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Penn State Football: Five Storylines For The Nittany Lion Offense Heading Into Media Day

by on July 30, 2019 2:00 PM

Penn State will open practice and host its annual media day this weekend as the Nittany Lions head into the start of the 2019 season. For the past few months the Penn State football program has rumbled through the offseason with good news and bad news circling around the Lasch Building. For the most part things have held steady, but that doesn't mean there won't be questions to ask and storylines to follow.

When it comes to Penn State's offense, here are five of the biggest questions heading into training camp.

Quarterback Race:

All things being equal James Franklin has essentially said that Sean Clifford is the obvious choice as Penn State's next starting quarterback. The catch, he hasn't actually been named the starter just yet. How long will that last, and how much time will Clifford split with Will Levis in the coming weeks leading up to the season opener? Levis getting a fair shake is in the best interest of everyone involved, but at some point a starter officially becoming the starter on paper is an important part of the process.

This isn't the most dramatic decision that James Franklin will have had to make during his time at Penn State but until it actually happens, it's a storyline worth monitoring. Especially if the competition makes it past the second week of camp.

Backfield Depth:

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It's safe to assume Ricky Slade will enter and exit camp as Penn State's primary running back, but how deep that room goes is an interesting question. Journey Brown ought to work himself into a relief role even following his suspension in the summer, but as far as the young guns in Noah Cain and Devyn Ford it's hard to imagine two high profile recruits sitting out the entire year. Entering the second year of new NCAA rules that allow freshmen to play up to four games without losing a year of eligibility both will see the field, but will both of them see past the four games?

Despite their high profile nature, if Slade is consistent and Brown is reliable, there is an argument to be made that both Ford and Cain are better off waiting another year for an expanded role. Then again, with the running back position constantly changing in football maybe they can find their niche earlier than 2020.

Offensive Line:

Penn State is probably in the best shape it has been in the last half decade to address offensive line departures but it's still a question mark and a big one. There is plenty of reason to think this group will be at least serviceable in 2019, but considering the ups and downs of the past few years on the offensive front, any change is a big one. Menet should be a solid anchor for this group but they will be tested on the road at Iowa and Ohio State. If they're up for the challenge that could spell victory, if not, another long trip home.

Seeing is believing with every offensive line in America, so check back a few weeks into the season.

Catch'em If You Can:

The most obvious story of Penn State's offense this year won't be how the new quarterback plays but how his receivers do. If a struggling unit in 2018 can turn things around in 2019 and become much more reliable and consistent that will go miles towards making a new quarterback comfortable. All indications are that Penn State's receiving group will have a bounce-back year but much like the offensive line, fans will want to see it happen and happen often. Expect a few cheers for the catches and groans for any early drops.

A big help in this department: healthy Justin Shorter.

Keep Up: 

How fast is fast? A general rule of thumb is to never believe a team's hand-timed 40-yard dash but with a speedy bunch of specialists, it's hard to argue that this team isn't fast on both sides of the ball. The speed transformation has been a work in progress over the past few years, and that vision is finally starting to be realized. Does it pay dividends in the Big Ten? Hamler's long touchdown against Ohio State certainly made a case for it, then again, the Nittany Lions couldn't win on that play alone.

So how do you use that speed, and how do you get Hamler the ball in creative ways.



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