A Way-Too-Early Look at the 2019 Penn State Offense

By Matthew Filipovits on January 7, 2019 at 8:28 am
Apr 22, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Tommy Stevens (2) drops back to pass during the third quarter of the Blue-White game at Beaver Stadium. The Blue team won 26-0. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders' departure leave Penn State without two of it's biggest stars, but the Nittany Lions still bring a ton of talent back. Even with some roster turnover, all signs point to another strong season on the horizon. 

Let's take a peek at what the 2019 offense could look like.

Quarterback: Tommy Stevens

After four years of waiting, Stevens finally gets the keys to the car. After showing off a litany of skills in 2017, the fifth-year-senior-to-be struggled with injuries this season. He should be out of harms way more often going forward, as he shifts away from the Lion position. He'll have a fierce battle with Sean Clifford over the next eight months, but his experience and running ability ultimately win him the job.

Backups: Sean Clifford, Will Levis, Taquan Roberson, Michael Johnson Jr.

Running Back: Ricky Slade

Slade played well as a true freshman, rushing for 257 yards and six touchdowns. He had his freshman moments, but never looked like he didn't belong at this level. If all goes according to plan, the sophomore could have a breakout year, similar to the one Sanders just enjoyed. 

Backups: Journey Brown, CJ Holmes, Devyn Ford, Noah Cain

Wide Receivers: KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, Justin Shorter

Oh boy, am I excited about these guys.

Hamler was lightning in a bottle in his freshman season. He led the team in catches and receiving yards, and was second in receiving touchdowns. The speedster always made something happen when Penn State needed it most and was the Nittany Lion's best big-play threat. Opposite of him, you'll have Jahan Dotson. A late redshirt burn, Dotson only caught 13 balls all season but proved to be a reliable target. He'll only get bigger and stronger during his first offseason with the team and being available for all 12 games next season will allow him to better get into a rhythm.

The third receiver is a bit of a gray area. On one hand, you have Juwan Johnson, who has all of the upside in the world but had a hard time catching the football this past season. On the other hand, you have Justin Shorter, a heralded recruit who would've certainly played a bigger role this season had he not battled injuries for much of the fall. In the end, I have Shorter winning out simply because I think he would've been starting at some point this season had he been healthy. Regardless, Franklin loves to rotate receivers, so you can still expect a ton of Johnson.

Backups: Juwan Johnson, Brandon Polk, Mac Hippenhammer, Cam Sullivan-Brown, Daniel George, John Dunmore

Tight End: Pat Freiermuth

It's safe to say Freiermuth exceeded everyone's expectations as a true freshman. He hauled in 26 passes for 368 yards, and a team-high eight touchdowns, quickly becoming McSorley's security blanket. On top of his receiving prowess, he held his own as a blocker, something Penn State tight ends have been lacking. He'll be looked at as one of the nation's best tight ends at this time next year.

Backups: Nick Bowers, John Holland, Danny Dalton, Zack Kuntz, Brenton Strange

Offensive Line: Will Fries (LT), Steven Gonzalez (LG), Michal Menet (C), Mike Miranda (RG), Rasheed Walker (RT)

After both Connor McGovern and Ryan Bates declared for the draft, the idea of bringing all five starters from the 2018 line back went out the window. Regardless, Matt Limegrover's group is still in very good shape.

Will Fries and Steven Gonzalez both struggled a bit in the Citrus Bowl but were solid for much of the season. Menet also enjoyed a good first season as a starter. Miranda was absolutely terrific against Maryland, his lone start of 2018. His presence will make the loss of McGovern hurt much less.

The other tackle should go to Rasheed Walker but expect a good fight from Des Holmes and early-enrollee JUCO transfer Anthony Whigan. Walker garnered a lot of praise for his work on the scout team so he's got to be seen as the favorite to get the starting job.

Backups: Alex Gellerstedt, Des Holmes, CJ Thorpe, Juice Scruggs, Bryce Effner, Caedan Wallace, Saleem Wormley

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