The 2018 Penn State season came to a disappointing end on New Year’s Day when the Nittany Lions fell to the Kentucky Wildcats, 27-24, in the Citrus Bowl. It was the end to an underwhelming season that saw Penn State go 9-4.
Outside of quarterback Trace McSorley and defensive backs Amani Oruwariye and Nick Scott, Penn State did not have too many contributing seniors. It was a fairly young Penn State team, and it is going to be even younger in 2019.
Following the bowl game, Penn State has already had five players announce their intentions to forgo their senior seasons and declare for the NFL Draft. Defensive linemen Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens are heading to the NFL as well as offensive linemen Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern.
The biggest announcement came on Thursday when junior running back Miles Sanders announced he is leaving for the NFL. With the number of key departures for Penn State between graduation and leaving for the NFL Draft, this team could look very different next season.
It was already known that Penn State was going to be young next season, but with all these key departures the younger players are going to get an opportunity to flourish early on. One area where that will hold true is at the running back position.
Sanders may be gone, but Penn State has a lot of exciting young talent coming out of the backfield. Ricky Slade was a true freshman in 2018 and impressed in limited action behind Sanders. Slade will likely be the lead back next season with recruits Noah Cain and Devyn Ford potentially having roles as well.
Elsewhere on offense, the line is going to be younger after the departures of Bates and McGovern. Will Fries, Steven Gonzalez and Michal Menet will anchor the line, but the right side will have new faces.
The rest of the offense as a whole will have several of young faces in it next season. KJ Hamler will assume the number one receiver role – no pun intended – with Jahan Dotson and Justin Shorter taking up larger roles. Tight end Pat Freiermuth will also continue to contribute on that side of the football.
On defense, the line will need to retool with both Miller and Givens gone. Guys like Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney will assume even larger roles after impressive 2018 campaigns. At linebacker, incoming freshman Brandon Smith will join Micah Parsons to give Penn State one of the best young cores at linebacker in the country.
Penn State’s defense took a huge step forward in 2018 and that unit has the chance to be elite next season. On offense, there are question marks with the young unit. But, with all the potential they have on that side of the ball, there is the potential for Penn State to be very good on offense next season.
There were a lot of growing pains in 2018 for Penn State football. Those were expected with this young team. The 9-4 record and close losses may have been a tough pill to swallow for Penn State fans, but the potential of this team should have fans very excited moving forward.
So get ready Penn State fans, a youth movement is coming to Happy Valley, and it is something that should have the Big Ten and the rest of the country on the lookout.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.