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Penn State Football: Five Keys As Spring Ball Starts Monday

by on March 17, 2018 4:20 PM

Believe it or not, Penn State football is back this Monday with the start of spring practice. The first of 15 sessions that will culminate with the annual Blue White game on April 21st.

For the Nittany Lions it's the opening of an intriguing 2018-19 season as Penn State looks to hit the 10-win mark for the the third time in a row, for the first time ever since joining the Big Ten.

To do it the Nittany Lions will have to replace household names on both sides of the ball as well as at least one household name on the sideline.

The season won't be defined by practices in March and April, but plenty of strides can be taken in the right direction to make things easier when the games finally get here in September. Here are five keys Penn State can start to address in March that will make life a bit easier come November.

1. Next Man Up

This really is the meat of Penn State's season. Can the program replace its biggest names? James Franklin doesn't need Miles Sanders to be the next Saquon Barkley, but he needs Sanders to turn into a reliable every down running back. He needs Lamont Wade to take the next step as a safety to replace Marcus Allen. He needs Tyler Davis' replacement to become as reliable with his kicks as Davis was. If the Nittany Lions can do that, the sky is the limit, the longer it takes, the harder it will be to match that 10-win mark yet again.

That's the season in a nutshell.

2. It's Like Nothing Happened

Similarly, how can Ricky Rahne transition into the offensive coordinator role as his full time gig? He had about as an impressive of a debut in the Fiesta Bowl as you can have but he's going to have to teach and coach a bunch of players who haven't done this yet. There's no reason to suggest he can't, but it's another obstacle. Rahne was hired largely because he had spent time under Moorhead and the transition would --in theory-- be smoother. Now it's a matter of execution.

And don't forget running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider and receivers coach David Corley. Both new faces on an ever changing staff. 

3. Mr Route

It seems likely that Juwan Johnson will take over the role of marquee offensive target in the early going, but he can't do it all. If anything his success was the result of the ability of the receivers around him, specifically DaeSean Hamilton. Hamilton's strength, he wasn't the fastest, but he ran excellent routes and rarely dropped the ball. If Johnson can get another receiver around him that is as reliable as Hamilton was, that'll go along way towards Johnson having his best year yet. 

4. Learn It Quick

Micah Parsons is about as hyped as a recruit can get. The catch, he's playing middle linebacker, one of the toughest positions to learn on the defensive side of the ball. There's no reason to think Parsons can't figure it out, but the faster he does the better off Penn State's defensive will be. It'll probably take playing actual games for this to happen, but he can make mental strides in the spring.

5. The Little Things

For all of the big picture things that will decide Penn State's season, many of them come back to the little things. Why was Saquon Barkley so good? Well for one, he never ever fumbled the ball. Can Sanders replicate that? Why was Tyler Davis consistent? He had a kicking routine and stuck to it. Why was Mike Gesicki able to have such a good year? He put in a lot of extra work. For all of the names Penn State has to replace, there is a little detail behind them that was the reason why they were so successful beyond the obvious big plays and big moments. The quicker the new faces can do the same, the better Penn State will be.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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