ESPN post-spring power rankings disrespects Penn State Football

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports) /

Penn State Football is one of the more intriguing teams when it comes to preseason rankings this offseason, but ESPN does not seem as high on the Nittany Lions as some others 

ESPN senior writer Mark Schlabach put together a post spring practice edition of college football power rankings and Schlabach is cautiously optimistic about Penn State Football in 2021.

The Nittany Lions landed at no. 23 on the top 25 list, dropping them one spot from his pre-spring practice ranking.

It is fair that the national media be skeptical about head coach James Franklin’s squad bouncing back next fall, as the stench of an 0-5 start in 2020 still lingers in the air. They will have to prove it on the field, but a successful offseason has given reason for optimism around the program as Franklin has brought in highly thought of transfers and made significant coaching changes, including offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.

Schlabach did mention the newcomers as a positive for Penn State Football, including some of the freshman such as cornerback Kalen King and offensive lineman Landon Tengwall, who could both play a role next season. King has already drawn rave reviews from Franklin and the staff with the head coach calling him the best freshman he’s ever had in his time at Happy Valley.

He also stood out during the team’s first open practice/scrimmage this spring at Beaver Stadium with two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson. King will round out what seems to be quickly becoming one of the strong points of the team at cornerback.

On paper the losses of key players like Pat Freiermuth, Odafe Oweh and Michael Menet seems like a lot to replace, but the Nittany Lions are well positioned to re-tool instead of rebuild in the aftermath of those players moving onto the NFL.

Transfers along the defensive line such as Arnold Ebiketie and Derrick Tangelo should help ease the transition from Oweh and Toney, while young tight ends Theo Johnson and Brentan Strange look like they will be a more than formidable pass catching duo. Johnson, a freshman, has size you can’t teach at six-foot-six and 253 pounds and can run and stretch the field.

We saw a glimpse of what he can do in the season finale against Illinois when he caught a 20-yard pass down the seam from quarterback Will Levis and then bounced off defenders for quality yards after catch. It was a small sample size, but enough to have fans excited about what he can in his second year on campus in State College.

The obvious ace in the hole so to speak for Penn State Football is not a player at all, it is Yurcich, who comes in after being heavily sought after by Franklin for some time. He is expected to be a quarterback whisperer of sorts, as it looks like Sean Clifford will once again be QB1 after a rocky 2020 campaign.

Clifford is better than some fans give him credit for, and look no further than 2019 as evidence of what he can lead this team to if the pieces around him come together. This may not be the year he leads the Nittany  Lions to the promise land, but this team is better than no. 23 in the country.