2019 Superlatives: Offense [Part Two]

By Matthew Filipovits on August 1, 2019 at 10:15 am
Apr 13, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Jahan Dotson (5) walks on the field during a warmup prior to the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
© Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions will take the field this very month, which means the long, cold offseason is nearly over. We're back with the second half of our preseason offensive superlative picks to help get you through these last few weeks. Be sure to check out Part One so you're up to speed. 

Most Receptions

KJ Hamler
I'll go with the safe answer here and say KJ Hamler. I think Jahan Dotson is a great answer here, as well, but the way the staff features Hamler in different ways simply gives him too many opportunities to ignore. I think it will be a fairly spread-out attack, so he won't be the leader here by much, but it would be a moderate surprise to see anyone else end the season with more receptions than numero uno.— Nick Polak

The offense figures to have more weapons at receiver this year than 2018, but last year's go-to guy will still be the one to watch. Ricky Rahne has not been shy about saying they intend to find all sorts of ways to get the ball into the electric playmaker's hands. — Matt de Bear

Jahan Dotson
You would expect a rookie quarterback to need a security blanket but as Clifford has shown, he loves to air it out. Dotson is the perfect intermediate-route receiver with incredibly reliable hands to rack the receptions.— Michael Stanley

With all the attention paid to Hamler and Shorter, I think Dotson will have a huge opportunity for catches. — Craig Fritz

Pat Freiermuth
As a first-year starter, Sean Clifford is going to need a security blanket. Pat Freiermuth was Mr. Consistent as a true freshman and should only get better. The receiving corps is stacked so defensives could forget about the big tight end more than you'd expect. — Matt Filipovits

Most likely to become a fan favorite

Justin Shorter
Penn State fans love them some big-time receivers, and Justin Shorter looks ready to step into that fan-favorite spotlight. While he certainly won't eclipse the popularity of fellow receiver and human joystick, KJ Hamler, Shorter's unlimited potential will have fans breaking out their No. 6 jerseys once more as he looks to become the new "hold your breath, there goes a deep pass down the sideline"-inducing beast. — Nick Polak

Injuries limited the former five-star prospect in 2018, but now fully healthy, his blend of size, speed, and hands are going to quickly make him a star in Happy Valley. — Matt de Bear

CJ Thorpe
CJ Thorpe wants to beat you up, take your lunch money, and then eat your lunch money. He is going to pancake dudes. He is going to bully people in a way we haven't seen in a long time. It is going to rule. — Matt Filipovits

KJ Hamler
If he isn't already the fan-favorite, he'll further endear himself to Nittany Nation. — Craig Fritz

Sean Clifford
Any player with enough fire and passion to break his hand punching a weight bench in the weight room will surely win over the fans in no time. — Michael Stanley

Position group seen as the biggest strength

Running Back
Ricky Slade is a former five-star and shined in his limited carries. Behind him are a couple of potential studs. Journey Brown holds the Pennsylvania high school record in the 100-meter dash. Noah Cain and Devyn Ford were high four-stars. There is a tremendous amount of talent in the Penn State backfield. — Michael Stanley

Anytime your four deep features a pair of four-stars and a five-star, you're sitting pretty. Journey Brown is no slouch either if he returns unscathed from a summer suspension. — Matt de Bear

My how things change quickly. It's not that 2012-2014 trio of Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch was bad, but ever since that Saquon Barkley kid made his way through Happy Valley, there hasn't been a position on the team that has been as deep and loaded as the running backs. Now, with former four-stars Ricky Slade, Noah Cain, and Devyn Ford, along with speedster Journey Brown, the Lions will use their insane depth at the position to wear down opposing defenses. — Nick Polak

Wide Receiver
This unit is loaded with talent. Hamler, Dotson, and Shorter are some of the Big Ten's brightest young stars. Add in Daniel George, Mac Hippenhammer, and a D2 All-American in Weston Carr? You've got yourself an arsenal. — Matt Filipovits

Tight End
The unit is anchored by an elite sophomore and supported with tons of talent. — Craig Fritz

Most questionable position group

Wide Receiver
Hamler is a star and Dotson was incredibly reliable as a true freshman. Daniel George and Justin Shorter were great high school prospects but have yet to prove themselves in college. This group has all the talent in the world, but it has to come together, mentally and health-wise. — Michael Stanley

We'll need to see the consistent production from a group with all starting underclassmen.— Craig Fritz

Offensive Line
File this one under you need to prove me wrong. We've been waiting years for the OL to take the next step, and with a less mobile QB, it's almost now or never. The talent appears to be there, now they just need to put it together. — Matt de Bear

It's not that the line is without talent, far from it. Returners Steven Gonzalez and Michal Menet should be some of the top linemen in the conference, and Will Fries has shown flashes of greatness. Still, replacing stalwarts Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern with redshirt freshman Rasheed Walker and either Mike Miranda (who played only 13% of the snaps last year) or CJ Thorpe (who played defensive tackle last year), respectively, leaves the line with some uncertainty. — Nick Polak

Running Back
It's not that this unit lacks talent, it's that nobody is a known commodity. Ricky Slade looked great at times last year, but we only saw him run 45 times in nine games. The only other back with any experience is Journey Brown who has just eight carries to his name and was suspended all summer. — Matt Filipovits

Ceiling and floor of the offense

This offense could be better than last year. I'm not really phased by the first-year starting quarterback scenario. The top six teams in the final AP Poll last year were led by first-time starters. This unit could be a top-25 offense in college football if all goes well. — Matt Filipovits

Top 3 in the Big Ten but the inexperience really hinders this unit from reaching truly elite status. But if Clifford is as good as his small sample size showed, this offense should be plenty good to win every game. — Michael Stanley

Clifford throws for 4k+ and 25TDs and Penn State scores 60 total touchdowns. — Craig Fritz

I think the true ceiling of this offense is as high as the highest highs we saw while Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley, and Joe Moorhead were working their magic and firing on all cylinders. McSorley was fully capable of making the throws he needed to make, but Clifford might just have truly special arm talent. If he's able to show that he can take off with the ball and run the RPO, this team could be special offensively. — Nick Polak

If Clifford and the talent at the skill positions rise to the occasion, there's no reason they can't touch some of the numbers put up in 2016 or 2017. — Matt de Bear

If all goes wrong, this is going to be a long year. Ricky Rahne needs to take a step forward, as leading a young team is much harder than leading an experienced one. The floor for this unit is probably finishing somewhere in the mid-80s in total offense and being constantly unable to finish drives.— Matt Filipovits

Clifford doesn't accustom to making the right reads, Rasheed Walker is a turnstile at left tackle, and Slade doesn't completely fix his minor but persistent fumbling issues. The offense reverts to a slightly better version of the offense of the late Paterno years. — Michael Stanley

Things are worse than 2018 and Ricky Rahne gets canned. — Craig Fritz

It's not at all unreasonable to expect the team to experience some struggles offensively. I think despite how the offense starts out, they will have settled in and found a groove by the time bowl season rolls around. Still, with some new faces on the offensive line, a new quarterback, plenty of running backs but no true bell cow, and a young receiver unit, it's not hard to see why there could be significant growing pains. I think the floor is still relatively high, however, probably something along the lines of last year's offense from week four on, when they only topped 30 points twice. — Nick Polak

The floor is certainly a lot lower this year without Trace McSorley to fall back on. If the receivers continue to struggle, and Sean Clifford and the rest of the backfield don't have time behind a porous offensive line, this could get ugly. — Matt de Bear

The Roundtable will be back next week with our defensive superlatives.

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