The Argument Against
The arguments to not have Penn State ranked are easy to identify.
Let’s start with the fact that they were a six-loss team last year and lost a ton of talent from that squad.
Eight starters were drafted in this year’s NFL draft and others found opportunities through undrafted free agent signings. In all, four offensive starters, seven defensive starters and two special teams starters are not returning in 2022.
The losses on offense have been lessened thanks to the transfer portal, but fully replacing Jahan Dotson’s talent and production is nearly impossible. Dotson had 91 catches, 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Every other wide receiver who is returning in 2022 combined for 101 receptions, 1,419 yards and eight touchdowns. He was literally half of the receiver production (keep in mind Dotson sat out the bowl game) last season. Tinsley helps, but can he put up Dotson’s numbers in the Big Ten?
This is also an offense that really struggled to run the ball in 2021. The Nittany Lions did not have a running back go over 100 yards in a game once last season. Keyvone Lee was the leading rusher last season, with only 530 yards. For a program with a proud running back tradition, this isn’t acceptable.
We believe that the infusion of young running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, along with changes on the offensive line, will help but we don’t know that for sure right now. There are so many variables involved in fixing this run game, a lot does need to go right, including play calling.
And as for that offensive line. We like the projected starting group and a handful of reserves, like Nick Dawkins and Bryce Effner, but the numbers on the line are a little thin. If some injuries occur, there could be a serious issue.
The overturn on defense is far more significant. Losing seven starters from a squad that carried the team is less than ideal.
The losses on the defensive line are easier to swallow thanks to the transfer portal addition of Demeioun Robinson and Adisa Isaac and PJ Mustipher returning from injury. The same can be said for the secondary, as there’s enough young talent there to fill the voids left by cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields and safety Jaquan Brisker.
Linebacker is the one position where replacing the losses is going to hurt a little more. Curtis Jacobs is a star in the making, but the MIKE linebacker is going to be a first-time starter, regardless of who it is, and the SAM linebacker is a converted safety in Johnathan Sutherland.
There certainly are some challenges for first-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to overcome at linebacker.
The loss of punter/kicker Jordan Stout may not stand out on paper, but there’s a reason this guy was the first punter drafted this year. He did a fantastic job flipping field position and that cannot be discredited, especially when you’re expecting a few early growing pains with the defense. You also now need to rely on someone new for field goals-a high-pressure job-and kickoffs.
Losing this much experience on the field and on the sidelines, with six-year defensive coordinator Brent Pry moving on, is a lot to overcome.