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Staff Picks: Bold Predictions For Penn State Football’s 2019 Season

We only need to hang on for one more day without football, Penn State.

Penn State football will open its 2019 season at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium for a non-conference game against Idaho. As ever, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to this year’s Nittany Lion team — including a new starting quarterback and plenty of other new faces.

Earlier this week, we took a stab at predicting Penn State’s final regular-season record. A few of our staffers decided to make some bold predictions for this year’s team.

Will Pegler: Jahan Dotson Will Lead Penn State In Receptions

While there’s plenty of chatter surrounding wide receivers like KJ Hamler and Justin Shorter, we shouldn’t forget about speedy sophomore Jahan Dotson.

Dotson played in eight games last season and caught 13 passes for 203 yards, including a four-catch day against Rutgers. This experience from 2018 and his sure hands will likely make him a favorite target for young signal-caller Sean Clifford, who will certainly be in need of a consistent target throughout the 2019 campaign.

Based on his cameos last year and the attention Hamler, Shorter, and Pat Freiermuth will draw from opposing defenses, Dotson should finish this season on top of Penn State’s reception leaders.

Anthony Fiset: Lamont Wade Will Lead The Team In Tackles

I think it’s Lamont Wade’s time to shine in a starting role in the Nittany Lions’ secondary. After entering the NCAA transfer portal for a hot minute this offseason, the junior safety is ready for a breakout season. I have been a huge fan of Wade since his days at Clairton, and I think he’ll be a menace in the open field this season.

Forget LBU — my bold prediction for this season is that he will lead the team in tackles out of the secondary, a la Marcus Allen.

Mikey Mandarino: Penn State’s Defense Will Finish Top-Five In Points Allowed

There’s been a lot of talk about how good Penn State’s defense is, and I’m buying into the hype. The Nittany Lions are not going to be an easy team to put up points against at all this year.

Up front, Sean Spencer’s Wild Dogs are going to absolutely terrorize the offensive lines unfortunate enough to challenge them. Yetur Gross-Matos is a bona fide star at this level, and Shaka Toney’s pass-rushing abilities are no joke. When they need a breather, James Franklin will be able to roll out reinforcements like Jayson Oweh, Shane Simmons, and Daniel Joseph.

At linebacker, Cam Brown and Micah Parsons are absolute beasts who will flank a steady veteran in Jan Johnson. Parsons is an athletic freak who likens himself to a serial killer on the football field, and Brown is another veteran with tons of athletic ability. Add in-depth options like Jesse Luketa, Ellis Brooks, and five-star freshmen Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon and you have a strong formula for success at the position.

Garrett Taylor is a cerebral, steady presence at safety who should guide first-year starter Lamont Wade throughout the year. Wade is no slouch, though — he’s also a former five-star recruit and has improved tremendously in terms of tackling and coverage. Tariq Castro-Fields and John Reid will lead a somewhat thin cornerback group, but State High product Keaton Ellis is primed to make an impact after impressing at practice as an early enrollee.

Honestly, thinking of Penn State as a top-five defense in the country isn’t crazy at all. Few teams can match the depth the Nittany Lions have at defensive end, and the team’s starters everywhere else are talented players with lots of experience.

Anthony Colucci: Sean Clifford Will Win The Heisman Trophy

Forget Tua, TLaw, and whoever runs Lincoln Riley’s offense. You can put Sean Clifford’s name in Sharpie on your Heisman ballot. Football stats are probably the easiest thing to extrapolate, so if last season was any indication, Clifford is on pace to throw for more than 5,000 yards and 100 touchdowns. With numbers like that, it’d be hard to snub Clifford a second year in a row. Let’s do this, King.

Matt DiSanto: Yetur Gross-Matos Will Break Carl Nassib’s Single-Season Sack Record

Yetur Gross-Matos finished the 2018 season with 8.0 sacks, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve on the mark, thanks to a terrifying pass rush from Penn State’s loaded defensive line.

Penn State’s schedule seems favorable for the team’s defense, as non-conference match-ups against Idaho, Buffalo, and Pitt just scream “sacks on sacks on sacks.”

The single-season program record to beat is 15.5 sacks, which Carl Nassib posted in 2015. That mark may not stand for long with a talent like Gross-Matos getting after the quarterback every week.

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