Projecting Penn State Football’s 2019 Starting Lineup: Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, & Offensive Line
Although the rest of the country has been slow to notice, Penn State football’s offense is already creating a lot of positive buzz throughout Happy Valley. The team consensus seems to be that the offense will be faster and more explosive than ever.
Many are skeptical of how James Franklin’s team will fare on offense without Trace McSorley, but the Nittany Lions’ depth and speed at the skill positions give plenty of hope that they’re ready to move from “great” to “elite.”
With all that in mind, here are our projected starters for the wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line positions.
Starters: KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, Justin Shorter
Reserves: Weston Carr, Mac Hippenhammer, Daniel George, Cam Sullivan-Brown, and Dan Chisena
The wide receiver room is one of the youngest in the program, but it’s also very talented. There’s no shortage of options at the position this year.
KJ Hamler has stepped into a leadership role for the room during the offseason, mainly due to his talent and experience. As a redshirt freshman, the “human joystick” was named to the FWAA and The Athletic‘s freshman All-America teams.
Hamler is projected to be this year’s speedy slot receiver among other things for the team. He can play any of the wideout positions, but where exactly he lines up will depend on the matchups he’ll see on a week-to-week basis.
Jahan Dotson and Justin Shorter are both primed for the 2019 season after getting a taste for college football last year. Dotson should step up and fill one of the outside receiver spots after catching 13 passes for 203 yards in eight appearances last season. Ten of those grabs were for first downs — not too shabby for a true freshman.
Shorter stands tall at 6’4” and will be a great outside target for the Nittany Lions this fall. The former 5-star recruit redshirted last season but was able to play in four games, getting more time towards the end of the season. After lifting all summer, perfecting footwork, and catching extra passes every day, Shorter gained a lot more confidence and is excited to get back into Beaver Stadium to dominate this fall.
Weston Carr transferred to Penn State from Azusa Pacific University during the offseason. The graduate transfer was previously a Division II All-American and helped his team get to Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship and the NCAA DII playoffs. During the 2018 season, Carr hauled in 33 receptions for 644 yards and 12 touchdowns. Carr may need a little time to get used to Big Ten football in Beaver Stadium but has the skillset and experience to be a serious target for the offense this fall.
Starter: Pat Freiermuth
Reserves: Nick Bowers, Zack Kuntz
It would be a shock to all Penn State football fans not to see Pat Freiermuth’s name at the top of the depth chart after his breakout freshman season.
The 6’5″, 256-pound sophomore started in nine games last season and caught 26 passes for 368 yards and eight touchdowns. After focusing on proper nutrition to trim body fat and catching passes from the jugs machine every day, get ready to see a leaner, more confident, and more explosive Freiermuth this season.
Franklin has mentioned senior Nick Bowers a handful of times before, and after a strong finish to last season, he seems ready to make the jump to be an impact player. He ending last season with a strong showing in the Citrus Bowl when he caught a touchdown and a career-best 25-yard catch. While n the past, he’s struggled with injuries, he has managed to persevere and hopefully will find the field consistently this season.
“I think he’s going to have a huge year for us,” Franklin said. “He’s also a guy that’s a senior, and again, has had a lot of adversity and has battled through it and has just been a fantastic teammate.”
Starters: Will Fries, Steven Gonzalez, Michal Menet, Mike Miranda, Rasheed Walker
Reserves: Des Holmes, CJ Thorpe, Bryce Effner, Anthony Whigan
Offensive coordinator Ryan Rahne and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover put more emphasis this offseason on re-evaluating the little details in order to make the line prosper.
Veterans like Will Fries, Steven Gonzalez, and Michal Menet will hold down the fort for half of the line and provide plenty of football experience under their belt. Gonzalez made the crucial decision to come back for one more year when he could’ve left for the NFL. He’ll lead the offensive line along with Fries and Menet, who will man the center position.
Sophomore Rasheed Walker brings an intimidating presence at 6’6”, 324 pounds. He is expected to make big strides this season after being a true student of the game throughout the offseason focusing on tiny details to bring his game to the next level.
Sophomore Mike Miranda also gained valuable experience throughout the season last year, even earning a start at right guard against Maryland. Miranda can also play center, making him a versatile tool for the offensive line. That also allows for Menet to move to another spot on the line if needed.
All in all, the offensive line has the size and experience needed to be a wall up front this year and help a new quarterback get a hold of the offense. Rahne has noticed a different attitude from the big guys and is excited about the competition in the room.
“Just excited about those guys, the way they are approaching it and the whole team in general, the mindset they have gone into this off-season with,” Rahne said.
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