Penn State has just wrapped up a stellar 2022-23 campaign, which included an 11-win season, a Rose Bowl victory over the top ten Pac-12 champ, and a final ranking in the top 10.
So, where to from here?
Can Penn State repeat the same magic in the 2023-24 season? Improve on it? Or perhaps take a step back? Let’s hypothesize.
First, on offense, things looks pretty, pretty good.
The offensive line may genuinely be a strength next year. Both Olu Fashanu and Caeden Wallace have announced that they will be returning, giving Penn State its bookend tackles. Landon Tengwall, Hunter Nourzad, and Sal Wormley make up an excellent interior. Add in Drew Shelton, JB Nelson, and Vega Ioane returning with experience, and then add in the two incoming freshmen J’ven Williams and Alex Birchmeier, and this could legitimately be a good offensive line next year.
The running backs are set with Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen returning, plus incoming freshman London Montgomery. If Keyvone Lee returns as well, the Lions are good at RB.
The receiving corps should generally be good, though I imagine wide receiver is a priority in the transfer portal. Harrison Wallace III and KeAndre Lambert-Smith figure to start on the outside, while inside players like Liam Clifford and Kaden Saunders will duke it out. Add in Theo Johnson, Tyler Warren, and Khalil Dinkins at TE, and the receivers should be set, especially if a Mitchell Tinsley-esque addition can be made this off-season.
And then there’s QB. Drew Allar will take over under center, and having spent a year garnering more reps as a backup than any other I can recall in recent memory, plus two years with Mike Yurcich and Chuck Losey, and this offense may be one of the most potent in the conference.
On defense, it’s looking good as well.
Chop Robinson, Adisa Isaac, and Dani Dennis-Sutton all return at DE, though I wouldn’t hate finding another Chop or Arnold Ebiketie in the portal for the two-deep. The DT room has a load of bodies, but I’ll be looking for one or two to rise to the top.
With Curtis Jacobs returning, the pairing of he and Abdul Carter is one of the better outside LB pairs the Lions have had in at least a few years. Kobe King and Tyler Elsdon round out the LB room, which should be solid, especially given how tenuous the situation was at the start of 2022.
On the back end, Kalen King and Johnny Dixon will lock down the starting CB positions, with Daequan Hardy returning at nickel. Either Jaylen Reed or Zakee Wheatley will step up opposite Keaton Ellis, and across the board the Lions have done well in recruiting the secondary.
The special teams will feature some turnover, with both Barney Amor and Jake Pinegar heading out, not to mention Chris Stoll at longsnapper. Sander Sahaydak and Alex Bachetta are currently on deck for punting and placekicking, and again the portal may be something that James Franklin looks into here.
But overall, things look rather - ahem - rosy.
Now, who knows what will happen with the rest of the B1G East. OSU is always a tough out, and that game is on the road in 2023. Michigan has made the playoffs two years in a row. Michigan State is one season removed from the Peach Bowl. That’s not even factoring in what happens in the West with Matt Rhule, Luke Fickell, and even Bret Bielema as quality coaches over there.
But from my vantage point, it seems like the program is in perhaps the best position it’s ever been in to make a push for the playoffs, if not back-to-back New Year’s Six apperances.
I sure wouldn’t hate making the playoffs before they expand in the 2024 season, how about you?