Football season is nearly upon us, and coming off of a dominant 2016 season which saw Penn State lift the Big 10 trophy, expectations are high for the Nittany Lions. What’s changed since that heartbreaking loss to USC in the in the Rose Bowl? Here’s a full breakdown of every player on the Offense.
The undisputed toughest quarterback in the nation, Trace McSorley is back. After leading the Nittany Lions to an 11-3 record and a Rose Bowl berth, his will to win personified Penn state football and gave the WeAre nation something to believe in, a hero. McSorley passed for 3,614 yards and 29 touchdowns and ran for 365 yards and 7 touchdowns, countless times he has brought Penn state back his Rose Bowl mistakes should not make McSorley as he has done more than enough to be a Heisman candidate going into this season and even in the Rose Bowl he left it all on the field a true warrior and his talents remind me of Drew Brees.
Not many teams have a back-up as talented as Tommy Stevens a dual threat quarterback who I feel could start for any team in the country and make them a winner when McSorley leaves you have another guy who could end up being a Heisman candidate in the future.
Jake Zembiec is perhaps the most underrated and forgotten big time talent on Penn state, but there are a number of those. He was the no.1 player in New York and no.10 quarterback in his class coming out of high school. At 6-3 ,with a great arm and great football IQ, he has a Ben Roethlisberger type game. I believe he has just as much talent and is a winner like McSorley and Stevens and this position is heavily under looked by evaluators.
RECRUITING: 2017: Sean Clifford is a 4 star but to me a 5 star talent. He is good on his feet and accurate, as well as a natural leader. Clifford is the future of Penn state and has Heisman and All-American potential.
RBU is on another level. The man, the beast, Saquon Barkley, is the head of this class and clearly the no.1 running back in the nation with 1,496 yards rushing, to go with 18 rushing touchdowns plus 28 receptions 402 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. To show you how much of an athlete Barkley is, he not only rushed for an impressive 5.5 yards per carry, but he caught for 14.4 yards per catch. Simply put, a defensive coordinator is up all night planning for a weapon like Barkley.
2016 5 star and no.1 running back in 2016 is the no.2 running back on the roster. He rushed for 184 rushing yards on 25 carries to go for an insane 7.4 yards a carry. Sanders will be in his sophomore year and will be even better with added weight and muscle his elusive speed. With Barkley already causing nightmares, he will be another problem that should surprise and wear down a defense.
Sophomore Andre Robinson established himself as an effective power back rushing for 4.9 yards a carry and 5 touchdowns. The 3 headed monster of Barkley, Sanders, and Robinson should be a tough trio to contain with a full year of running together under their belts.
Junior Mark Allen can be the sniper of the bunch. He is small, with speed and agility totally different from the other 3. Allen can switch up the pace and be a problem for the defense…not to mention the 5-11, 220 lbs, 4 star Junior Johnathan Thomas being an added power back weapon the Lions are seriously set at running back.
RECRUITING 2017: 2017 3 star Journey Brown was probably the most underrated player in the country. A 5 star talent who once rushed over 700 yards in a game and is a great track athlete, breaking the Pennsylvania state record for the 100 meter dash with a time of 10.43. His skills resemble a baby Brian Westbrook; elusive and quick.
Receivers: The most talented position not only this year but for the next 3 years on this roster is easily at wide receiver. We are talking no.1 targets and game changers across the board. One guy I am excited to see this year and will eventually be an All-Big ten performer and has All-American talent is 6-4 sophomore Phenom, Juwan Johnson. His size and strength make him a matchup problem; he could have a 1,000 yard season.
Even though Saeed Blacknall played 9 games he caught or 347 yards for 23.1 yards a carry he is 6-3 with game breaking speed and comes up big in big games. Blacknall dealt with injuries and was suspended during the Rose bowl but still had the 3rd most receiving yards per game with only Mike Gesicki and Chris Godwin ahead of him. Blacknall and Johnson have the talent to both eclipse 1,000 yards this season.
Daesean Hamilton is a leader on this team, he has always been a team player and answers when called upon, him and Blacknall had unstoppable games in the Big Ten championship game. Hamilton caught for 506 yards he is still dangerous and knows the offense when you forget about him he reminds you that he is one of the most dangerous receivers in the nation.
Junior, DeAndre Thompkins, showed why he was one of the top receivers coming out the 2014 class when Blacknall went down with the injury he answered the call finishing the year with 440 yards receiving. Brandon Polk returns this year, he is a 4 star sophomore speed demon. You can use him in many ways and he can be dynamic. Polk is a weapon that will be an x-factor on offense he will give defenses headaches; defenses will have a hard time covering 5 gamers at receiver.
Then there is 4 star, 6-4, sophomore Irvin Charles. He is a talent that can be a no.1 receiver and is remembered for his game changing 80 yard touchdown against Minnesota displaying just what he can do. Charles is a name who could shine at any given moment.
6-4 talent 3 star redshirt freshman Dae’lun Darien has been reported to have the best hands on the team. This is the 7th receiver we are talking about, a freshman. This receiving core is almost unfair with each receiver named having the ability to catch for 100 yards any given game. It makes McSorley a kid in a candy store.
RECRUITING 2017: This is just crazy. You have 4 star game changer K.J. Hamler who has the speed to get past anybody and runs great routes. He is the future in the slot and will be a fan favorite and home run threat. 4 star talent Mac Hippenhamer is a receiver that can be a go to guy so much speed and is a weapon as a returner at 6-1. Cameron Sullivan-Brown is another 6-1 great talent who resembles the hands of NFL receiver Jeremy Maclin. These receivers will all be dangerous weapons moving forward in the future.
Mike Gesicki solidified his name as one of the most dangerous tight ends in the country last year. He caught 48 catches for 679 yards and 5 touchdowns and at 6’6, he is a hard target to contain. With a year of great production under his belt, he is destined for a better year with potential for an 800 to 900 yard receiving stat line very much being attainable.
Sophomore Nick Bowers, who was injured last year, and redshirt Freshman Danny Dalton, are two very talented tight ends. Bowers was the Allegheny Conference offensive player of the year as a junior at Kittanning high school and Dalton was the no.1 player in Massachusetts coming out in 2016.
The guy to watch is 3 star sophomore athlete Jon Holland. He has really impressed coaches and has become even better and has seemed to move ahead of Dalton and Bowers. All 3 are 6-4 targets who I believe can be a surprise when given the chance one thing is certain that Penn State has help to back up Gesicki now.
This line has depth and is very productive. I believe the starting offensive line should be Seniors Andrew Nelson and Brandon Mahon at the tackles. Mahon, before his injury, at times was the best lineman on the lions and one of the best in the country, while Nelson is a quality experienced starter and gives Penn State strong leadership at tackle.
Sophomore Connor McGovern was as good as advertised and Sophomore Ryan Bates was better than advertised as both were key factors in what made Penn state offense explosive. Bates was a Freshman All-American and McGovern is the first offensive linemen to earn B1G freshman of the week honors.
The next guy I feel should complete the line is 5 star talent Michael Menet ,who was the no. 1 guard in the nation in 2016. This would complete one of the best lines in the nation, something Penn State has not had in years. The Penn state offensive line is deeper than usual so the situation is a good problem.
6’7, 343 lbs, Junior, Chasz Wright was a savior when Paris Palmer went down and Steven Gonzalez was one of the top guards in the country coming out of 2015 and showed it in his 3 starts last year. In what was supposed to be a point that would break down a team with so many injuries, it was a chance for other talented linemen to show their talents and they did. It answered the question that the recruiting of Penn state has been masterful and Coach Matt Limegrover is one of the best in the country.
6’6, 295 lbs Will Fries is one of the most talented linemen on this unit and almost had his redshirt pulled due to injuries to the line.
Sophomore Sterling Jenkins is my favorite linemen on this team. A 6’8, 305 lbs, massive talent recruited by some of the best colleges in the country, Jenkins is soon to have his time on the line and has the potential to be dominant.
Redshirt Freshman, Alex Gellerstedt, is another lineman at 6’6 that adds great depth to this line and is now a position of strength for Penn state.
RECRUITING 2017: 3 star Michael Miranda is a nasty aggressive linemen who has already started to impress. He looks the part of a future All-American already with NFL talent that reminds me of former NFL linemen Jon Runyan. 3 star Robert Martin is another tough lineman that will add great depth in the future and 3 star Desmond Holmes is one of the most underrated talents of the 2017 class who can be a presence on both offense and defense. The gem of this offensive line haul, 4 star C.J. Thorpe, is a future starter on this line at either guard or tackle a dominating force that will be a key piece in the future of this line.
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Want to join our team of Penn State writers? https://phillysportsnetwork.com/jobs