Penn State Football Prediction Roundtable: Offensive Breakout Player


As the start of the 2015 Penn State season approaches, there’s still plenty of time to make predictions for the upcoming season. The Nittany Lions have a lot of experience returning on both sides of the ball and could be poised to make a run at a Big Ten title. While several players are expected to perform well, there are always a few who have a surprising breakout season.

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Throughout the season, VBR will feature prediction roundtables on topics such as upcoming games and award winners.

To get this season of prediction roundtables started, some members of our staff here at VBR give our picks for Penn State’s offensive breakout player in 2015. Feel free to make your picks and agree or disagree with ours in the comment section below.

Lead Editor Barry Leonard: 

There are a few popular players on the offensive side of the ball to consider for a breakout season in 2015. While I may not be going too far out on a limb here, I do believe that running back Akeel Lynch is the best choice to be a breakout candidate in 2015. Lynch saw his workload increase as last season progressed and enters this year as the clear starter for the Nittany Lions.

Lynch has shown flashes of his talent and has the talent to be a top-tier running back at the collegiate level. Aside from his pure skill, there are a few other factors working in his favor. One is an improved and more experienced offensive line. Secondly, Christian Hackenberg is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, meaning that defenses could be so focused on stopping the pass that Lynch has extra running room.

Despite playing in a limited role, Lynch finished 2014 as the top rusher on the team. Now the clear starter, look for Lynch to take a giant step forward this season.

Staff Writer Marty Leap:

My breakout player on offense for 2015 is tight end Mike Gesicki. Last season, Gesicki saw limited time as a true freshman catching 11 passes. This was good enough though to have Gesicki named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team by 247 Sports had Gesicki ranked as the top tight end in the country in the 2015 recruiting cycle for a reason. Gesicki brings a combination of athleticism, soft hands, and size that no tight end of Penn State’s roster can match.

Gesicki had a strong spring, and looked to be forming a strong relationship and good chemistry with quarterback Christian Hackenberg. I look for Gesicki to become one of the Big Ten’s best tight ends this season, and to be a real red zone threat for the Nittany Lions. I also believe Gesicki will bring the ability to stretch the field from the tight end position this fall. It would not shock me if the 6 foot 6 Gesicki wound up leading the team in receiving touchdowns due to the fact his size can create such matchup nightmares for defenses in the red zone.

Staff Writer Shane Lunnen

While Akeel Lynch will probably be the popular pick here, I’m going with Chris Godwin to have a breakout season.  Godwin earned the Big Ten Network’s conference All-Freshman team honors before having his coming out party against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl.  He tallied 7 receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown.  The score came on a beautiful 72 yard catch and run with Godwin high stepping out of a tackle on his way to the end zone.  The performance earned him a spot on ESPN’s All Bowl Team.

The receiving core as a whole is overflowing with talent and it’s going to be quite exciting to watch.  If things come together, defenses will have a tough time against all of them.  Godwin has the size and speed to be a major weapon for quarterback Christian Hackenberg. He had the off-season to fine tune his skills and build off his bowl game performance.  We should expect huge things for Godwin this fall.

Staff Writer Marty Leap: 

My defensive breakout player this season is defensive end Garrett Sickels. The six-foot-four, 260-pound Sickels was disruptive in limited action last season. As this season approaches, Sickels will be looked upon to fill a starting role with the departures of Deion Barnes, CJ Olaniyan, and Brad Bars.

During his senior year of high school Sickels was one of the most highly sought after defensive end recruits in the nation. This is due to the fact Sickels has the size and strength to play against the run, but also the athleticism needed to rush the passer. Sickels will still need to improve his defense against the run some this season, but I look for him to be a terror for opposing quarterbacks. In fact, he is my pick to lead the Nittany Lions in sacks this fall.

Staff Writer Nick Lemon:

I’m going with the unconventional pick for offensive breakout player and choosing newcomer, offensive tackle Paris Palmer.  If Penn State’s offense is going to improve this season it is going to start with the line and it is out of necessity that Paris Palmer (or another lineman – see Wendy Laurent) break out in 2015.  Coach Franklin has stressed the importance of not having to shift the offensive lineman from their primary positions.  However, after the first week of camp, Franklin feels that Palmer has been tentative and not as aggressive as he’s like. That’s not exactly the news that Penn State fans were hoping to hear less than three weeks before the season opener.

While other breakout candidates’ success will be more evident in the stats column (Mike Gesicki and Chris Godwin for example) they are surrounded by a host of other talented players at their positions.  However, outside of Christian Hackenberg’s right arm, the success of the offense will largely ride on the giant that is projected to protect his backside, six-foot seven inch, 300-pound Paris Palmer and his ability to step in, mature drastically during camp and be prepared to make an immediate impact in the trenches.