#40 Penn State Football 2014 Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions

Overall Rank: #40
#7 Big Ten

Penn State Team Page#40 Penn State Football 2014 PreviewBuy Penn State Football Tickets

After two years with Bill O’Brien leading Penn State, the Nittany Lions were forced to make a change. Coach James Franklin was a nice choice, but this is a program that is not used to all of the coaching turnover they have seen over the last four years. However, the talent level is building back to what we expect from Penn State. The lack of overall depth will be a major issue at spots, but that is the way it goes with these sanctions.

2013 Record: (7-5, 4-4)
2013 Bowl: None
Coach: James Franklin (0-0 at Penn State, 24-15 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Donovan
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Shoop

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zach Zwinak, RB, 989 yards
Passing: Christian Hackenberg, QB, 2,955 yards
Receiving: Jesse James, TE, 333 yards
Tackles: Mike Hull, LB, 78
Sacks: C.J. Olaniyan, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Ryan Keiser, S, 3; Jordan Lucas, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: CB Adrian Amos, DE Deion Barnes, TE Adam Breneman, S Ryan Keiser, OT Donovan Smith, LB Nyeem Wartman

Key Losses: DT Kyle Baublitz, LB Glenn Carson, WR Brandon Felder, OT Adam Gress, DT DaQuan Jones, WR Allen Robinson, S Malcolm Willis

Christian Hackenberg has taken over this team and the sophomore signal caller should be able to build on his successful freshman campaign in which he threw for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns, with ten interceptions. While Hackenberg did not look like a freshman too often, expect better decision making and fewer interceptions this time around. No quarterback in the country has a better group of tight ends to work with. Jesse James, Adam Breneman and Kyle Carter are all proven pass catchers. James, a 6-7 junior, was the most productive of the bunch, catching 25 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. There is also a very talented trio of running backs. Zach Zwinak led the way with 989 yards and a dozen touchdowns last year, but Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch are more than capable of taking away carries from Zwinak. Belton rushed for 803 yards in 2013, while Lynch averaged 6.0 yards per carry as a freshman. On the defensive side of the ball, the strength for Penn State lies up front. End C.J. Olaniyan led the team with 5.0 sacks and will be flanked by junior Deion Barnes. Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson have plenty of experience in the middle of the line.

But the rest of the defense could be in trouble. Losing linebacker Glenn Carson, who led the team with 90 tackles, is big. But Mike Hull is a capable replacement. He is sliding into the middle to replace Carson after totaling 78 tackles on the outside in 2013. Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell have some experience and should flank Hull. However, there is not much depth behind any of them. The secondary has plenty of experience, but the team did rank eighth in the Big Ten in pass defense. Cornerback Jordan Lucas is a star in the making and Trevor Williams can handle the other side. Safety Adrian Amos can do a little bit of everything and Ryan Keiser was playing very well by the end of last season. The depth problem on offense comes on the line and that is not a good place to have depth concerns. Injuries have already taken their toll and a couple of defensive tackles have made the switch to the other side in an attempt to add bodies. Losing wide receiver Allen Robinson will hurt the offense too. Having all of those tight ends is nice, but Hackenberg wants to throw down the field too. Robinson caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards. Brandon Felder is also gone after ranking second on the team with 28 catches. Eugene Lewis, Richy Anderson and Matt Zanellato are the only returning receivers. Speedy freshman DeAndre Thompkins could very quickly emerge as the next Robinson. He will at least have the opportunity.

The Bottom Line:
Reaching six wins does not mean much for a team that is not bowl eligible due to sanctions, but the schedule does work out pretty nicely for the Nittany Lions. Three of their first four games are non-conference matchups against UCF, Akron and Massachusetts. The UCF contest in Dublin could certainly be tricky though. The other non-conference game is against Temple in November. There two crossover games into the Big Ten West are against Northwestern and Illinois. Avoiding Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and even Minnesota is pretty nice. Of the top three teams in the East, Penn State gets Ohio State and Michigan State at home. Only Michigan is on the road. Seven wins again should be the goal, but this could go even better than that if the lack of depth does not turn into a massive problem.

Projected Bowl: None (Not Bowl Eligible)

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 174.0 (57th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 259.2 (37, 3)
Total Offense: 433.2 (43, 4)
Scoring Offense: 28.7 (69, 8)
Rushing Defense: 144.0 (36, 6)
Pass Defense: 237.3 (73, 8)
Total Defense: 381.3 (48, 8)
Scoring Defense: 26.2 (59, 7)
Turnover Margin: -0.2 (74, 8)
Sacks: 2.33 (39, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.83 (52, 7)

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#102 De'Andre Thompkins
#117 Saeed Blacknall
#176 Chris Godwin


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