Lando: RB Keyvone Lee
In his relatively short action last year, Lee showed the potential to wear down defenses and take games over. If he does that again in 2021, Penn State’s offense could be downright scary.
Chris L.: Parker Washington
It’s not like Parker had a quiet freshman campaign - quite the opposite, in fact, to the tune of 36 receptions for 489 yards and 6 TDs. But Penn State a) wasn’t a super heavy pass team last year, and b) was actually quite bad for the first five games. With a full offseason in the Mike Yurcich offense, and with most teams now keying on Jahan Dotson, I expect Washington to blow it up in 2021.
Marty: TE Theo Johnson
Pat Freiermuth may be off to the NFL, but Penn State still has one of the most talented tight end rooms in the country. This includes Canadian import and former top 100 recruit Theo Johnson. Last season, Johnson accumulated more playing time than James Franklin and his staff likely wanted him to accrue. Johnson was forced into extended action following Moose’s injury and he flashed why he was such a highly touted recruit. Johnson is a physical, violent blocker and a plus athlete. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds he is also a red zone nightmare. There have been rumblings coming out of the Lasch Building that Johnson has saved time off his 40-yard dash while adding speed. If this is the case, Johnson could emerge as the best tight end in the Big Ten this fall.
Clay: OT Caedan Wallace
Picking an offensive lineman for a breakout candidate isn’t exactly a sexy pick, but no one has made it yet and Wallace is an extremely gifted player, both physically and from a football IQ standpoint. After coming to Penn State as a highly touted recruit in 2019, he played four games while maintaining redshirt status in 2019. He then played in nine games, starting seven at right tackle a year ago. At 6-foot-5, 318 pounds, he’s a giant of man with great hands a feet. Should he take the next step, the Nittany Lions could have the best tackle combo in the conference, if not the country.
Eli: Sean Clifford
Clifford had a decent 2019, a horrible 2020, and few, if any expectations coming into 2021. In fact, I’m sure there’s a faction of the fanbase out there that wishes we’d gotten a transfer to replace him. All that said, I think the third time will be the charm. He has a proven commodity in Mike Yurcich, who happens to run an offense more similar to what Clifford had in 2019. There was also an actual offseason to practice and learn from. And, most importantly, Clifford himself has had the time in the offseason to work on his mechanics, as some of the videos on social media seem to indicate. I think Clifford makes the jump this season and proves to have the kind of handle of the new offense we all want to see.
Patrick: WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith
Lambert-Smith might have been overshadowed by fellow true freshman Parker Washington last season, but that wasn’t too surprising given Washington’s development coming out of high school compared to Lambert-Smith. In an ideal world — which Penn State certainly didn’t face last season — Lambert-Smith would have had a redshirt season. Instead, he was thrown into the fire — and did well, all things considered, putting up 15 receptions for 138 yards. With a full, largely regular offseason now in his pocket, I think you’ll see a big jump from the talented Lambert-Smith.
Jared: RB Caziah Holmes
There was plenty of buzz surrounding Holmes heading into the 2020 season. While there were hopes that Holmes could become a playmaker right off the bat, his touches were limited to some sporadic carries the last half of the season once the backfield was depleted. While Holmes could be the odd man out in a crowded, and uber-talented backfield, there’s reason to believe he may play a pivotal role under new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. The three things we know about Yurcich - he likes to spread the ball around, he likes to get playmakers in space and let them do their thing, and he’s been highly productive wherever he’s been. This all bodes well for Holmes, who seems to be the type of player Yurich can use to keep the defense on its toes.