#43 Penn State Football 2015 Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions

Overall Rank: #43
#7 Big Ten

Penn State Team Page#43 Penn State Football 2015 PreviewBuy Penn State Football Tickets

With the postseason ban lifted by the NCAA, Penn State had something to play for last season. But after a 4-0 start, the Nittany Lions struggled to become bowl eligible. They lost four straight before squeezing past Indiana and beating Temple to finally get six wins. That led to a Pinstripe Bowl win over Boston College and that is some nice momentum heading into 2015. Coach James Franklin is getting closer to being able to build some real depth on this team and that will start to show.

2014 Record: 7-6, 2-6
2014 Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Boston College (W 31-30 OT)
Coach: James Franklin (7-6 at Penn State, 31-21 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Donovan
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Shoop, Brent Pry

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Akeel Lynch, RB, 678 yards
Passing: Christian Hackenberg, QB, 2,977 yards
Receiving: DaeSean Hamilton, WR, 899 yards
Tackles: Nyeem Wartman-White, LB, 75
Sacks: Anthony Zettel, DT, 8.0
Interceptions: Anthony Zettel, DT, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Geno Lewis, WR Chris Godwin, S Jordan Lucas, S Marcus Allen, CB Trevor Williams

Key Losses: RB Bill Belton, RB Zach Zwinak, TE Jesse James, DB Adrian Amos, LB Mike Hull, DE Deion Barnes, K Sam Ficken

If Penn State is going to compete in the Big Ten, it will be on the back of the defense. It starts up front with tackles Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson. Those two are beasts in the trenches and make the entire defense so much better. On top of his 8.0 sacks, Zettel even led the team with three interceptions. Johnson broke through the line and recorded 49 tackles. Penn State does need to replace both ends though. They also need to replace the Big Ten’s leading tackler Mike Hull at linebacker. Nyeem Wartman will slide into the middle after totaling 75 tackles as a sophomore. Brandon Bell will stay at outside linebacker and likely be joined by sophomore Jason Cabinda. The secondary allowed just 178.2 yards per game through the air and there is enough talent returning for this group to again rank among the best pass defenses in the nation. Safety Marcus Allen played great down the stretch of his freshman campaign and he will be joined by Jordan Lucas, a former starter at cornerback. Trevor Williams is an experienced and tough cornerback and Coach Franklin hopes sophomore Grant Haley is the answer at the other corner spot.

Christian Hackenberg and the Penn State offense had another rough year. It is easy to blame a decimated offensive line for Hackenberg’s disappointing season, but he does need to stand in there every once in a while, stay poised and look downfield. He was sacked 44 times though and that should improve this year with much more depth and experience returning to the line compared to last year. That does not necessarily mean a Hackenberg with time will be much better than his 55.8 completion percentage and 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions of a year ago. The wide receiver corps is growing up though and that will help the passing game. DaeSean Hamilton had a superb freshman campaign, catching 82 passes for 899 yards and a couple touchdowns. Fellow sophomores Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall will look to get more involved this year. Akeel Lynch will get a bulk of the carries after rushing for a team high 678 yards. A handful of freshmen are capable of providing a spark to the backfield, but Lynch should be the workhorse in 2015.

The Bottom Line:
The schedule is pretty easy. Non-conference games against Temple, Buffalo, San Diego State and Army should result in four victories. And the first two Big Ten games are at home against Rutgers and Indiana. The defense will keep the Nittany Lions in contests against Maryland, Illinois, Northwestern and Michigan. Ten wins is a manageable goal for Penn State fans. However, this group will likely lack the consistency to actually come close to winning ten games. Seven or eight wins, another bowl trip and Hackenberg starting to play like he is supposed to are still steps in the right direction.  

Projected Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 101.9 (117th in nation, 14th in conference)
Passing Offense: 233.4 (61, 5)
Total Offense: 335.3 (111, 13)
Scoring Offense: 20.6 (110, 14)
Rushing Defense: 100.5 (3, 2)
Pass Defense: 178.2 (9, 3)
Total Defense: 278.7 (2, 1)
Scoring Defense: 18.6 (7, 1)
Turnover Margin: -0.38 (95, 10)
Sacks: 2.38 (45, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 3.38 (119, 14)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#20 Christian Hackenberg
#73 Anthony Zettel

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#75 Kamonte Carter
#126 Saquon Barkley
#144 Garrett Taylor
#150 John Reid
#170 Juwan Johnson
#194 Ryan Bates


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