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Penn State Football: Training Camp To-Do List For The Nittany Lions

by on July 31, 2017 1:50 PM

Some 12 months ago the idea of Penn State putting together a Big Ten Championship season seemed unlikely at best. The Nittany Lions would have a new quarterback, a new offensive coordinator and if nothing else a much more established Ohio State program to contend with in the division.

So the odds seemed long.

And in a lot of ways they were. Penn State lost twice early in the year and then somehow found itself in Indianapolis and then Pasadena, left on the outside looking in, perhaps even as a snub from the College Football Playoffs.

There will be no surprises this year. At least not in terms of expectations and potential. If Penn State was able to avoid anything last year it was the crushing pressure of expectations. To a certain extent the Nittany Lions played with the house money and by the end of the year they kept on letting it ride.

But 2017 is already a different animal. The playoffs are an open conversation in State College, games far down the road are already being circled on calendars around Pennsylvania. How far this Penn State program has come might not be measured by wins but simply how it handles the pressure moving forward.

And that starts today, a somewhat innocuous Monday on the last day of July. Penn State will hit the field to start practice with bigger hopes and dreams than anyone could have imagined 12 months ago. But before the postseason can come calling, the Nittany Lions have to take care of business, and that means first and foremost a few goals for training camp.

Replace Godwin:

Between Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson, Penn State has been blessed with a few all-time receivers exactly when the program needed them. With Godwin out of the picture in the NFL, Penn State will have to at least start to find his replacement. The Nittany Lions have a ton of options, but big time teams have big time receivers. Penn State has options, but it needs to find a receiver who is not only reliable on first down in the second quarter, but third-and-15 late in the fourth.

Penn State can probably get away with not having this answer before Week 4, but anything beyond that is playing with fire.

Kicking Duties:

In the past James Franklin has wanted each of his kickers to focus on a single task, and that minor change was an effective one for Penn State's special teams. With Joey Julius out of the picture though it leaves a void in an otherwise sure-footed united. Tyler Davis can take over those duties, but that means doubling up, something Franklin doesn't want. Penn State won games by in large because of great special teams play, so this can't be overlooked.

Linebacker/Defensive End:

Much like receiver, Penn State hasn't lacked talented linebacker or at defensive end in recent years, but depth has been an issue. If there was a silver lining for all of the linebacker injuries last season though it's the simple fact so many depth players took meaningful reps. Much like the receiving corps this group should be fine, but it will need to find itself sooner rather than later. Same for defensive end, which has averaged out an All-Big Ten level star per year as of late, but with no obvious choice out of the gate this season.

Stay Healthy:

Somewhat obvious, but the healthier Penn State is at the end of camp the better. Again this team can probably get away with a few bumps and bruises for a few weeks, but a healthy player is always better than a player returning from an injury. Most all of the big names were limited in the spring, how much that carries over during camp is TBD.

Stay Focused:

In 2016 Penn State was focused on what was right in front of it, and that mentality paid off. This summer most all of those level-headed leaders are back and Penn State will need them with all of the hype around the program. Fans may never really know how focused this team is in practice, but well put together victories early in the season ought to answer that question fairly quickly.

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