Many new faces will be present on the 2019 Penn State Nittany Lions football team. A new quarterback will be under center is the biggest change, while coaches must find replacements for players that left to play in the NFL, transferred or graduated. Even with all the changes, high expectations remain for coaches, players and fans.
Sean Clifford a redshirt sophomore is expected to start at quarterback for the Nittany Lions. For his career, Clifford has just seven passing attempts but two went for touchdowns. The offensive line has three starters returning but at the key left tackle position will be redshirt freshman Rasheed Walker. Much of the success for the offense will be the pass protecting by the line for the new, inexperienced Clifford.
KJ Hamler is the top receiver returning for Penn State, but not other wide out has more than 10 catches. Jahan Dotson will be the second go-to receiver behind Hamler. Freshman Pat Freiermuth is expected to be the starting tight end. The running backs are as inexperienced as the wide receivers. Sophomores Journey Brown, Ricky Slade and C.J. Holmes will battle with freshmen Devyn Ford and Noah Cain for carries. The most experienced of the group is Slade with 45 carries last season. Brown added weight and has lightning speed.
The defense will come with pressure early and often. The Nittany Lions defense loves to pressure the opposition evidenced by its 3.6 sacks per game average that led the FBS a season ago. End Yetur Gross-Matos had eight sacks and will anchor the line, while Robert Windsor at tackle had 7.5 sacks and returns. Two spots on the line must be filled and Jayson Oweh a freshman is expected to play a big role at end opposite Gross-Matos.
Micah Parsons is expected to have a big year at linebacker. Parsons led Penn State a season ago with 83 tackles despite only starting one game. Alongside Parsons will be seniors Jan Johnson and Cam Brown giving Penn State a solid starting linebacker corps. Two players with experience return to the secondary in strong safety Garrett Taylor and cornerback John Reid. Tariq Castro-Fields will start at the other corner while Lamont Wade and Jonathan Sutherland battle to start at free safety.
The defense will be the dominant force for Penn State in 2019. The offense will need time to come up to speed with a lack of experience under center and at each of the skills positions. The defense appears to have strength both in the front four and back seven, with the linebacker corps the strength of the unit. However, do not expect the final result in 2019 to be equal to the success of 2018. Projected win total 9