A beautiful Blue-White weekend passed with neither Blue nor White taking the field at Beaver Stadium. Crazy times, indeed.
While it’s unfathomable to imagine 107K strong packing Beaver Stadium this fall or the following fall (yes, you read that right!), let’s take a look at what’s transpired around our favorite college football program outside of COVID-19.
Note: Skip to the end to see my prediction on how football may be played this fall and next fall.
Notable Graduating Seniors: Cam Brown, Nick Bowers, Blake Gilikan, Steven Gonzalez, Garrett Taylor, Robert Windsor.
Early NFL departures: Yetur Gross-Matos, KJ Hamler
Portal Transfer Enthusiasts: Mac Hippenhammer, Justin Shorter, Ricky Slade
Career Advancement Opportunists: Ricky Rahne (OC), Sean Spencer (DL)
Simply Replaced: Matt Limegrover (OL), Gerard Parker (WR)
It certainly was a pretty busy winter off-season for the Nittany Lions. I think no-one was surprised with YGM or KJ Hamler entering the NFL Draft earlier. If anything, we were all surprised (and happy) to see Pat Friermuth hanging around for one more season in Happy Valley.
I wish the transfer portal kids the best of luck. I don’t think there was any surprises with this group of kids, and I hope they all end up having great post-PSU college careers.
There was quite a bit of change in the coaching staff! It was no surprise to see Rahne leave; and maybe a bit of a surprise that Brent Pry wasn’t first. It was iteresting to see Limegrover go as the Offensive Line has shown modest improvement each season. Perhaps most surprising was to see Sean Spencer leave the program but the NFL is a great opportunity, and as a NY Giants fan, I am happy to have him there. Gerard Parker continues a concerning trend with lack of stability at Wide Receiver coaching. Let’s hope that incoming Taylor Stubblefield is the real deal!
Penn State tried to make the best of a bad situation this weekend. We had virtual tailgates on Zoom with drop-ins from the coaching staff and players. People tailgated by themselves in their back yards. PSU social medial was abuzz with fun things to watch and follow. BTN replayed some classic Penn State bouts.
And Penn State actually released a depth chart! A meaningless depth chart, but still something fun to look at.
A few notes:
Penn State has a pretty consistent and veteran offensive line for the first time in many, many years.
Wide Receiver depth is thin. Dotson and George get the starting nod as does TJ Jones. Playing experience is paper thin beyond that.
No surprises on the Defensive Line, but the starting linebackers are Parsons, Brooks, and Smith. We’ve seen glimpses of five-star linebacker Brandon Smith in his freshman campaign last year. The brutal hit at the end of the Idaho game shows the intensity this kid plays with.
Jordan Stout appears to be taking on punting responsbilities with Gilikan graduating.
Journey Brown and Jahan Dotson round out kick and punt return duties.
And for the fun of it - Micah Parsons is listed as an Off Returner on special teams. I don’t know if we’ll actually see Parson return kicks this fall, but it should would be fun to watch!
So, what’s going to happen this fall? While the NCAA has not made any formal decision regarding fall atheletics, we can probably assume that packing the tailgating lots and the stadium with over 100,000 people is not a great idea with a virus still in the community with an estimated R-Naught of 5.7. So, what is the NCAA to do? We have heard of shorter, later seasons. We have heard of cancellations. We have heard of a Spring football season.
My best guess: I suspect that the NCAA will allow a conference-by-conference decision on playing fall football (based soley on the economics and safety of doing so). I suspect the B1G will see enough revenue to play a fall-only conference season in front of no fans. There will be TV revenue. Fans will be so hungry for sports, that they’ll watch a conference-only season starting in late September inside of empty stadiums.
Unless there is some dramatic timetable improvement for a vaccine, I suspect this will also be the case of the 2021 season as well. To really stop COVID-19, we may need vaccinations levels of around 85% of people before herd immunity is achieved. That’s a tall order for a vaccine that may only be available by next summer, at the earliest. It’s an even taller order when you think about the challenges of hitting 85% without subsidized healthcare costs for shots and wackos believing that vaccines are a conspiracy between big pharma and the federal government.
I hope to see the Nittany Lions take the field in the fall. I’ll miss the fans, the bands, the white outs, and the pageantry. But the game would still be played.