We are at the two thirds mark of the 2019 regular season, and with the bye here, it is a good time to reflect on what has taken place with the team's depth chart. Let's start with the offense, where we have seen some things we have never seen before for this offense at running back, tight end, and on the offensive line.
|14||Sean Clifford||Sophomore||492 (87.7%)|
|7||Will Levis||RS Freshman||62 (11.1%)|
|15||Michael Shuster||Junior||7 (1.2%)|
Clifford is playing slightly less than McSorley was last season (finished season at 92.8% of snaps), mainly because of how many games the Nittany Lions have had large leads in earlier this year. This despite McSorley having to leave parts of games in 2018 due to his various injuries.
|4||Journey Brown||Sophomore||162 (28.9%)|
|21||Noah Cain||Freshman||161 (28.7%)|
|3||Ricky Slade||Sophomore||133 (23.7%)|
|28||Devyn Ford||Freshman||115 (20.5%)|
|40||Nick Eury||Junior||7 (1.2%)|
This level of rotation is totally without precedent. For the last three seasons, the Nittany Lions have had a clear feature back in Saquon Barkley (78% each in 2016 and 2017) or Miles Sanders (74% in 2018). Even in Barkley's freshman season of 2015, he ended the season playing more than half of the overall snaps (54%).
Cain's stock had appeared to be on the rise, but a bizarrely limited performance against Michigan, and an injury-shortened games against the Spartans have kept him about even with Brown, who has started the most games at running back. As Cain's injury showed, they are very well prepared to deal with an injury, though his skillset is the most unique of the four.
|5||Jahan Dotson||Sophomore||451 (80.4%)|
|1||K.J. Hamler||Sophomore||423 (75.4%)|
|6||Justin Shorter||RS Freshman||207 (36.9%)|
|11||Daniel George||RS Freshman||181 (32.3%)|
|88||Dan Chisena||Senior||115 (20.5%)|
|12||Mac Hippenhammer||Sophomore||60 (10.7%)|
|85||Isaac Lutz||Junior||39 (7.0%)|
|81||Cam Sullivan-Brown||Sophomore||38 (6.8%)|
|23||Weston Carr||Senior||31 (5.5%)|
|80||Justin Weller||Sophomore||17 (3.0%)|
|89||Colton Maxwell||Junior||6 (1.1%)|
|8||John Dunmore||Freshman||5 (0.9%)|
|10||T.J. Jones||Freshman||5 (0.9%)|
This is the steadiest we've seen the program lean on two top receivers since the 2016 season. The rotation of Shorter and George is more balanced then we've seen, even moreso than the DeAndre Thompkins/Saeed Blacknall pairing. The team's increased use of 12 personnel (two tight end sets) has decreased the need for that third receiver position anyway.
|87||Pat Freiermuth||Sophomore||394 (70.2%)|
|83||Nick Bowers||Senior||175 (31.2%)|
|82||Zack Kuntz||RS Freshman||51 (9.1%)|
|86||Brenton Strange||Freshman||29 (5.2%)|
Bowers' usage is without precedent; Freiermuth is playing more than last season, as he did not earn the starting job until conference play in 2018, but the team has not had a clear 1-2 punch like this before. Bowers played sparingly up until this season due to a rash of injuries, and guys like Jonathan Holland and Tom Pancoast were mixed in only when necessary. Their comfort level with Bowers has led them to use more two tight end sets than at any point since the firing of offensive coordinator John Donovan, who used them for all of the wrong reasons.
|62||Michal Menet||Junior||498 (88.8%)|
|71||Will Fries||Junior||485 (86.5%)|
|74||Steven Gonzalez||Senior||483 (86.1%)|
|53||Rasheed Walker||RS Freshman||378 (67.4%)|
|73||Mike Miranda||Sophomore||338 (60.2%)|
|69||C.J. Thorpe||Sophomore||282 (50.3%)|
|75||Des Holmes||Sophomore||198 (35.3%)|
|72||Bryce Effner||RS Freshman||48 (8.6%)|
|55||Anthony Whigan||Junior||18 (3.2%)|
|79||Caedan Wallace||Freshman||18 (3.2%)|
|68||Hunter Kelly||Junior||17 (3%)|
|77||Saleem Wormley||Freshman||6 (1.1%)|
They have rotated offensive linemen before when young guys were nipping at the heels of veterans, but that usually led to defined starters by the fourth or fifth game of the year. Penn State has kept its word that it intended to rotate three guards and three tackles. Walker is clearly ahead of Holmes at left tackle, and the latter is getting experience to be prepared for injuries and nothing more. The Thorpe/Miranda battle is much more interesting. Miranda started every game until the last, and generally saw either even playing time or more of a 70-30 split in most games. Thorpe started and outplayed him against Michigan State, however, and likely has a much higher ceiling. Miranda has seen time at left guard and center, whereas Thorpe has almost exclusively stuck at right guard.