Penn State Nittany Lions Preview 2022: Offense
The offense didn’t do enough. It was mediocre overall averaging 376 yards and just 25 points per game, struggling to hit tough downfield pass plays – even with Jahan Dotson stretching the field – and with little to nothing happening for the ground game.
It’s Penn State, so there’s plenty of talent to work around, and before getting into too much of a twist, there were plenty of chances to come through in close games against good teams. This won’t be a high-powered attack. It should be better, though, if …
The offensive line has to be stronger. There’s size, and there’s decent depth thanks to the transfer portal – getting Hunter Nourzad from Cornell and JB Nelson from the JUCO ranks to work at guard – but there are only two starters back.
Juice Scruggs will work at center, Caeden Wallace will return at right tackle, and then it’ll be a fight for just about everywhere else for a line that struggled for the nation’s 118th best running game and was awful at allowing defenses to get into the backfield.
Second-leading rusher and former star recruit Noah Cain is gone to LSU, but Keyvone Lee is the main man, superstar recruit Nick Singleton will get every shot at some work, and there’s good depth to rotate in if the line can pave the way.
Sean Clifford is back at quarterback after throwing for over 3,100 yards and 21 touchdowns with eight picks. He’s good, but with his experience and in his fifth year with the program, he needs to elevate the offense and team.
There’s no fight for the gig, but the battle for No. 2 will be interesting between last year’s backup Christian Veilleux and big-time recruit Drew Allar.
Jahan Dotson was the main man for the receiving corps with 91 catches and 12 touchdowns, but he’s a Washington Commander now.
Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith form an excellent 1-2 punch – they’ll do more to fill the Dotson void – and in comes transfer Mitchell Tinsley, an 87-catch, 14 touchdown playmaker from the wide open WKU attack.
Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson are two good passing catching tight ends – they’ll combine for at least 40 grabs.
Penn State Nittany Lions Preview 2022: Defense
The defense gave up plenty of yards but not a lot of points. It wasn’t great against the decent running teams, but the pass defense was good, and, of course, the idea is to avoid getting scored on.
The D only allowed more than 24 points twice – once came in the 33-24 loss to Ohio State, and the other time was in the 30-27 loss to Michigan State – no real shame there. Yeah, the defense could’ve been a wee bit better, but the offense should’ve been able to get to 24 points every week.
When the defense allowed 20 points or fewer, Penn State was 7-1. It was 0-5 in the other games, and again, it’s not like it got torched. However …
More of a pass rush would be a plus. The Nittany Lions got 9.5 sacks out of Arnold Ebiketie, but he’s done, and the second-leading sacker came up with just three and the team overall generated just 27.
The overall excitement on the line is over the new guys. Dani Dennis-Sutton is one of the nation’s best defensive end recruits, Zane Durant is ready to roll at tackle to go along what should be a strong front four.
The tackles are set with PJ Mustipher and Coziah Izzard a good veteran tandem, but the ends are going to be a work in progress.
It won’t be a problem, but it should take fall camp to figure it out. Nick Tarburton is a good veteran, but Maryland transfer Demeioun Robinson along with Dennis-Sutton will make this interesting.
The linebacking corps loses leading tacklers Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith, and now Curtis Jacobs has to be the star of the bunch after making 61 tackles with three sacks. The other spots will be battles, but that’s not a bad thing – the Nittany Lions have options.
The secondary has a star in next-level corner Joey Porter, and Ji’Ayir Brown is the team’s leading returning tacklers with 74 stops. Throw in Kalen King on the other side of Porter, along with a slew of good new recruits, and this group will grow into a strength. It’ll be even better, obviously, with more of a pass rush.