2019 Superlatives: Offense [Part 1]

By Matthew Filipovits on July 31, 2019 at 9:00 am
Apr 21, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) throws a pass during a warm up practice prior to the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. The Blue team defeated the White team 21-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
© Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Folks, we are drawing closer and closer to football season, with camp set to open up in the coming days. As our excitement builds, our staff decided to engage in our yearly tradition of handing out preseason superlative awards. Today, we begin with part one of our nominations on the offensive side of the football.

Most Improved Player

Justin Shorter
For a player of his caliber, this is almost by default. With his preseason injury last year, he had an extremely quiet freshman season. Now he's the starting X receiver and has a quarterback with a better arm. — Michael Stanley

Things can only go up after a frustrating, injury-plagued first year. — Craig Fritz

Jahan Dotson
I think if most Penn State fans were asked to take a guess as to how many receptions Dotson racked up in 2018, most would probably wager a guess near 20, though in reality, that number totaled just 13. With how he was able to work his way onto (and stay on) the field as a true freshman, I expect the former four-star to challenge 40 receptions and be a consistent go-to threat on third and fourth down. — Nick Polak

Will Fries
I was torn on any number of linemen, but Fries has too much talent to not take a step up from where he was last year. Don't discount the impact being in his fourth year will have. — Matt de Bear

Michal Menet
It usually takes a few years for offensive linemen to really find their footing. Heading into his second year as a starter and fourth year in the program, this seems like the perfect time for Menet to take that next step. — Matt Filipovits

Most Important Player

Sean Clifford
No team in the country could make it to the national championship without a supremely talented quarterback. Penn State's hopes at 10+ wins lie on Clifford's shoulders. — Michael Stanley

It all starts with the QB. — Craig Fritz

With the Penn State defense looking like it's ready to dominate, the play of the offense is the unknown variable that will dictate how high the 2019 team can climb. And no one player will have as much of an impact on the offense as the new starting quarterback. Clifford's ability to unleash his big-time arm and underrated athleticism will be one of the biggest determinants of Penn State's success in the upcoming season. — Nick Polak

This may be a bailout answer, but on a team with a lot of new parts, the guy touching the ball every play is going to be key, especially with a likely transition away from as many QB runs.— Matt de Bear

KJ Hamler
I mean, he was arguably the offensive's most important player last year. Hamler showed that he's the type of guy that can make something special happen every time he touches the ball. The offense needs to run through him.— Matt Filipovits

Player Most Likely to Surprise

Justin Shorter
I'm not really sure if the nation's top receiving prospect in 2017 and former five-star recruit can surprise people, but I'll go with Shorter here. Injuries pretty much took his freshman year away from him so I'd expect him to come out strong. — Matt Filipovits

Jahan Dotson
I think he could lead the team in receptions. — Craig Fritz

Rasheed Walker
Sure, there will be bumps in the road for a redshirt freshman getting first-team reps at left tackle. However, Walker's talent is undeniable, and Franklin putting this kind of trust in a young player along the line shouldn't be taken lightly. — Matt de Bear

I understand his recruiting ranking and his immense expectations. But as a redshirt freshman starting his first games in college, fans will expect lots of freshman moments. Don't be surprised if Walker comes out and is the dominant offensive lineman Penn State has missed since Donovan Smith. — Michael Stanley

It's not often that you see freshmen starting on the offensive line, and though Walker will be a redshirt freshman in 2019, he's still younger than the typical collegiate lineman. That being the case, tempering expectations is natural, and simply receiving adequate protection off Clifford's blindside would be great. But with the amount of hype Walker has been receiving since the day he stepped foot on campus, I'm picking him to be one of the season's biggest surprises as he blossoms into an all-conference performer. — Nick Polak

Freshman With the Biggest Impact

Noah Cain
His hard-nosed, north-south running style is perfect to complement both Ricky Slade and Journey Brown. Add in his early enrollment, and he should ready to roll in 2019. — Michael Stanley

I'll go with the bruising back out of Florida. I expect Penn State to employ a heavy rotation at running back, if for no other reason than they have the luxury to do so with a loaded position room. I fully expect Cain's role to grow as the season progresses. — Nick Polak

This one seems pretty obvious. The Star of the Spring Game is coming into a pretty open running back battle, has a leg up after enrolling early, and runs differently than everyone else on the roster. You do the math. — Matt Filipovits

The freshman from IMG was perhaps the star of the Blue-White game, and with tons of snaps available at running back, expect him to make himself known when the real games kickoff this fall. — Matt de Bear

Rasheed Walker
He'll set himself up as one of the best freshman OL in B1G. — Craig Fritz

Most Missed Player from 2018

Trace McSorley
He was the heart and soul of Penn State for three years. Clifford could turn out to be more talented, but the energy McSorley brought to the team will be tough to match. — Michael Stanley

I mean, come on.— Craig Fritz

There's really only one answer here. While his play suffered thanks to multiple injuries throughout the season, Trace McSorley was the lifeblood of the Penn State offense in 2018. When he was healthy and on top of his game, he was nearly unstoppable. Sean Clifford has a ton of potential, but Penn State fans were truly spoiled with the consistent greatness of McSorley. There will certainly be growing pains with a new face behind center, and in those moments fans will pine for the new Baltimore Raven. — Nick Polak

With apologies to those that have moved on, you don't just replace the guy that won 31 games and rewrote the record book at quarterback. — Matt de Bear

Ryan Bates
I was set on McSorley here but let's be honest, his senior season was underwhelming. It's not unrealistic to expect similar numbers from Clifford. Bates played a lot of football and you can't replace experience. — Matt Filipovits

Check back tomorrow for Part Two!

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