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Three Reasons for Optimism: Offense

After struggling in 2021, here’s three reasons why the Nittany Lion offense can get it turned around this fall

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Arkansas at Penn State Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Clifford finally has the same offensive coordinator

For the first time as a starting quarterback Sean Clifford will have the same offensive coordinator. This may be hard to believe, but it is indeed true. In 2019 Penn State’s offensive coordinator was Ricky Rahne, in 2020 it was Kirk Ciarrocca, then last season was Mike Yurcich.

2022 will mark the first time in Clifford’s four seasons as Penn State’s starting quarterback that he has the same offensive coordinator as the previous season. This should lead to a mastery, knowledge and comfort with the playbook/terminology that may have not been seen from Clifford in the past. Yurcich is also, by far, the best quarterback coach Clifford has had in his time as Penn State’s starter, so another year of learning the ins and outs of quarterback play from Yurcich certainly shouldn’t hurt, either.

Clifford has his physical limitations. His lack of pocket presence at time and poor internal clock has been discussed ad nauseam, and few people have been more critical of him than yours truly, but being in year two under Yurcich’s tutelage could go a long way for Clifford and the Nittany Lion offense. Just look at how good Clifford and the passing attack looked last season before he got hurt at Kinnick Stadium and the whole season swiftly went to hell.

Plenty of weapons for Clifford

Not only does Clifford have the same offensive coordinator for the first time as a starting quarterback, he will have plenty of weapons to distribute to as well. Penn State should be plenty deep at wide receiver, tight end and running back this fall.

Parker Washington will be one of the most reliable wide receivers in the Big Ten this fall. Western Kentucky transfer Mitchell Tinsley brings both sure hands and big play ability to the Nittany Lion offense, and KeAndre Lambert-Smith appears to be ready to take a big step forward. Malick Meiga could be a home run threat for the Nittany Lions as well.

Theo Johnson could very well prove to be the best tight end in the Big Ten, Brenton Strange can be dangerous as a pass catcher as well. Even though Penn State running backs struggled last season, with the likes of Keyvone Lee and Caziah Holmes they are not lacking talent. Incoming five-star Nick Singleton, more on him later, appears to be the real deal as well and may already be the best running back the program has had since Saquon Barkley. If Clifford is given time to scan the field and distribute the ball, he should have plenty of quality options to get the ball to.

Nick Singleton, welcome to Happy Valley

Listen, you NEVER want to compare a running back to Saquon. It’s like comparing a linebacker to LaVar. That said, the last linebacker that was compared to LaVar was Micah Parsons and that turned out pretty good.

Since arriving on campus in January the Governor Mifflin product has been generating Saquon-esq buzz in the running back room. Singleton was the no. 1 ranked running back and a five-star recruit in high school for a reason after all.

Based on the law of averages alone Penn State’s offensive line should improve this season. Even if it does not, or the improvement is minimal, Singleton is the type of back that does not need a ton of space to make big plays. He is explosive, has elite speed/burst, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and has the ability to turn even a small hole into a big gain.

It would not be a surprise to see Singleton be a Freshman All-American running back this fall. By the end of the season he could easily be the best running back in the Big Ten not named TreVeyon Henderson. Singleton should provide a huge shot in the arm to the Nittany Lion offense/running game this fall.