College Football Preview: The 2014 Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State has their eyes on the future as NCAA sanctions begin to lift.
2014 College Football Preview
With NCAA sanctions beginning to ease James Franklin takes over the reins of the Penn State Nittany Lions football program in 2014.
Overview: James Franklin left Vanderbilt to take over a Penn State club that is trying to get back on their feet after NCAA sanctions. The cupboard is not bare and the team has been rebounding so it's up to Franklin to keep the program heading in the right direction.
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Offense: Christian Hackenberg returns under center from a freshman campaign that saw him throw for 2,955 yards with 20 TD's versus ten pick on a 59% completion rate. He did struggle after a solid start in 2013 but he was a true freshman. In 2014 his top two targets are gone including Allen Robinson and his 97 catches that leaves a void at wide receiver with TE Jesse James and Geno Lewis as the top two options. The ground game returns the one, two punch of Zach Zwinak (210-989) and Bill Belton (157-803) but the offensive line is a big question mark with one healthy player with starting experience (assuming Miles Dieffenbach is out).
Defense: The Nittany Lions were solid versus the run but could be thrown on. The run D has a chance to be successful once again with three of the top five on the defensive line back (DT DaQuan Jones drafted 4th rd) but overall getting eight players back with more experience. Four of the top six linebackers also return so there is ample experience in this group to give Penn State a quality run defense once again. Corner Jordan Lucas leads a secondary that returns virtually everyone but they were passed on too frequently but if experience counts for anything this unit should be better in theory but I have to see it first.
Special Teams: Penn State needs a punter and need to squeeze out more accuracy from PK Sam Ficken (15-23) who can hit from long range. The punt return duties will be handled by Jesse Della Valle but the KR unit needs improvement.
Outlook: The Nittany Lions are missing pieces in the passing game and could be in trouble if the offensive line doesn't plug holes but the defense looks good. Set the bar at 7-8 wins and be surprised if its better.