The Nittany Lions are 45-21 in five seasons under James Franklin. Penn State followed up back-to-back 11-win seasons by going 9-4 in 2018, including 6-3 in the Big Ten. They lost consecutive home games early in the season, to Ohio State and Michigan State, by a combined five points. “We’re at a point as a program where I think a lot — 90 percent of programs across college football — would like to be where we’re at,” Franklin said. “But we need to take the next step. There’s no doubt about it.”
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Junior defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (above) recorded 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks last season to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors from the conference media. Gross-Matos, a potential first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, had two TFLs and a strip sack in Penn State’s 22-10 win over visiting UW last November. He’s a major reason Franklin believes Penn State has “a chance to be as good” as any team in the country at defensive end.
BITS AND PIECES
Sophomore KJ Hamler had a big first season, catching 42 passes for 754 yards and five touchdowns. But he’s the only Penn State wide receiver with any real experience. Sophomore tight end Pat Freiermuth should help out in the passing game. He had 26 catches for 368 yards and eight touchdowns last season. … Sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons is poised for a breakout campaign. He led the team with 83 tackles last season despite starting just one game. … Senior defensive tackle Robert Windsor, a Fond du Lac native, had 7½ sacks last season.
How will Trace McSorley’s production be replaced?
Trace McSorley spent three seasons as Penn State’s starting quarterback. McSorley not only passed for 2,530 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior, he rushed for 798 yards and 12 scores. Sophomore Sean Clifford and freshman Will Levis are the frontrunners to replace McSorley after fifth-year senior Tommy Stevens transferred to Mississippi State in the spring. Clifford was 5 of 7 for 195 yards with two touchdowns last season. “Big shoes to fill,” Franklin said. “But we’ve got tremendous confidence in those guys and what they’re going to be able to do for our program.”
14 | Consecutive winning seasons for the Nittany Lions since they went 4-7 in 2004.