2017 Penn State Football Scouting Report
Last season, Penn State defied all expectations by going 11-3, winning the Big Ten Championship, and being narrowly defeated in a classic game against USC. This season the Lions will not go under the radar as they have huge expectations, including a national championship. Here’s a look at each position group and what to watch out for in 2017.
Last preseason, Penn State had a quarterback competition and a young, unproven Trace McSorley won the job. McSorley went on to lead the Penn State offense last year with his tremendous playmaking ability, which translated into 29 touchdown passes. This year, McSorley will have even more experience and more weapons surrounding him.
Tommy Stevens backs McSorley up and even though he has limited experience, the small amounts of times he has played, Stevens has also looked impressive.
Penn State has a special group of running backs this season, who are led by Saquon Barkley. Barkley is considered the best running back in college football. The Heisman hopeful has no weakness to his game. He has excellent ball carrier vision, elite speed, and he can even run with a little bit of power.
Barkley is backed up by Marc Allen and Andre Robinson, who are both capable running backs for when Barkley needs a breather.
Penn State will have to replace Chris Godwin at wide receiver, but they have a plethora of talent thanks to an outstanding job at recruiting by James Franklin. DaeSean Hamilton, DeAndre Thompkins, and Saeed Blacknall all return as starters for the Nittany Lions.
In addition to them, redshirt sophomores Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles will be looking to make an impact. This receiving core has loads of talent and should have no problem replacing Chris Godwin.
Offensive Line has been the weakest link for this Penn State team since the Christian Hackenberg era. Last season though, the line started to show improvements. These improvements were mainly because of freshman Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern, who return this season as sophomores with a whole year of experience.
Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon return as well to add leadership to this young group. The offensive line has continued to improve over the last few years and this year it will be paramount that they come together and become one of the best lines in college football if Penn State wants to achieve big things.
Penn State struggled to stop the run last season, and losing both of their defensive ends, Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels will not help the defensive line. Although on the interior of the line Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren return for their senior seasons with plenty of experience from last year.
The role of replacing Schwan and Sickels will fall on two new starters, Torrence Brown and Shareef Miller, although they both saw snaps in all 14 games last season.
Penn State is known as “Linebacker U”, and last year this group did not live up to that title mainly because they were unable to remain healthy. This year they will also have to replace three-year starter and defensive leader Brandon Bell.
This role will fall on Jason Cabinda, a three-year starter whose role in the past has been underestimated. Last season Cabinda missed five games and the Nittany Lions struggled in those games going 3-2, as opposed to 8-1 with Cabinda on the field.
Alongside Cabinda, Koa Farmer and Manny Bowen, both guys who played a larger role last season later in the year, return to help anchor this linebacker core, which if they remain healthy could be a dominant force on the field in 2017.
The Penn State secondary looked like it was going to be one of the strongest units on the team, until John Reid went down with a season-ending knee injury.
All hope is not lost though as Penn State has cornerbacks Christian Campbell, Grant Haley, and highly coveted freshman Lemont Wade. In addition to these three, the secondary is going to be led by Marcus Allen, who returned for his senior season with the Lions. Across from Allen at safety will be Troy Apke.
The Nittany Lion secondary lost a key piece in the preseason, but still has many talented players returning from last season, as well as some talented freshman, so expect some turnovers to be caused by the Penn State secondary.
At kicker is the always reliable Tyler Davis, who went 62-62 on PAT’s last season. Punter Blake Gillikin also returns as a sophomore. The kick returning duties will be serviced by Miles Sanders and Brandon Polk. Meanwhile, DeAndre Thompkins will handle punt return responsibilities. Special teams look solid again for the Nittany Lions.
Ben Ferree is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.