But this team specifically, with everything I just mentioned? It’s just difficult to see the best version of Penn State being ready Week 1. Not asking for an Idaho exhibition here, but flipping Wisconsin and Villanova would have been nice.
With or without Adisa Isaac, the defensive end spot was likely to be Penn State’s biggest question mark going into the 2021 season. With Isaac now likely out for the season, I think it’s safe to say that the question mark is bolded.
Let’s start with what I like: Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie. Really, really good production at Temple last season, and he’s apparently done an admirable job adding weight during his time in Happy Valley — now up to a reported 256 pounds. The jump in competition is real, but there’s good reason to believe that Ebiketie will be a player here at Penn State.
After Ebiketie, it’s essentially all unproven players — which is saying something that the guy who didn’t play for Penn State last year is the proven piece. Nick Tarburton was a four-star prospect from the 2018 class whose first couple seasons were derailed by injuries. Still plenty of time in his career, but he’s essentially locked into a starting role now. Smith Vilbert has elite size and potential, but didn’t look close to being ready last season. Jesse Luketa has (mostly) made the move to defensive end this summer, but with how much he might be depended upon, that’s a position switch you wished would have happened in the spring. Zuriah Fisher is talented but new to the position and young. And then there’s the case of Hakeem Beamon, who ideally is a 3-Tech defensive tackle for you, but will likely have to play more defensive end than you hoped for.
So yeah, some very valid concerns at defensive end. You hope this turns out like the defensive tackles in 2016 — major questions heading into the season before ending the season feeling quite good about five players: Parker Cothren, Curtis Cothran, Robert Windsor, Kevin Givens, and Tyrell Chavis. Those kind of jumps just seem few and far between when you’re talking about the defensive line. And for a program that wants to take the step from “great” to “elite”, defensive end is one of the last rooms you want questions in.
I’M NOT 100% SURE WE’LL HAVE FULL CAPACITY FOR THE GAMES BEYOND AUBURN
I hesitate to put this because my point with this is not to start a COVID debate, but rather just to point out something I think we can all agree on: I’d like for every Penn State game to have 100,000+ people there. With the current state of affairs, I don’t know how realistic that will be. I hope things will be safe enough that restrictions won’t be placed, but the fact there’s even a question is not what I was hoping for back in June. So here’s to a safe and healthy 2021 season, with hopefully 107,000 for Iowa and Michigan later in the season.
Now, please, don’t yell at each other in the comments. Don’t debate COVID. Please. Instead, be mad that I haven’t uploaded the banana peel video yet.