2021 Season Preview

August 4th, 2021

Meticulously penned by Bill Kratzer

With Penn State’s camp kicking off this week, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at our beloved Nittany Lions before they walk into a striped-out Camp Randall in one month to take on the Wisconsin Badgers.

Off seasons are normally pretty quiet, but not so this year:

  • Roster Turnover. Penn State turned over nearly 30% of their roster due to graduation, early departures for the NFL, transfers, and minor crimes and misdemeanors (still pending). One of the things I love about college football is seeing fresh new names. This year will be no exception.

  • Recruiting. Penn State was looking pretty good for a 2022 recruiting class and then July happened, with Penn State picking up 12 recruits. Penn State currently sits with the #1 recruiting class in the nation! This ranking will likely drop over the next few months but make no mistake - the missteps of 2020 appears to have had no effect on the recruiting trail.

  • Conference realignment. The cherry-picking Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 underscores the SEC’s ambitions to build an NCAA super-conference like no one has seen. Will the Big Ten go after the scraps? (I hope not)

  • NIL. Penn State quickly announced their Name, Image and Likenss program after the NCAA granted student athletes the ability to do something that every other student could always do - make a buck while you’re in school. I’m sure that the local car dealerships are pumped to throw a few dollars toward student athletes.

Going into camp, there’s plenty of intrigue with the 2021 Nittany Lions:

  • Defensively, the secondary is loaded but it’s the defensive line that has many of the question marks. The departures of Shaka Toney, Antonio Shelton, Odafe Oweh adds to the intrigue along the line. Penn State tapped the transfer portal and has a stable of younger players who are excited to step into the lime light. Might we see Jesse Luketa make a move from LB to DE?

  • Line Backer University looked quite shakey last year. With Micah Parsons now long in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for this position group to show off their talent. Brandon Smith moving from SAM to the WILL linebacker position should put him in better position to terrorize quarterbacks with more blitzing rather than the flat-footed pass-coverage in the midfield we saw in 2020.

  • Offensively, Penn State hired Mike Yurcich and I couldn’t be more excited. Mike Yurcich was responsible for some very productive offenses at Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Texas. I’m not sure we’ll see major scheme changes, but fans will likely see some new twists. Maybe even a little under-center play this year in short yardage situations?

  • All eyes are on the quarterbacks. This is year three of the Sean Clifford era, and expectations are high. Clifford should have full command of this team and this offense. However, the departure of Will Levis leaves only two quarterbacks remaining, both having never taken a snap in collegiate play. All eyes will be on Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux this fall to see how ready they are to step in and play, if needed.

  • The wide receiver position has a big question mark after Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington. Will KeAndre Lambert-Smith be the #3? Or will Cam Sullivan-Brown, Daniel George, or Malick Meiga make some noise? Hell, we’ve heard that Marquis Wilson even ran some routes during spring ball.

Lots of stuff to watch over the month of August.

32 more days until kick off.