Youth is an Asset and a Liability for the Penn State Offense

By Craig Fritz on September 19, 2019 at 10:06 am
Penn State Quarterback Sean Clifford
Matthew O'Haren- USA TODAY Sports

So we're three games into the 2019 season and there is much consternation about the state of Penn State's offense (some on defense too!). The Lions are working to find an identity, settle down rotations, get into a rhythm, and be way more efficient.

I'm not too incredibly worried...yet. This is why: the Nittany Lions are extremely young on offense. They're still learning to play football at the collegiate level, let alone play it well. So of course there are going to be be mistakes across the board. Some mistakes stand out more than others, clearly. But keep this in mind: they're also extremely talented. 

To be specific, Penn State STARTS eight underclassmen on offense, including literally every skill position. This is never how you truly want to draw it up if you're a coaching staff, but early departures, defections, recruiting success, and graduations make it a necessity.

To recap, starters include sophomores (KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, CJ Thorpe/Mike Miranda, Sean Clifford, Pat Freiermuth, Ricky Slade, Journey Brown) and freshmen (Justin Shorter, Rasheed Walker, Noah Cain, Devyn Ford). So that's the quarterback, every running back on the roster, every starting wide receiver, and two starting offensive linemen.

The silver lining is the level of talent is undeniable. Every player listed above was a blue-chip recruit, in fact every starter on offense was a blue-chip recruit except right tackle Will Fries. 

Let's compare these numbers to Penn State's biggest competition:

team underclassmen blue-chip starters
Penn state 8+ 10/11
Ohio state 3 9/11
michigan 4 9/11

As you can see, it's a stark difference for the number of starters. Where Penn State is even with its two main rivals is the talent level.

So while we've all watched a team struggle and, as fans, are apt to get upset with the lack of consistency and execution, there is a lot of growth that is going to happen with this group over the 2019 season. The main things to watch are cleaning up the mistakes and hoping the coaches put the players in positions with the greatest opportunity for success (which we're not sure about!). Honestly, the players are too talented to not improve.

They have a bye week and two more games before the competition ratchets way-the-heck up. Hopefully, they can come together as a unit in time.

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