The Blue-White Game was held this past weekend, amidst beautiful weather and a plethora of Penn State’s finest fans. We got a sneak peek at a few players new to the program, as well as players that had been lower on the depth chart looking to start making their way up the ladder.
All of that to say, it’s got me wayyyyy too over-excited for the 2023 season.
MMQB asks: what are you most excited about for the 2023 season?
I’m going to skip what may be the obvious answer in “will Drew Allar have a single incompletion as he starts back-to-back Heisman and national championship seasons for Penn State before going on to be the first overall draft pick to the New York Giants, where he will win 12 straight Super Bowls before retiring and taking over for James Franklin as head coach of the Nittany Lions, where he will again never have a single season without winning a national championship.”
Instead, I’ll go to #2 on my list, which is how much of a strength the offensive line can be.
In one of the stunners of the off-season, Olu Fashanu - he of potential first round hype - opted to return to the Nittany Lions, where he’ll be the prototypical blindside left tackle the Lions haven’t had in an incredibly long time.
Landon Tengwall should be back from injury at left guard, making the left side of the line rather formidable.
Caedan Wallace is back at right tackle, though I’m actually going to be keeping a very keen eye on Drew Shelton - the true sophomore played exceptionally well in 2022 when called upon, and Wallace had some shaky moments last season. The RT battle will be a fun one to watch.
Sal Wormley, a somewhat unexpected mauler, popped in 2022, and brings with him a whole bunch of hype to the right guard spot. If RT gets sorted out, the outside ends of the OL should be very solid indeed.
Juice Scruggs is gone at center, meaning Hunter Nourzad and Nick Dawkins will likely duke it out for the starting spot. If there’s a somewhat glaring weakness on the OL, it would be at center. But like other positions, there is a bunch of depth, and like the Macho Man Randy Savage says, the cream rises to the top.
As far as depth goes, the Lions also have to be feeling solid. Aside from the runner-up for RT, Vega Ioane played exceptionally in limited snaps in 2022, and JB Nelson also brings plenty of talent. Perhaps the most interesting depth pieces come from the two incoming freshmen, J’ven Williams and Alex Birchmeier.
Alex comes in as a 0.9754 four-star recruit, #52 in the country, and the #2 overall interior offensive lineman in the class. J’ven is even more highly rated (if only just), joining as a .9832 four-star recruit, ranked #40 in the country. Birchmeier is an interior linemen all the way, while Williams appears to be a bookend tackle of the future.
Can either of the two freshmen shove their way into the starting lineup? Only time will tell!
But having a new quarterback come into an offense with perhaps the best offensive line of James Franklin’s time at Penn State, with two exceptional stud running backs and a stable of highly touted receivers has to have PSU faithful everywhere excited.
It all starts up front with the big guys, and the Lions look poised to be as good - if not better - than any Penn State team in recent memory.