Projecting Penn State Football’s 2020 Starting Lineup: Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, & Offensive Line
Penn State football is (nearly) back!
The abbreviated Big Ten season will begin on Saturday, October 24 when the Nittany Lions travel to Bloomington to face the Indiana Hoosiers.
Now that the season is just about two weeks away, here is how we see James Franklin’s wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line depth charts playing out.
Starters: Jahan Dotson, Daniel George, KeAndre Lambert-Smith
Reserves: Cam Sullivan-Brown, TJ Jones, Norval Black, Parker Washington , Jaden Dottin
Throughout the offseason, the biggest story at wide receiver was the loss of KJ Hamler to the NFL. However, the Nittany Lions’ losses didn’t stop there, as hopeful breakout pass-catcher John Dunmore left the team Wednesday for personal reasons.
Jahan Dotson is the only lock going into the first week of play. The slippery slot receiver expects to shine as Sean Clifford’s best wide receiver option after catching 27 passes for 488 yards and five touchdowns in 2019.
Daniel George should also wind up high on the wide receiver depth chart. The redshirt sophomore comes in with lots of talent but lacks some experience. Although the Maryland native played in 12 games last season, he earned 100 yards all year through spotty playing time.
The true intrigue will come from freshman KeAndre Lambert-Smith and redshirt junior Cam Sullivan-Brown.
Lambert-Smith is one of the top wideouts in the Class of 2024. With excellent route-running skills and truly remarkable athleticism, he should find playing time on the outside or be used as a second-string slot receiver.
On the other hand, Sullivan-Brown, a redshirt junior, brings some experience to one of the most inexperienced wide receiver rooms. His best attributes are contested catches downfield. Route-running has been a consistent problem for him at the college level, but his physicality and pass-catching abilities are unmatched.
New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca will have his work cut out for him. Hopefully, his experience with talented receivers like Corey Davis, Rashod Bateman, and Tyler Johnson will help bring along a young receiver room.
Starter: Pat Freiermuth
Reserves: Zach Kuntz, Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson
Everyone with common sense knows who’s starting at tight end this year. After all, Pat Freiermuth is considered the best tight end in the Class of 2020 and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The battle to be Freiermuth’s backup is one of interest. Zach Kuntz has received praise from the coaching staff ever since landing in Happy Valley, but Brenton Strange makes a strong argument for his spot.
Physically, Kuntz is the long, lengthy, route-running demon that Penn State has been accustomed to in the past. Kuntz has the ability to emulate legends like Jesse James and Mike Gesicki, but his 2019 stat line of two receptions for 18 yards doesn’t translate.
On the other end of the battle, Brenton Strange has done nothing but help his case for more playing time in 2020. With his lone reception in 2019, he scored a four-yard touchdown.
Penn State loves to run two tight ends, so watch for both Kuntz and Strange to receive playing time this year…or even four-star recruit Theo Johnson.
Starters: LT Rasheed Walker, LG Mike Miranda, C Michal Menet, RG CJ Thorpe, RT Will Fries
Reserves: LT Des Holmes, LG Sal Wormley, C Juice Scruggs, RG Anthony Whigan, RT Caedan Wallace
If the offensive line sounds very similar to last year’s…it is. Penn State returns all its starters from the previous season, creating one of the most experienced and talented front five of the year.
Menet and Fries are third-year starters, while Thorpe, Miranda, and Walker will start for their second year each. Last year, Thorpe and Miranda split time at right guard, but now they’ll split sides and work together.
Menet is the leader of this line and will be tasked with calling out blitzes and making checks.
Watch for Fries and Wallace to turn into a committee late in games as both are excellent talents at the right tackle position.
Left tackle Rasheed Walker is one scary man blocking. After declining offers from Maryland and Ohio State, the 6’6″, 320-pound wrecking ball got the nod as a true freshman last year and has refused to look back. His physical dominance is apparent while moving defensive ends in the run game, but he still possesses quick feet in the passing attack.
Penn State’s offense could make or break its season in 2020. The team lacks experience in some areas, but its raw talent is undisputed.
The Nittany Lions begin their season on October 24 away at Indiana before returning home to face Ohio State on Halloween.
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About the Author
“To any current underclassmen reading this: learn the fight song, cheer loud, and tailgate early. You’re lucky to be a Nittany Lion.”
“Do you guys like Teen Beach Movie?”
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