Best and Worst Case Scenarios: Offense

By Matthew Filipovits on July 9, 2018 at 8:18 am
Penn State wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins

Adriana Lacy - Roar Lions Roar

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quarterback

Best Case:

Trace McSorley proves that he doesn't need Saquon Barkley to be elite. The senior continues to play efficiently and brings back some of that big play magic that made 2016 so dang fun. He rewrites the entire record book, brings home a Heisman Trophy, and puts the Nittany Lions into the playoff. Tommy Stevens plays a big role at the Lion position and looks great in relief. The junior shows enough to ease all worries about losing McSorley in 2019. Penn State blows out some of the lower team so badly, Sean Clifford gets his first game action in mop-up duty. The freshman gains some valuable experience and proves he can be a quality backup in 2019 and the favorite to start in 2020.

Worst Case:

McSorley struggles mightily without Barkley, Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton. He fails to recapture the magic he had with Moorhead, and Penn State drops two games in September. Tommy Stevens goes down with an injury as he takes on a larger workload and struggles against some higher level competition. Sean Clifford just isn't ready when his number is called and the Nittany Lions are forced to test Zembiec's health or burn freshman Will Levis' redshirt.

running back

Best Case:

Miles Sanders shows why he was the nation's top running back prospect in 2016. The junior runs wild and takes on a workload similar to Barkley's. Mark Allen makes the most of his opportunities in certain packages and gives the offense a burst at the perfect time. Ricky Rahne carves out a role for senior Johnathon Thomas on short yardage plays, and Journey Brown gets enough time to ease concerns about long-term depth at the position. Ricky Slade is not forced to play too much but is too good to keep off of the field. He provides a fun change of pace and gives McSorley another option in the passing game.

Worst Case:

Exactly how big of a role Saquon Barkley played gets brought to light. Sanders struggles as defenses begin to gather more tape on him and the junior isn't able to take on 20-plus carries per game. The fumble issues that hit him in 2016 also return. Mark Allen and Johnathan Thomas can't give the Nittany Lions the juice they need off of the bench. Journey Brown needs another year to adjust to the college game and Ricky Slade isn't physically ready to take on a large workload. 

Wide receiver

Best Case:

Juwan Johnson wins the Biletnikoff and becomes an All-American. The junior single-handedly makes up for Hamilton and Gesicki's graduation and gives Penn State the type of receiving threat not seen since Allen Robinson. DeAndre Thompkins thrives in the slot, proving to be the best compliment to Johnson. Guys like Brandon Polk, Mac Hippenhammer, Cam Sullivan-Brown and K.J. Hamler all step into their own and give McSorley more weapons than he knows what to do with. Justin Shorter has a Sammy Watkins-esque freshman season and shows everyone why he gets compared to Calvin Johnson. The other blue-chip freshmen get to develop on the scout team.

Worst Case:

Inexperience gets the best of the unit. Teams key in on Johnson and Thompkins, forcing McSorley into his third read more often than not. None of the young players step up and Penn State doesn't have a big play receiver for the first time of the Franklin era. The freshmen are forced to play increased roles before they are ready, and none of them are able to adapt and improve as the season wears on.

Tight end

Best Case:

Somebody, anybody steps up. John Holland becomes a great option in the receiving game and turns out to be a slightly better blocker than Gesicki. Perhaps Nick Bowers is finally healthy for a full season, becoming an old-school tight end that can help in run support and bulldozes defensive backs. Maybe Danny Dalton shows that when healthy he is the best tight end the roster. We could see one of the true freshmen step up and show they're ready to contribute right off the bat. Either Zack Kuntz or Pat Freiermuth become McSorley's top red zone threat. I honestly have no idea what to make of this position at the moment so take your pick on whichever you think is best.

Worst Case:

The unit struggles with Rahne taking over a new role and nobody steps up. Jon Holland struggles as a blocker and receiver. Bowers' injuries return and the junior misses more time. When healthy, he doesn't have the explosiveness and athleticism he showed early in his career. Danny Dalton also gets injured again and continues to be a relative unknown in the position room. The freshmen play like freshmen and fail to rack up a fraction of Gesicki's production. Again I have no clue what this position will look like. Go with whatever one of these scenarios you think it worst. 

Offensive line

Best Case:

This IS the year Penn State's line to turns into a strength. Ryan Bates, Steven Gonzalez, Connor McGovern, and Will Fries all continue to develop and quickly turn into one of the best units in the conference. Michal Menet wins the open guard spot, with Mike Miranda and CJ Thorpe hot on his heels. All three prove they can play and give the Nittany Lions depth across the interior of the line. Chasz Wright and Alex Gellerstedt add more depth on the edge. Zach Simpson and Des Holmes carve out a role and give the Nittany Lions double-digit capable linemen.

Worst Case:

This unit has too much talent to take a real step backward so, barring injury, the unit stays the same. It's a carousel at right guard and Matt Limegrover has to do a ton of shuffling with the other four. No backups step up in practice or show enough in relief to give Franklin the peace of mind he was hoping for. On the bright side, all of the starters could return in 2019 so we end up having this same conversation in a year.

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