Penn State Team Preview
Penn State is ready to challenge Michigan and Ohio State for the Big Ten title this fall thanks to their 14 returning starters and a handful of promising young players like quarterback Drew Allar and running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. The Nittany Lions’ offense got a boost in ’23 when left tackle Olu Fashanu decided to return instead of entering the NFL Draft.
If capable replacements emerge at tackle and cornerback, Penn State’s defense from last year should once again be among the best in the Big Ten in ’23. Happy Valley hosts Big Ten champion Michigan, but an important road game against Ohio State looms for coach James Franklin’s squad.
Freshmen Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen sparked PSU’s sluggish rushing attack, racking up 1,928 yards and 22 touchdowns between them. They have an experienced offensive line, so they should keep doing well this fall. Olumuyiwa Fashanu, a first-round draft pick at left tackle, and five other linemen who started at least five games last season return for the Nittany Lions.
The Lions appeared to have the necessary players to continue their success from 2022, when they adjusted successfully to Manny Diaz’s high-pressure defensive scheme. Outside linebacker Abdul Carter set career highs with 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in his freshman season. Another playmaker, linebacker Curtis Jacobs, decided to stay instead of leaving early for the NFL Draft and will be joining him.
The backup is just as menacing-looking, if not more so. Kalen King, who led the Big Ten with 21 passes defensed last season, is the big draw at cornerback, but Johnny Dixon, a seasoned veteran, should not be taken lightly by opponents. Lions defensive ends Adisa Isaac and Chop Robinson had a combined 9.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss in 2017.
This appears to be one of Franklin’s best teams, despite the loss of a four-year starting quarterback. Penn State has the potential to go from a New Year’s Six bowl team to a playoff contender by beating its toughest divisional opponents. The Lions have lost against both Ohio State and Michigan in five of Franklin’s nine seasons as head coach.
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