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Penn State Football: Five Things To Watch As The Nittany Lions Open The Season

by on August 31, 2018 2:00 PM

Penn State (finally) kicks off its 2018 season against Appalachian State on Saturday afternoon as the Nittany Lions look to make it three-straight 10-win seasons for the first time since joining the Big Ten.

Of course in order to do that Penn State will have to answer its fair share of pressing questions on both sides of the ball throughout the course of the year.

While Saturday's game might come with a few bumps and a little rust, all things considered the Nittany Lions ought to take care of business with relative ease. The Mountaineers are no strangers to visiting high profile teams and giving them a fight, so don't be surprised if it stays close for a little while. But don't get too worried either.

So what to watch for? Here are five things I'm keeping an eye on.

Hello Mr Parsons:

Micah Parsons isn't slated to start at linebacker on Saturday but he still ought to see his fair share of time. Nobody needs to question his athletic ability, but seeing how he does in his first Division I action as a linebacker is worth sticking around for. Chances are he's going to make mistakes, but as defensive Brent Pry mentioned during media day, Parsons is a fast learner.

In reality it'll be a few more weeks before Parsons well need his A-game, but the sooner he figures things out the better off Penn State will be. Keep an eye on him for the good and the bad.

Slot Machine:

It's unknown how long freshman Justin Shorter will be out of the equation at receiver as he recovers from injury, but it's safe to say Penn State will be leaning on someone else to help Juwan Johnson carry the load. While DeAndre Thompkins is the most obvious choice, freshman KJ Hamler has worked himself into the starting rotation at the slot position and he shown impressive speed. He's already faster than DaeSean Hamilton was, now it's a matter of consistency. Hamler could be a star in the making, he just has to do it in front of the big crowds when it matters most.

Voice From Above:

Maybe not something you can really watch, but Ricky Rahne will call Penn State's offense from the booth this year after two years of Moorhead on the sideline. With new play clock rules after kickoffs and a few other circumstances, can Penn State's offense communicate just fine with the calls from from above? It worked in the Fiesta Bowl, but it's a small change worth paying attention to.

The New Gang:

Simply put Penn State's secondary is an unknown. At face value everyone playing brings talent and skill to the table, but this group just hasn't played together before. John Reid and Amani Oruwariye will be just fine at corner, but keep an eye on Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor at the safety position and how well they communicate. It stands to reason these guys will figure it out, but a new group is bound to blow a coverage or two no matter how talented they are. Can they get it together in time for Ohio State at the end of the month?

Center Focus:

He has been waiting and Michal Menet is finally ready for his moment at center. Chances are App State isn't going to be the team that tests Menet the same way Ohio State will, but nevertheless the center position is a big role on the offense. How are his snaps? How is his blocking? Can he call out pressures and see what McSorley does? These are all little things that won't get answered definitively in either direction on Saturday, but it's a story to follow.



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