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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #7 Penn State

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 24, 2017

#7 Penn State Nittany Lions

2016 Recap:
If you forecasted Penn State winning the Big Ten title last season you better book a trip to Vegas because you are due to win big. The Nittany Lions were sitting at 2-2 after a 39-point blowout loss to Michigan and then went on a tear. Penn State eeked out an overtime win over Minnesota and then came the upset of Ohio State and the confidence just seemed to appear. Penn State scored a dramatic comback win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship before losing a tight ROse Bowl against USC.


Coaching:
Everyone thought Penn State hit the jackpot when Bill O' Brien became the head coach after Joe Paterno and the Jerry Sandusky scandel. It looks like James Franklin was a great find to replace O' Brien when he left for the NFL. Penn State has their full complimnet of schlorships back and are poised to become fixtures at the top of the Big Ten and national discussions.

 

Offense

This offense became a big play machine a season ago and it starts with the quarterback position and junior Trace McSorely. McSorely was not a highly recruited player and he was thought to be more of a game manager when the season began but he quickly dispelled rumors that he could not put on a show. McSorely showed tremendous touch on deep routes as Penn State racked up big play after big play. Of course things are a little easier when you have the top running back in the 2019 class by the name of Saquon Barkley toting the football. Barkley looks to be the top running back available for this coming April if he declares and is equally as potent catching the football as he is running with it. DeSean Hamilton, DeAndre Thompkins and tight end Mike Gesicki give McSorely three future NFL prospects pushing the football downfield.  Connor McGovern is only a sophomore and he may already be the best interior blocker at the FBS level. This team returns 10 of their 11 starters from a year ago on offense...in other words they are loaded.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Saquon Barkley RB 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration Candidate).

                                       Connor McGovern OG 1st Round 2019 (Early Declaration Candidate).


Defense

While nearly the entire offnese is back we can't say the same for the defense. The front seven is deep but the number of big time playmekers is notacably smaller than what we see on the other side of the football. The defense overachieved a bit last season and ranked a very respectable 37th overall. The leadership comes from the secondary and undwerrated safety Marcus Allen. Allen and inside linebacker Jason Cabinda will be relied upon for leadership with a defense that is versitile and will give opposing offenses a number fo different looks. If there is a future star on this defense it could be at the other safety spot with sophomore Ayron Monroe looking like a playmaker that is just scratching the surface of his overall ability.

Best Draft Prospects: Marcus Allen S 2nd Round 2018.               

                                       Jason Cabinda LB 3rd/4th Round 2018.


Special Teams:

It sure is sad that fan favorite Jory Julius is not around anymore but Tyler Davis is back after hitting over 90% of his field goal attempts last season (22-24).


Schedule:

Penn State has never been known to have a particularly difficult out of conference schedule and Akron, Pittsburgh and Georgia State seem to back that up. Pittsburgh is not a gimmie and they actually handed Penn State one of their three defeats in 2017. Michigan is also a home game and you better believe Penn State wants revenge after being embarrased a season ago. Immediatelty after Michigan are road games against Ohio State and Michigan State, easily the most difficult portion of the schedule.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

The offensive talent seems to drawf the defensive talent here althoguh the defensive unit will see a number of players drafted and signed to teams when it is their time to shine. The outlook is very positive not only for this season, but future classes. Now with a full compliment of schlorships back Penn State will become more active in the recruiting wars and they landed a top 10 class for this season.

 

DJ Boyer