Projecting Penn State's Initial 2020 Depth Chart

By Matthew Filipovits on September 17, 2020 at 2:33 pm
Aug 31, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Brandon Smith (12) reacts after sacking Idaho Vandals quarterback Mason Petrino (8) during the third quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Idaho 79-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
© Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
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In case you missed it, the Big Ten has reversed course, and football season will indeed kick off next month.

A lot has changed in the past seven weeks or so, with the two biggest developments for Penn State being Micah Parsons' opt-out and the NCAA's decision that this football season will not count towards a player's eligibility. That means true freshmen can appear in every game this season and still have true freshman eligibility in 2021. With that luxury in mind, let's project what the first depth chart of this very bizarre 2020 season could look it.

Offense

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team
QB Sean Clifford Will Levis 3rd: Ta'Quon Roberson
4th: Micah Bowens
RB Journey Brown Noah Cain 3rd: Devyn Ford
4th: Caziah Homes
5th: Keyvone Lee
WR-X Daniel George Cam Sullivan-Brown 3rd: Norval Black
4th: Malick Meiga
WR-H KeAndre Lambert-Smith John Dunmore Parker Washington
WR-Z Jahan Dotson TJ Jones Jaden Dottin
TE/H Pat Freiermuth Zack Kuntz 3rd: Brenton Strange
4th: Theo Johnson
LT Rasheed Walker Des Holmes Jimmy Christ
LG Mike Miranda Sal Wormley Nick Dawkins
C Michal Menet Juice Scruggs Golden Isreal-Achumba
RG CJ Thorpe Anthony Whigan Olu Fashanu
RT Will Fries Caedan Wallace 3rd: Bryce Effner
4th: Ibrahim Traore

Notes

  • The official depth chart will probably list Brown, Cain, and Ford as co-starters, but we all know how that will really shake out. Brown and Cain will form the best 1-2 punch in the Big Ten, with Ford being a homerun threat every time he checks in. Caziah Holmes should get a few carries a game here and there.
  • Pat Freiermuth is indeed back, turning tight end from somewhat of a question mark into a major strength. Expect Theo Johnson to see a lot of time as more of a receiver until that position room figures itself out.
  • Speaking of receivers, I'm projecting KeAndre Lambert-Smith to be a starter. The blue-chip prospect enrolled early and even though the staff probably wasn't going to redshirt him, they can now get him on the field as often as possible. I'd also expect both John Dunmore and Parker Washington to get a lot of reps, possibly equal to Lambert-Smith.
  • This offensive line is going to be outstanding. Fries and Wallace could turn into a platoon as the season wears on, but Fries should have it locked down for a while. Don't expect the true freshman to play all that much, but it's nice to have those options.

defense

Pos. First Team Second Team Reserves
DE Shaka Toney   Adisa Isaac 3rd: Nick Tarburton
4th: Coziah Izzard
1-DT Antonio Shelton Fred Hansard 3rd: Hakeem Beamon
4th: Joseph Darkwa
5th: Fatorma Mulbah
3-DT PJ Mustipher Judge Culpepper 3rd: Dvon Ellies
4th: Aeneas Hawkins
5th: Cole Brevard
DE Jayson Oweh Shane Simmons 3rd: Smith Vilbert
4th: Bryce Mostella
5th: Amin Vanover
SLB Brandon Smith Lance Dixon Zuriah Fisher
MLB Ellis Brooks Curtis Jacobs Tyler Eldson
WLB Jesse Luketa Charlie Katshir Curtis Jacobs
CB Keaton Ellis Marquis Wilson Joseph Johnson III
S Lamont Wade Tyler Rudolph 3rd: Trent Gordon
4th: Drew Hartlaub
S Jaquan Brisker Jonathan Sutherland Enzo Jennings
CB Tariq Castro-Fields Joey Porter Jr.  Daequan Hardy

Notes

  • No real surprises along the defensive line, but the battles for the fifth defensive tackle and end should be fun to watch. There's a lot to like about those redshirt and true freshman.
  • With Micah gone, I expect Jesse Luketa to slide to outside linebacker. Remember, Brent Pry has his most of his guys learn all three positions, so this is more of a formality than anything else. Curtis Jacobs and Lance Dixon could play inside if needed, while Katshir is purely an outside linebacker. Zuriah Fisher could see his snaps increase as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable after playing near the line of scrimmage in high school.
  • Donovan Johnson is out for the year with an injury, so enter Keaton Ellis. The State College native played well last year and should take a big step forward. Marquis Wilson will probably occupy the slot, while Joey Porter Jr. rotates in on the outside.
  • Brisker and Wade give the Nittany Lions two great options in pass coverage. Trent Gordon moves over from corner, bringing some good ball skills. Jonathan Sutherland should be his usual, reliable self.

special teams

Pos. First Team Second Team Reserves
K (FG) - <49 Jake Pinegar Jordan Stout Rafael Checa
K (FG) - 50+ Jordan Stout Jake Pinegar  
KOS Jordan Stout Jake Pinegar Rafael Checa
P Jordan Stout Carson Landis Bradley King
H Jordan Stout Joe Calcagno Bradley King
LS Chris Stoll Joe Calcagno -
KR Caziah Holmes Journey Brown -
PR Jahan Dotson Marquis Wilson -

Notes

  • *Sigh* No Micah at kick returner. Caziah Holmes was listed as the third guy in the spring depth chart, but I expect him to be the guy. It's a great way for him to get his hands on the football while protecting some of your more established playmakers.
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