We're finally back talking about football and it feels so good. Even if it's fake spring football and we're still 5 months away, we'll take whatever we can get. Here are a few thoughts on the offense as the weather begins to warm.
This is where most eyes will be. This is where Penn State's season could truly be make-or-break. Tommy Stevens heads into the spring as No. 1 on the depth chart (according to Franklin) with (future Heisman winner) Sean Clifford hot on his trail. Stevens is the savvy veteran and Clifford is the ambitious young guy vying for his first real chance. Both are beloved in the locker room and have been praised for their passion, competitiveness, and performances behind the scenes. In their very limited snaps, Stevens has shown a propensity for running with the ball while Clifford is the more natural pocket passer. If Stevens were 100 percent healthy, he would probably be handed the starting job barring a performance of Herculean proportions by Clifford. But that's not the case. Stevens is battling yet another foot injury following an offseason surgery and that could be just the opening Clifford needs to make this a true battle. How Stevens health progresses will go a big way in determining how this one plays out.
Running Back Rotation
It feels like a near guarantee that Ricky Slade will be the man in the backfield next season. He showed quite the explosiveness last year. The question will be more about who backs him up. Will it be Journey Brown, the speedster? Will it be CJ Holmes, the ND transfer and former four-star? Or one of the talented true freshmen, Noah Cain or Devyn Ford? The former getting to campus back in January has to help his case. Regardless, there are plenty of options, and none are bad.
The only givens here are KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson. The two youngsters proved to be talented and reliable in their first years of action. The questions come on the outside where the wide receiver room is full of talent, albeit unproven. Physically, Daniel George is perfect to line up next to Hamler, and Justin Shorter is as prototypical of an X receiver as you can imagine. If they both put it together mentally and can stay healthy, they could be primed to break out in a big way. The room will also welcome former five-star George Campbell this summer, a graduate transfer from Florida State who is looking to make an impact with a change of scenery.
The Lions are replacing two stalwarts in Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern. That said, it feels like only Steven Gonzalez and Michael Menet's spots are secured. Will Fries had some serious issues throughout the season and could be pushed for his tackle spot. Rasheed Walker is the most obvious answer to fill in at one tackle spot as the former Top-100 recruit has received nothing but praise for his talent and work ethic since he arrived on campus last year. He could be the superstar offensive linemen Penn State fans have been waiting for. JUCO talent Anthony Whigan could be the one to squeeze out Fries, but he'll need to put on some serious strength. Luckily for him, he enrolled early and will have plenty of time to do that. That leaves us with left guard where it's believed it'll come down to Mike Miranda and CJ Thorpe. Thorpe made the move back to offense after the bowl game. Franklin has repeatedly expressed his desire for a mean streak from his linemen and Thorpe and Miranda seem more than capable of delivering that.
Check back tomorrow for the spring's biggest questions on defense.