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Five Things I Know I Know About Penn State Heading Into The 2022 Season


2022 Big Ten Conference Football Media Days Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Welcome the sixth annual “Five Things I Know I Know About Penn State” article! For those that are new here, every year dating back to 2017 I have been tasked with coming up with five things I know I know about Penn State football. The premise is a bit subjective, but relatively simple: not all super obvious predictions, nor all completely bold predictions, but nonetheless still things I believe will/could happen. Here’s a complete rundown of my projections:

2017 (0-5)

1. Shareef Miller and Manny Bowen will be 1st Team All-B1G — L
2. Lamont Wade will lead the team in INTs with 4 — L
3. Bates & McGovern will both be 1st Team All-B1G — L
4. Saquon Barkley will run for 300+ yards in 2 games — L
5. PSU will win the Big Ten (again) — L

2018 (0-5)

1. Tariq Castro-Fields will make 1st Team All-B1G — L
2. Jan Johnson will lead the team in tackles — L
3. Justin Shorter will have 40+ receptions — L
4. Hamler will return 2 punts for TDs — L
5. PSU won’t make a FG beyond 40 yards — L

2019 (0-5)

1. CJ Thorpe will get thrown out/will be the reason for someone getting thrown out of a game — L
2. Fries will make 1st Team All-B1G — L
3. Penn State’s defense will get 50+ sacks — L
4. Damion Barber leads DTs in sacks — L
5. Joe Moorhead will be Penn State’s head coach by mid-December — L

2020 (0-5)

1. Pat Freiermuth will have double-digit receiving touchdowns — L
2. Adisa Isaac will lead Penn State in sacks — L
3. Cam Sullivan-Brown will be Penn State’s second leading wide receiver — L
4. Brandon Smith will make 1st Team All-B1G — L
5. CJ Thorpe will get thrown out/will be the reason for someone getting thrown out of a game — L

2021 (1-4)

1. Arnold Ebiketie will finish with double-digit sacks — L
2. Both Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington will have at least 60 receptions — W
3. Marquis Wilson will score an offensive touchdown and record an interception in the same game — L
4. Sean Clifford will throw at least 30 touchdowns — L
5. Penn State won’t start 3-0 — L

That’s 1-24, baby! Thank you Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington!

But yeah, I am really bad at this. Trying to get better though, which is all that matters. I got one last year. Let’s get two this year. Come on.

1. Nick Singleton will rush for over 1,000 yards

If we go back to the recruiting profiles we did when the 2022 class signed, you’ll see that I wasn’t super-duper high on Singleton. I had him as the 5th best prospect in the class, and thought his most realistic outcome was “all-conference” as opposed to Clay and Marty believing he’d be an “all-american.” Here’s the concern I had about Singleton:

“Singleton’s highlight is awesome, but it’s a lot of him just hitting a hole or running off tackle pass every schmuck on the field. When those opportunities don’t present themselves at Penn State, how will Singleton do? I’m not saying things like vision and balance are weaknesses, but he was just so much better than everyone else in high school that it’s tough to gauge.”

Of course I am a fan of the kid, but his highlight film is really him just being the fastest, biggest, and strongest player on every field he stepped on. There’s a big change from Berks County to the Big Ten, so an adjustment period of some sort should be expected.

But, here’s the thing: that isn’t fun. Over the last few months, I’ve completely talked myself into Singleton just being this freaky athlete that is the best running back from Day 1. Who needs to see vision and balance when I’ve had 180 days to assure myself he’ll be the perfect mixture between Isaiah Thomas and Karl Wallenda.

I have pause that Singleton will see the volume to get to 1,000 yards because we’ve seen this song and dance before with Saquon Barkley getting one-freaking-carry against Temple in 2015. But I am a forgiving, patient man who is choosing to believe that James Franklin has learned from his mistakes and will not hesitate to make Singleton RB1 from the first depth chart.

2. Curtis Jacobs will finish with 100 tackles and 12 TFLs

A quick history review of Penn State linebackers to finish with 100 tackles and 12 TFLs since Navorro Bowman did so in 2008:

  • Micah Parsons (2019)

That’s it. That’s the list.

It would take quite the growth from Jacobs to hit this; he finished last season with 61 tackles and and 6 TFLs. But there’s also decent evidence that a breakout season could be coming. First and foremost, he’s super talented. He’s a former Top 50 prospect who got better as the season went along last year. In Jacobs’ first six starts, he totaled at least five tackles only once. Compare that to his last six games where he had at least five stops in every matchup, and it’s a good sign for where he’s headed.

Perhaps just as importantly will be the opportunity he has, as he’s making the switch from the SAM linebacker spot to the WILL. Not only will he be on the field a whole lot more, but he’ll be in the box a whole lot more. And with the blitz-happy Manny Diaz now in control of the defense, Jacobs is going to be put in spots where he’s attacking the line of scrimmage more.

3. Sean Clifford Will Throw At Least 30 Touchdowns

As I said last year when I made this same prediction: Penn State has never had a quarterback throw at least 30 touchdowns in one season. Not Trace. Not Clark. Not Collins. Not Fusina. That continued last season as Clifford only managed 21 touchdowns through 13 games. Now granted, Clifford was injured the second-half of the season which certainly hindered his ability, but still — he was out there, and for me, that’s an “L” on the old record.

I mean, I don’t know what else to say other than this is a 24-year-old sixth-year senior who will be in his second year of the offense with Mike Yurcich. Yes, he’s losing Jahan Dotson which will hurt, but he returns the other top four receiving targets — Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Brenton Strange, and Theo Johnson — and gains one of the better wide receiver transfer on the market in Mitchell Tinsley from Western Kentucky. The weapons are there.

Barring injury — which is admittedly a big “if” with Cliff over his career — there really isn’t any reason he can’t get to 30 touchdowns through a 13-game season. For those of us that still have faith in Cliff, this absolutely needs to happen.

4. Hakeem Beamon will lead Penn State’s defensive tackles in sacks

Over the years, I have had my fair share of “guys” that I just buy into, and Beamon very well may be at the top of that list. He committed to Penn State right around the time Kevin Givens was wreaking havoc for the Nittany Lions and I saw the similarities. Beamon has a little more length while Givens always had more natural strength, but the idea of each player wasn’t too far off: stuck between defensive end and defensive tackle, but extremely quick off the ball.

Beamon was on his way to being a part of the rotation last season, but he ended up “not being available” for the entire season despite practicing most weeks. With James Franklin at the helm, obviously no other information was divulged, but just like that Beamon’s redshirt sophomore season was gone.

While that situation could be viewed negatively, I have a spin on it: supremely talented player gets *maybe* suspended for the season, but instead of entering the transfer portal, he sticks around and works through whatever issues caused his game absences. Perhaps Beamon bought into whatever Franklin was trying to get through to him, and now fresh out of the doghouse, he’s ready to excel?

Okay, I realize that sounds a bit like a mediocre Disney+ movie, but my point remains. I don’t know why Beamon couldn’t play in games last year, but I think it’s only a positive that he didn’t opt to transfer. His talent has never been doubted so I absolutely could see him being one of the true breakout stars of the defense.

I get that this one, probably more so than the first three, is very unlikely. But I think we’ll see Beamon get a lot of reps as a 3-Tech and outside at defensive end, and come the end of the season, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was only behind Adisa Isaac and PJ Mustipher for snaps on the defensive line.

5. Patrick Kraft will do something that gets him fined by the Big Ten

If there’s one prediction I would be most proud of, it’s this one right here.

Let me be clear: I love Patrick Kraft. I said when he was hired that he looks like someone who routinely has hot dogs for dinner, and honestly that compliment might just be underselling him. In just a few weeks on the job, he’s already been proven to be kind of crazy, and the best part is we are only scratching the surface of the psycho levels that I have faith that he can reach. Like if you told me that someone ran onto Beaver Stadium’s field this year, ripped his shirt off and tried wrestling an opposing coach, I would have to assume it was Kraft. Have to.

That brings us to this prediction, which to be honest, isn’t completely flushed out yet. ADs very rarely get fined for an action they do; I think the last one was Pat Haden at USC when he came down to the sidelines against Stanford. But my goodness, I see it in Kraft’s eyes: he’s capable of going overboard. He got fired up about Penn State opening the Big Ten season on the road again. Imagine his reaction to Kirk Ferentz basically saying Penn State coaches its players to fake injuries? Or his reaction to the missed video reviews back in 2014 against Ohio State?

Something will happen this year, and I just hope Kraft gets in front of a camera and mic.