3 most glaring Penn State needs coming out of the transfer portal

James Franklin successfully navigated the transfer portal this offseason, but despite a lack of departures, he didn't do enough to turn Penn State into a national title contender.
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin / Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After Penn State’s Tuesday night loss on the basketball court, any hopes of a late-season run to the NCAA Tournament have been all but dashed. So, with spring practices approaching it’s as good a time as any to turn the collective attention back to the football field (with all due respect to Penn State wrestling). 

The biggest vehicle for offseason change is the transfer portal and James Franklin navigated it cleanly. He made sensible additions to positions of need, grabbing Julian Fleming at wide receiver and A.J. Harris and Jalen Kimber at cornerback, among his class of six incoming transfers. 

Franklin also avoided big losses, with just five players leaving in search of greener pastures. Dante Cephas is the most notable departure, but the news of his move to Kansas State was welcomed by the entire fanbase and seemingly the coaching staff. 

Penn State will need to replace the 10 players who are currently in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine but looks well suited to replace Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace at offensive tackle and already found two new starting cornerbacks to slot into Kalen King and Johnny Dixon’s spots on the depth chart. 

Still, as spring practices approach, Penn State has holes on its roster and unless a young player elevates his game this offseason, they could be glaring weaknesses in 2024. 


When you move a dynamic defensive superstar like Abdul Carter from linebacker to edge to replace Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac’s production, you’re just robbing Peter to pay Paul. It was a wise move for Franklin and defensive coordinator Tom Allen to make because Paul plays a much more valuable position on the defense, but now Peter is a few bucks short. 

With Carter at edge and Curtis Jacobs preparing for the draft, Penn State’s two snaps leaders at linebacker have left the position room. Kobe King and Dominic DeLuca will both be back in 2024, but Penn State needs a dynamic playmaker in the middle of the field and neither of those two players fit the bill. 

Carter’s move puts a lot on the shoulders of rising sophomore Tony Rojas but simultaneously demonstrates the faith that the coaching staff has in the former four-star. If Rojas turns into a star, then the Nittany Lions can have the No. 1 defense in the country again next season, but if he’s not ready, then the defense could take a substantial step back. 

Defensive line

No, this isn’t edge rushers, with Dani Dennis-Sutton, Amin Vanover, Zuriah Fisher, and now Abdul Carter, Penn State is loaded up there. However, the Nittany Lions don’t have a lot of talent on the interior. 

Hakeem Beamon and Zane Durant, who led the team in snaps on the interior defensive line posted just 14 and 13 pressures respectively, and only had 20 run game stops between them. Dvon Ellies and Coziah Izzard will also be back, so the top four will remain the same and that’s fine, but unremarkable. 

Penn State’s defense was fine with that cast of characters on the inside last year and the Nittany Lions led the country in sacks, so it’s not a massive problem, but against teams like Ohio State and Michigan, Penn State’s defensive front got manhandled. 

Wide receiver

Adding Julian Fleming, an Ohio State castoff, certainly isn’t enough to elevate Penn State’s offense beyond its Big Ten rivals, new and old. Andy Kotelicki’s innovative system that was successful at maximizing the talents of his offense at Kansas will help boost that side of the ball, but no matter how ingenious a play-caller is, his offense only works with elite talent on the field. 

The Peach Bowl was the best example of where Penn State is in the receiver room. The Nittany Lions had a month to prepare for a game without being hamstrung by Mike Yurcich and Drew Allar didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until Sean Clifford’s little brother caught a short out-route in the fourth quarter. 

Harrison Wallace III missed most of the season, but he was back healthy against Ole Miss and just couldn’t get any separation against the SEC cornerbacks on the other side. Fleming is a nice addition, but I’d wager that Tyler Warren leads the team in catches and receiving yards next season and that’s not a good place for an offense to be unless your tight end is Brock Bowers or Kyle Pitts, which Warren is objectively not. 

I would have loved for Franklin to make just one more addition to the receiver room through the transfer portal this offseason, but without it, I view Penn State as a second-tier Big Ten team that will be lucky to make the 12-team playoff in 2024.

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