football Edit

All-Franklin Team: Offense

Penn State head coach James Franklin will enter his 8th season at the helm of the program this fall. His tenure has included a Big Ten title, three New Years Six bowl game appearances, and a few big wins.

He's also had his fair share of exciting players. With that in mind, BWI has compiled a starting lineup on both sides of the ball comprised of players from his tenure.

We begin today, with the offense.

Quarterback: Trace McSorley 

We're getting things started with an easy one. No quarterback of the Franklin era comes close to Trace McSorley, who led the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten title in 2016, among many other achievements. There are guys who are simply winners, and he fits that description. The numbers were pretty good, too. His 720 completions and 9,899 career passing yards are both Penn State records, as are his 1,697 rushing yards as a quarterback and 30 rushing touchdowns as a quarterback.

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Running Back: Saquon Barkley

Again, there's just not much to explain here. Saquon Barkley took the college football world by storm in a way we haven't seen from a Penn State player in a long time. Recruits from outside the region will often say they were introduced to Penn State by his highlight tapes. He was a player made for the viral social media era, and rushed for over 1,000 yards each season, including 1,496 yards in the Big Ten title winning campaign, and finished with 53 total touchdowns to his name.

Fullback: N/A 

...But Jason Cabinda's NFL career has left me wondering what could have been.

Wide Receiver: Chris Godwin 

Our first wide receiver is yet another important contributor to Penn State's Big Ten Championship team of 2016. Chris Godwin is one of only eight Nittany Lions to surpass 2,000 career receiving yards, and sits fourth overall in school history with 2,404 total receiving yards. He averaged 15.7 yards per catch over the course of his Penn State career — an explosive ability that makes it no surprise that he's turned into a star for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the next level.

Wide Receiver: KJ Hamler 

KJ Hamler earns a place on this list after using his explosive athleticism and speed to lead the Nittany Lions in receiving for two consecutive seasons beginning in 2018. He was also a threat on special teams and occasionally in the ground game, and is one of 19 Nittany Lions to reach 3,000 all-purpose yards despite playing only two seasons, after redshirting his first season and leaving for the NFL after his third campaign.

Wide Receiver: DaeSean Hamilton

DaeSean Hamilton's Penn State career followed a somewhat unusual arc. He led the Nittany Lions in receiving as a true freshman, then again as a senior. He's Penn State's all-time receptions leader at 214, which makes it difficult to leave him out. Jahan Dotson was also considered for his phenomenal 2020 campaign that ranks among the best single season performances by a Penn State wide receiever, but ultimately Hamilton's career achievements won out.

Tight End: Pat Freiermuth 

This one is a coin flip, there's no other way to put it. Mike Gesicki and Pat Freiermuth both put together great seasons during their time in Happy Valley, and it would be unfair not to mention both of them here. Gesicki's receiving yardage numbers were better, and Freiermuth just edged him out in career touchdowns. Both had up-and-down careers as blockers. PFF graded Gesicki poorly in his first two seasons as a blocker before he rebounded later, while Freiermuth had an excellent first season as a blocker before dipping in that area as a sophomore. Ultimately, I gave the edge to Freiermuth because he was a true asset to Penn State right away as a true freshman, while it took Gesicki until his junior season to get there.

Tackle: Ryan Bates 

The offensive line is where things get a bit complicated on this list, but it's difficult to argue with Ryan Bates. He was thrown to the wolves as a redshirt freshman and came out of it as a Freshman All-American. In the two years that followed, he was twice named to the All-Big Ten third team by the coaches and the media.

Tackle: Rasheed Walker 

Rasheed Walker is already earning plenty of buzz as a potential first-rounder in the 2022 NFL Draft, and for good reason. Walker redshirted his first season in 2018, then made 13 starts at left tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2019. The media named him all-Big Ten third team in 2020, his second season as a starter. PFF rated him as Penn State's best run blocker among players with at least 100 run block reps.

Guard: Connor McGovern 

Connor McGovern was another Nittany Lion offensive lineman from this era to make an immediate impact as a true freshman, starting nine games in 2016 on his way to being named part of the All-Big Ten Freshman Team honorable mentions list. He moved to center in 2017 and proved solid, before jumping back to guard for the 2018 season. McGovern was reliable and consistent, and showcased some versatility on his way to earning his place on this list.

Guard: Steven Gonzalez 

Steven Gonzalez's road to regular contribution was a little bit longer than some of the other names on this list, but he turned himself into an extremely reliable offensive lineman. He was starting every game by his sophomore campaign, when Pro Football Focus named him to their first-team all Big Ten team. He started every game for Penn State from there on out, and earns a spot on this list for his body of work.

Center: Michal Menet 

Michal Menet finished his fifth year in Happy Valley following the 2020 campaign, spending the final three as Penn State's starting center. He was named to the All-Big Ten third team by the coaches and the media following last season, when he proved to be an anchor in the middle throughout a difficult year for Penn State's offense.


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