Penn State 2019 Snap Counts Recap: Offense

By Dan Smith on January 22, 2020 at 8:00 am
Dec 28, 2019; Arlington, Texas, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Journey Brown (4) celebrates scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Memphis Tigers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
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Another season is in the books for the Snap Counts feature here at Roar Lions Roar. We now have five seasons' worth of data, dating back to 2015. For whatever you want to say about Ricky Rahne's two seasons as offensive coordinator, I can tell you from having rewatched every 2015 game during that season that he was light years ahead of what we saw from the John Donovan offenses. Good luck, Washington!

Anyway, we will spend some time later this offseason reviewing those larger data sets to look for trends that might help us understand where Penn State goes next. But for now, we can take a look at what transpired in 2019. Today, we start with the offensive side of the ball.

(Please note that the "Games Played" stat does not factor in special teams. I do not have access to All-22 footage, and television broadcasts do not make it possible to track snap counts on special teams.)

Quarterback

No. Quarterback Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
14 Sean Clifford RS Sophomore 742 (81.8%) 12 (12 starts) 81 (Iowa)
7 Will Levis RS Freshman 157 (17.3%) 7 (1 start) 57 (Rutgers)
15 Michael Shuster RS Junior 7 (0.8%) 1 7 (Idaho)
9 Ta'Quan Roberson Freshman 4 (0.4%) 1 4 (Rutgers)

Clifford established himself as worthy of the starting role and will be the starter in 2020. Levis performed admirably against Ohio State after Clifford's injury, but his performance against Rutgers made it clear that Clifford is the top man at this spot. Roberson was the only other scholarship player to see the field; Michael Johnson Jr. and he will do battle for the third spot on the depth chart this offseason.

Running Back

No. Running Back Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
4 Journey Brown RS Sophomore 400 (44.1%) 13 (10 starts) 62 (Minnesota)
21 Noah Cain Freshman 199 (21.9%) 10 (1 start) 35 (Iowa)
3 Ricky Slade Sophomore 169 (18.6%) 12 (2 starts) 24 (Maryland)
28 Devyn Ford Freshman 152 (16.8%) 12 24 (Idaho)
40 Nick Eury RS Junior 7 (0.8%) 1 7 (Idaho)

Brown's emergence might have been the biggest positive surprise of 2019, but the position as a whole performed well. Cain's total was limited by his injury issues in the second half of the season, but he solidly has a hold on the number two spot. Ford has a ton of potential and is something of a wild card heading into the 2020 season. And Slade's pass-catching, combined with the big hole at the slot receiver position, may find him an increased, hybrid role next year. It's all upside at running back right now.

Wide Receiver

No. Wide Receiver Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
5 Jahan Dotson Sophomore 769 (84.8%) 13 (13 starts) 76 (Iowa)
1 K.J. Hamler RS Sophomore 694 (76.5%) 13 (13 starts) 75 (Iowa)
11 Daniel George RS Freshman 325 (35.8%) 12 (4 starts) 56 (Memphis)
6 Justin Shorter RS Freshman 281 (31%) 10 (5 starts) 42 (Pitt)
88 Dan Chisena RS Senior 195 (21.5%) 12 (2 starts) 34 (Indiana)
12 Mac Hippenhammer RS Sophomore 101 (11.1%) 9 30 (Indiana)
23 Weston Carr RS Senior 44 (4.9%) 4 16 (Idaho)
85 Isaac Lutz RS Junior 39 (4.3%) 3 19 (Idaho)
81 Cam Sullivan-Brown RS Sophomore 38 (4.2%) 3 15 (Maryland)
80 Justin Weller RS Sophomore 17 (1.9%) 1 17 (Idaho)
89 Colton Maxwell RS Junior 6 (0.7%) 1 6 (Idaho)
8 John Dunmore Freshman 5 (0.6%) 1 5 (Purdue)
10 T.J. Jones Freshman 5 (0.6%) 1 5 (Purdue)

Dotson and George will return as the starters at wide receiver, but little else is settled. Chisena and Carr have graduated. Hamler is off to the pros. Shorter is in the transfer portal with no apparent intention of returning. That leaves a bevy of scholarship freshmen (five new ones, plus the two redshirts in Dunmore and Jones), and two veteran reserves in Sullivan-Brown and Hippenhammer. The former has shown potential as a possession receiver but missed most of the 2019 season with an injury suffered against Purdue. The latter struggled with drops in 2019 and mostly fell out of the rotation. The Nittany Lions have relied on more two-tight end sets and may add in two running back sets, but they need more from the receiver position no matter how they go forward.

Tight End

No. Tight End Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
87 Pat Freiermuth Sophomore 718 (79.2%) 13 (13 starts) 75 (Minnesota)
83 Nick Bowers RS Senior 283 (31.2%) 13 (2 starts) 40 (Michigan State)
82 Zack Kuntz RS Freshman 56 (6.2%) 4 24 (Maryland)
86 Brenton Strange Freshman 29 (3.2%) 2 18 (Idaho)

Freiermuth was a workhorse this season, having several games in which he was on the field for every snap. Bowers provided a nice boost as well, giving the team more flexibility to use two-tight end sets as the third receiver position continued to be a disappointment. Kuntz and Strange (along with true freshman Theo Johnson) will have big shoes to fill as the second tight end, but they are players with high ceilings who will have the chance to thrive with the attention Freiermuth will demand.

Offensive Line

No. Offensive Linemen Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
62 Michal Menet RS Junior 833 (91.8%) 13 (13 starts) 81 (Iowa)
71 Will Fries RS Junior 827 (91.2%) 13 (13 starts) 81 (Iowa)
74 Steven Gonzalez RS Senior 822 (90.6%) 13 (13 starts) 81 (Iowa)
53 Rasheed Walker RS Freshman 673 (74.2%) 13 (13 starts) 66 (Memphis)
73 Mike Miranda RS Sophomore 522 (57.6%) 13 (9 starts) 60 (Purdue)
69 C.J. Thorpe RS Sophomore 458 (50.5%) 13 (4 starts) 55 (Maryland)
75 Des Holmes RS Sophomore 285 (31.4%) 13 52 (Idaho)
72 Bryce Effner RS Freshman 52 (5.7%) 5 33 (Idaho)
79 Caedan Wallace Freshman 22 (2.4%) 3 17 (Idaho)
55 Anthony Whigan Junior 18 (2%) 1 18 (Maryland)
68 Hunter Kelly RS Junior 17 (1.9%) 1 17 (Idaho)
77 Sal Wormley Freshman 6 (0.7%) 1 6 (Idaho)

From a roster management standpoint, the season could not have worked out better on the offensive line. Everyone stayed healthy, and they were successfully able to implement platoons at left tackle and right guard to develop young reserves without throwing them into the fire. This means that despite losing Gonzalez to graduation, both Thorpe and Miranda will enter 2020 with starting experience as they take over each of the guard roles. It also means that Holmes is positioned well to be the top reserve at both tackle positions, and they maintained redshirts on Whigan (JUCO transfer) and Wallace, who may be in the mix at tackle this year as well. The proof-of-concept on these new platoons may mean that the team relies on them more going forward, especially now that the two-deep is consistently filled out with recruits they are high on.

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