After missing out on the experience of a spring 2020 semester on campus, sports getting canceled and the ongoing struggles from COVID-19, there may finally be some good news. Penn State is not only known worldwide for our unique academic opportunities and pristine education, but also for our loud, energetic atmosphere at every football game. The love for the sport at Penn State University and the experiences at these games are like no other. Every year, students anxiously anticipate the upcoming football season. This past year was one for the books, as we took the number five spot on the AP poll raking, ended the season 11-2, and won the Cotton Bowl against Memphis.
After everyone has been on edge about possibly not returning to campus or having a football season, the NCAA finally released a statement on June 1st about the voluntary start of sports practices. On June 8th, Coach Franklin released a statement that said: “We’re back.” That Monday, seventy-five of Penn State’s football players returned to campus after being medically cleared to practice. With protocols in place, the guys have returned!
This past winter Penn State lost 12 players to the NFL draft. With this in mind, we must realize that there will be a shift in the dynamic of the team. Just like last season, Sean Clifford will be the starting quarterback with Will Levis as the backup. But with the loss of wide receiver KJ Hamler to the Denver Broncos, Penn State needs to find someone to fill his shoes. We can expect some great plays and heavy reliance on tight end Pat Freiermuth, after his strategic plays this past season.
But Clifford cannot solely rely on Freiermuth. Jahan Dotson looks like he holds the spot for wide receiver this season. With some notable plays, this junior has earned his spot, but certainly has big shoes to fill.
Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos has left to join the Carolina Panthers, but VALLEY’s eye is on fifth-year defensive end Shaka Toney. All of those drafted and who graduated will be missed. But with their absence, there is room for other players to carry the team and continue to make some game-winning plays. Most notably, we can watch out for Journey Brown, Tariq Castro-Fields, Jahan Dotson, and Micah Parsons. After the well-thought-out plays that we saw from Will Levis last season, there is also a possibility that we will see more playing time from him.
Over the spring semester at Penn State, alumnus and Giants running back Saquon Barkley was supposed to help coach the team. He planned to gain experience not as a player, but as a coach. Barkley wanted a closer look at strategy, to better understand what coaches look for and how they make decisions about the plays the team needs to make. Unfortunately, the guys did not get to have Barkley as a coach, but he did talk during one of their Zoom meetings.
With practices being set in motion, all we can do is hope that we are moving one step closer to having a 2020 football season. Even though the 2020 football schedule is not definite, we’re hoping for fun on the first game Sept. 5th against Kent State. We Are!