#16 Penn State Football 2019 Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions
Overall Rank: #16
#3 Big Ten
Penn State Logo
This will be an interesting season for Penn State. The Nittany Lions have gone 21-6 over the last three seasons in Big Ten play and are clearly one of the powerhouse programs in the conference. This season though Coach James Franklin must find a way to replace quarterback Trace McSorley.
2018 Record: 9-4, 6-3
2018 Bowl: Citrus Bowl vs. Kentucky (L 24-27)
Coach: James Franklin (45-21 at Penn State, 69-36 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ricky Rahne
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Pry, Tim Banks
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Ricky Slade, RB, 257 yards
Passing: Sean Clifford, QB, 195 yards
Receiving: KJ Hamler, WR, 754 yards
Tackles: Micah Parsons, LB, 83
Sacks: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Garrett Taylor, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: TE Pat Freiermuth, LB Jan Johnson, LB Cam Brown, DT Robert Winsor, DE Shaka Toney
Key Losses: RB Miles Sanders, QB Trace McSorley, QB Tommy Stevens, WR Juwan Johnson, WE DeAndre Thompkins, OL Connor McGovern, OL Ryan Bates, DE Shareef Miller, DT Kevin Givens, S Nick Scott
When Penn State was in a tight game, McSorley would take over the team. If he was not throwing, he would very quickly take off and make a play with his legs. During his senior season McSorley threw for 2,530 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 798 yards and a dozen more scores. Sean Clifford has thrown just seven passes during his collegiate career. He did complete five of them for 195 yards and two touchdowns, and will take over under center. Clifford has a great group of receiver that will help ease the transition. KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson and Justin Shorter form a talented group of wideouts and tight end Pat Freiermuth was the team’s second leading receiver last season and should be one of the best in the Big Ten. Ricky Slade will take over for Miles Sanders at running back. Slade was successful as Sanders’ backup as a freshman and should get a lot of carries now that Penn State does not have a quarterback who is going to run the ball.
Penn State’s defense should be able to keep them in games while the offense retools. Yetur Gross-Matos tallied 8.0 sacks and 20.0 tackles-for-loss. Shaka Toney will benefit on the other end while the opposition is forced to focus on Gross-Matos. Defensive tackles Robert Windsor and Antonio Shelton will be tasked with boosting a run defense that ranked eighth in the Big Ten in 2018. Linebackers Jan Johnson, Cam Brown and Micah Parsons, who led the team with 83 tackles, will add experience to the front seven. Parsons became the first freshman in school history to lead the team in tackles and he started just one game. The secondary was very strong and should remain that way with cornerback John Reid and free safety Garrett Taylor back.
The Bottom Line:
The offense is going to be very different without McSorley, a three-year starter. But that may not stop this offense from being productive. Clifford has a very good arm and the Nittany Lions have enough talent at running back to refocus the offense. The schedule should allow Penn State to spend some time figuring out their offense. Their first five games are all very winnable. After that the Nittany Lions play Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State. That stretch of games will turn Penn State’s season one way or the other.
Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 204.9 (29th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 218.1 (76, 7)
Total Offense: 423.0 (45, 5)
Scoring Offense: 33.8 (32, 3)
Rushing Defense: 169.0 (72, 8)
Pass Defense: 181.5 (15, 2)
Total Defense: 350.5 (34, 5)
Scoring Defense: 20.5 (23, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.08 (73, 9)
Sacks: 3.62 (1, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.38 (80, 12)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#21 Yetur Gross-Matos
Madness 2019 Recruit Rankings:
#23 Brandon Smith
#60 Noah Cain
#76 Devyn Ford
#97 Caedan Wallace
#107 Adisa Isaac
#120 John Dunmore
#159 Salem Wormley