Penn State Football: 5 questions Nittany Lions must answer this spring

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports) /
1 of 5

Penn State Football is currently undergoing winter workouts with spring practice and potentially a Blue-White game right around the corner.

Penn State Football head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions have a lot of questions to answer this spring, after a disappointing 4-5 campaign in 2020.

After the season finale, Franklin called this a “critical” offseason for Penn State Football, and his actions have backed up his words. Five incoming transfers and a new offensive coordinator have since made their way to Happy Valley since those sentiments.

There has been a sense of urgency we have not seen in the past from Franklin, a guy who is usually loyal to a fault, after he replaced a coordinator after just one season, a season that was marred by Covid-19.

Penn State Football will return nine starters on offense and seven on defense from the starting lineups they ran onto the field against Illinois in the season finale, but have some critical position battles to watch this spring and into fall camp.

The Nittany Lions lost key players such as defensive end Shaka Toney, defensive end Jayson Oweh and center Michael Menet to the NFL, none of which will be easy to replace next fall.

Let’s take a look at the 5 most burning questions for Penn State Football this fall:

5. Are they happy with what they have at defensive end? 

One of Franklin’s biggest gets in the transfer portal this offseason was former Temple defensive end Arnold Ebiketie.

Ebiketie was a second team All-AAC defensive end in 2020, recording 42 total tackles, eight and a half tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles.

The former Owl should step in and start immediately for the Nittany Lions defense. However, who plays opposite Ebiketie is a question defensive coordinator Brent Pry needs to answer this spring. Sophomore Adisa Isaac figures to be the guy, however going from backup role to an every down player might be a big leap for the Brooklyn native.

Isaac was a highly touted four-star recruit but only has 27, four and a half tackles for loss and three sacks. At six-foot-four and 251 pounds he looks physically ready to take the leap, but depth behind him is also an issue.

Redshirt freshman Smith Vilbert and redshirt sophomore Nick Tarburton have a combined zero sacks in their careers. That leaves the Nittany Lions defense thin at that spot, and begs the question if Franklin will look to the portal to further solidify the defensive end position.

Early in the offseason, Illinois defensive end Owen Carney told 247sports he was in contact with Penn State Football, however he decided to stay put in Champagne.