Leadership point of focus for Penn State football’s 2022 class

Story posted February 10, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Logan Bourandas

Penn State’s class of 2022 had the opportunity to speak with the media for the second time in their collegiate career.

Many players in that freshman class saw prominent roles this past season and also had the chance to learn from the more experienced players in their position group.

Now with some of those experienced players either graduating or declaring for the upcoming NFL Draft, those younger players are tasked with the job to grow as leaders of the team for next season.

Penn State head coach James Franklin even identified leadership as one of the big things the team needs to find during the offseason.

“I thought our leadership last year was as good as we’ve had in my 12 years as a head coach,” Franklin said. “I wouldn’t say that we have that right now from a leadership standpoint. We got to identify who those guys are. They need to have strong voices. They need to be aligned with the players, and the players align from the leadership standpoint with the coaching staff.”

With most teams, leadership starts with the quarterback position.

For the first time in a long time, the Nittany Lions are without quarterback Sean Clifford who not only broke many Penn State passing records but was a four-time captain.

Quarterback Drew Allar was right behind Clifford on the depth chart last season, and as he now looks to take the next step this offseason personally, he also looks forward to proving himself off the field to grow as a leader.

“Just going to class and being accountable with academic stuff and off the field stuff is definitely a way to become a leader,” Allar said. “Just bringing guys into the film room or on the field talking through routes, during routes and just asking what they see, telling them what I see and just from that standpoint just being more open and communicative with everybody.”

Sharing the backfield with Allar will likely be Nicholas Singleton, who had a big role during his freshman campaign last season.

With the Penn State offense losing many veteran pieces for next season, Singleton looks to lead by example during the offseason.

“I gotta show my work ethic,” Singleton said. “I really just show my work ethic and that I can play, people just feed off of it.”

While offensively there are a lot of moving pieces, that is also the case on the defensive side.

Defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, like Clifford, was a team captain for multiple seasons, having earned the honor both in 2021 and 2022.

Mustipher’s wisdom was handed down to the younger players of the group, like one of the top recruits from Penn State’s 2022 class, defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton.

Dennis-Sutton now looks to take what he learned from Mustipher and other veterans from the team and use that to help the next wave of Nittany Lions.

“Those older guys, they take me under their wing, and they helped me become a leader underneath them,” Dennis-Sutton said. “I think leadership is just setting the example and doing it and being consistent with it. I look forward to doing that with the younger guys coming in.”

Logan Bourandas is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email lxb5412@psu.edu.