Penn State's Position Groups Best-Equipped to Deal with a Strange 2020 Season

By Nick Polak on September 24, 2020 at 11:21 am
Oct 5, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Noah Cain (21) carries the ball against the Purdue Boilermakers during the third quarter at Beaver Stadium.
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

It's not a secret that the 2020 Big Ten season will be unique. From just an eight-game schedule with no non-conference warm-up to the late-October start date, very little will feel normal about the upcoming campaign.

Penn State has done a wonderful job recruiting under James Franklin, and the roster is full of talent everywhere you look as a result. However, some of those position rooms will simply be better equipped to deal with the circumstances this year will bring than others.

Today, we'll take a look at the positions best set to succeed in spite of the craziness that is 2020.

Running Backs

It should be no surprise that the groups set to be ready to go right from the opening snap in 2020 will be the ones with tons of returning production, depth, and no coaching turnover. The running back room hits on all of those key factors, and should therefore be firing on all cylinders right away.

With potential first-round NFL Draft pick Journey Brown returning to lead the charge, Noah Cain healthy and ready to demoralize defenders, and Devyn Ford primed to take another step forward as an all-purpose stud, this group is as loaded as they come. And that's not even mentioning the true freshmen, Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee. With these five, there should be no shortage of production out of the running back position.

That's not to say this group will be immune to the effects of new coaches. New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca will be installing his plays and new offensive line coach Phil Trautwein will be putting in his blocking system, but Ja'Juan Seider is back, and that stability combined with the talent he has at his disposal will make sure this group is ready.


At first glance, it might be odd to see the linebackers named here as a group best-equipped to deal with the 2020 season. Not only is the room missing All-American Micah Parsons, but the group will almost surely be led by three first-time starters in Brandon Smith, Ellis Brooks, and Jesse Luketa.

So why then is this the defensive group best-positioned to succeed right away? Well, for one thing, while all three of Smith, Brooks, and Luketa will be full-time starters for the first time, it will hardly be their first time seeing the field. All three of them appeared in at least 12 games a year ago, and while Smith saw most of his time on special teams and in garbage time, Brooks and Luketa were each able to see several meaningful snaps on defense.

Then there's the Brent Pry factor. Firstly, having the defensive coordinator as your position coach puts you in a great position to be taken care of when it comes to staying up-to-date on the latest scheme changes. Secondly, Pry is a big proponent of making sure the guys in his room are prepared to play any of the three linebacker spots which gives this unit wonderful flexibility. Finally, the simple fact that the Penn State defensive coordinator has proven that he can turn lower-rated players into stars and higher-rated players into superstars means we can trust him to have his boys raring to go.

What do you think? Do you think there are different groups more prepared for 2020 than running backs and linebackers? Weigh in with a comment below!

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