This season may not have gone as many fans expected or hoped for, but it was not all bad. In fact, there is a lot to be proud of. Quarterback, and Penn State superman, Trace McSorley broke almost every school quarterback record. He also became the winningest quarterback in Penn State history. Finally, the entire team continuously left everything on the field. In the end, that is all you can ask for.
In the middle of the season, after the awful loss to Michigan, I asked “what is the answer for Penn State?” There were a lot of answers thrown out, but ultimately it came down to the fact that Penn State is in a better position than they are supposed to be. It was not that long ago that the Nittany Lions got back to full scholarship strength and have not had anything less than a seven win season since the sanctions were imposed. The same sanctions levied by the NCAA that were supposed to be a death sentence. Therefore, while this season was not what many wanted or hoped for, the future of Penn State Football is bright.
The Future of Penn State Football
As always, before one looks ahead we must always look back. This is why we learn history in school from a young age. If you do not study history, you will never learn from the past. Thus, before we look at the future of Penn State Football we need to recap what happened this season.
Too Much Quarterback Responsibility
Arguably too much of the offensive load was placed on Trace McSorley. The senior quarterback did all he could for the Nittany Lions, his records alone show that, but he also played injured for a lot of the season. Whether it was a knee injury suffered against Iowa, or the foot injury in the bowl game, McSorley played through it. Many have wondered what would have happened if he was healthy. Would the outcome of the Michigan game been different? Would the Citrus Bowl against Kentucky had a different outcome? These are questions that cannot be answered, but one player and one play does not result in the win or loss of a football game. McSorley gave a valiant effort though to change that notion. He will truly be missed.
The season felt like a little deja vu. The same, or similar, losses as the previous season. To the same teams, at the same spot in the season, and with similar scores. The only difference was the Michigan game, but even that was in line with the last two seasons. The talent is there. The Nittany Lions finally have depth at keys positions, so what is causing the same losses year in and year out? How do these problems get fixed?
Too Many Receiver Drops
There were too many drops at wide receiver. Enough so that wide receivers coach David Corley was let go after the Citrus Bowl. In Corley’s defense, he was hired as a running backs coach and was moved to receivers to make room for Ja’Juan Seider. Nonetheless, James Franklin thought it was time to let Corley go and search for someone new at that position.
So, What Does The Future Look Like?
The future looks bright for the Nittany Lions. Even with running back Miles Sanders, offensive linemen Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern, and defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Shareef Miller declaring for the NFL draft early, there are eleven early enrollees currently at Penn State this week. Penn State had 18 early signees in December and now eleven of them are on campus. That is a very good start to the 2019 season for the Nittany Lions.
Who Are The Early Enrollees?
The running back room that already is highlighted by Ricky Slade and Journey Brown gets the addition of Noah Cain. The four star back from IMG Academy had a three-yard touchdown in the Under Armour All-America game.
In addition to Cain on offense, several quarterbacks are among the early enrollees. Michael Johnson Jr. from Oregon and Taquon Roberson from New Jersey started classes this week at University Park. Back-up to McSorley for the last two seasons was Tommy Stevens. Stevens will likely be the heir to the throne pre se, but Sean Clifford saw a lot of playing time this season with Stevens sidelined due to injury. For the first time in a long while there might actually be a quarterback battle brewing in Happy Valley.
Offensive lineman Anthony Whigan is also among the group. This is a good sign for Penn State after losing two lineman early to the NFL draft. Whigan will likely make an immediate impact next season for a group that is still lacking depth. Further, cornerbacks Keaton Ellis and Marquis Wilson. Linebackers Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon are also on campus. Finally, defensive end Adisa Isaac, safety Tyler Rudolph, and tight end Brenton Strange.
The Nittany Lions finally have depth at nearly every position going into the 2019 season. This depth is what partially allows for players to leave early for the NFL draft. It should not be seen as a bad thing that players are leaving early. Fans should see this as a good sign for the program. If they already have their degrees, which most if not all do, there is no reason that they should not take every opportunity that comes their way. All signs point to trending upward for Penn State football.
In addition to the eleven early enrollees, there is still room for Penn State to add to the 2019 class in February. Maybe another wide receiver and some help on both offensive and defensive lines and the class is likely to be complete. Freshman phenom KJ Hamler is returning, along with fellow freshman standout Micah Parsons. Punter Blake Gillikin is returning for his senior season and key defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos is back as well.
Overall, Penn State is only losing ten starters or players that got a lot of time in 2018. All of which have players behind them that had substantial playing time, except for at the quarterback position. If the questions asked in the middle of the season can finally be answered in the offseason, there is not reason the future of Penn State Football won’t be a bright one.