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Penn State Football 2022: Three Things I Like

Of course Theo Johnson is on the list.

Ball State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

We are just eight days away from Penn State kicking off the 2022 season, and if you look around the interwebs, you can find a lot of differing opinions on the Nittany Lions. Some really like Penn State’s upside and foresee a 10-2 season. Others think James Franklin and Co. will continue to falter as they hover around .500.

Regardless of where you project Penn State in the coming season, I think it’s safe to say this is one of the more volatile teams in the country. They have the talent to be a darkhorse Big Ten East contender, but yet they could totally go 7-5 — just a wide range of variance in potential outcomes.

With that being the case, I took a look at three things I like and don’t like about the Nittany Lions. Today, we’ll start with the “likes.”



This one might be a bit surprising given that Penn State is returning mostly inexperienced or unproven players at defensive end, but I really believe this could be one of the better defensive lines at Penn State during the James Franklin tenure.

First and foremost, while there are questions at defensive end, I don’t think anyone is worried about defensive tackle. The position will be led by PJ Mustipher, who is back to full health after going down with a torn ACL last season. He’ll be backed up by DVon Ellies at the 1-Tech who has been a steady, productive player during his time here. What I really love though is the trio at the 3-Tech: Hakeem Beamon, Coziah Izzard, and the true frosh Zane Durant. While those guys lack some bulk — Izzard is the biggest at 287 pounds — they are all super quick and can get after the quarterback.

As for the defensive ends, I just love the potential there. I think it’ll take some time before they really establish themselves as a top-tier unit just because of the inexperience, but I’ll buy the stock in a position group with Adisa Isaac, Chop Robinson, and Dani Dennis-Sutton — all Top 100 prospect coming out of high school. Bet on the talent, folks.


The Nittany Lions lost by far their best skill position player in Jahan Dotson, and while that will certainly be a major loss, I’m a big fan of the pieces that Mike Yurcich will have to work with.

Let’s start with the running backs, where the Nittany Lions can realistically go four-deep with Keyvone Lee, Devyn Ford, Nicholas Singleton, and Kaytron Allen. While it’s widely expected that Lee will start the year as the starter, it’s the freshmen — Singleton and Allen — who are generating the most buzz this camp season. Last night, running back coach Ja’Juan Seider confirmed the two will have a role in the offense next Thursday night.

Like I said with the defensive ends, I like betting on the talent of the running back room.

Speaking of betting on talent — wow, what a segue by me — let’s go to the tight end room, a position group that James Franklin has said time-and-time again might be the most talented on the roster. All three tight ends from the three-deep are back — Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, and Tyler Warren — and like last year, we should see a healthy heaping of all three again. I personally am hopeful though that Theo Johnson gets utilized a bit more, just simply because I don’t think there is a better pure athlete on the roster than the 6-foot-6, 260-pound junior.

Lastly, let’s talk about the wide receiver room which has to replace Jahan Dotson. Like has been said before, none of these guys will be Jahan Dotson 2.0, but I think the argument could be made that the wide receiver group as a whole is stronger than last year. Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith return for their third season with the program, while Western Kentucky transfer Mitchell Tinsley should fit in perfectly as the third starting wideout. It’s a really complete group without much of a weakness, which should make them more difficult to game plan against.


Before I say why I like the schedule, because overall I think it’s a positive, let me say what I don’t like: the first three games. Any way you slice it, that is a tough opening stretch of games; namely, the Purdue game and Auburn game. The Boilermakers are a competent program and have already shown that they are capable of beating better teams at home. Meanwhile Auburn, like Purdue, is a competent program. Conservatively, they are one of the 25 most talented programs in the nation, and playing at Auburn is never a cakewalk; ask Alabama and Nick Saban.

That being said, it isn’t an impossible stretch, and I think the rest of the schedule sets up pretty nicely for the Nittany Lions. Yes, playing in the Big Ten East will always skew how difficult the schedule is, but you get a bye before traveling to Michigan, you get Ohio State at home, and you have a nice three-game stretch of @Indiana, Maryland, and @Rutgers before hosting Michigan State. If you are Penn State, really all you can ask for is:

  • Don’t put Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State as a back-to-back
  • Get two of those three games in Happy Valley

This schedule is a checkmark for both of those.