Nittany Nation Mailbag: Assessing the depth chart and more
As we enter the doldrums that are late spring and early summer in the college football world, it seemed a perfect time to solicit some reader questions.
We received questions about the depth chart, program mindset, recruiting and more. I've compiled some of the best of those questions below in an attempt to answer anything and everything Penn State football during the offseason lull.
The first string WR’s seem pretty set in stone with PW, Tinsley, and KLS. There’s a lot of young names in that 2nd string convo. How do you think that shapes out going into the fall? - PSUhv2019
Your assessment of the starting three is spot on, and it has the potential to be one of the best in the conference, if not the country. But Penn State is quietly building impressive depth in the receiver room. Malick Meiga has been a name that has popped up time and again over the last year and after a healthy spring, he could be someone that has a breakout season in 2022.
But it's not just Meiga, Tre Wallace flashed with an impressive touchdown catch in the Blue-White "game" and his athleticism has been repeatedly talked about since he stepped on campus. Then there's a pair of Ohio guys, Liam Clifford and Kaden Saunders, who will be battling for playing time behind the aforementioned five.
Do you expect Mustipher to play from game 1 or will he miss some early games while he continues to rehab? - bbarbacci
From what I've been told, the team expects Mustipher to be ready to roll come Purdue. While he was still rehabbing in the spring, Mustipher is expected to ramp things up over the summer and be a full participant come preseason. Right now, the team is operating with an abundance of caution as it works to bring back one of its most integral, experienced pieces for 2022.
Did Franklin make the right choice in choosing Clifford over Levis? - Chickadee34
People won't like this answer, but I'll say yes. I know full well that Levis is being discussed as a first-round pick in 2023 and I fully understand Clifford fatigue, but the reality is that when healthy last season, Clifford was playing at a higher level than Levis. Much of Levis' draft stock is based on projection and the fact that he's got a remarkably strong arm, but if you go back and watch his games against Kentucky's best opponents last year, he struggled mightily with all of the same things we saw at Penn State: touch, accuracy, decision making. Maybe this ends up looking foolish in sixth months, but I'd roll with Clifford for now.
Which reserves will be starting by end of year? - njguy57
Projection this far out is pretty tough, especially when we're not sure who the reserves will be. But I like Nick Singleton as a guy who may not be a starter to begin the season but should finish as one. I also think Dani Dennis-Sutton could well start by the end of his freshman year.
The OL has been a major problem for several cycles. Are we not getting the kids, taking the wrong kids, or not developing them? How does the staff feel about our RB room? Specifically, the upper classmen? Did they not pan out or is this a result of the poor OL?Lastly, how does the staff feel about Allar and Pribula's spring session? It was hard to draw any conclusions based on the schizophrenic Blue/White game. - Obliviax
*Takes deep inhale* So let's start with your first question. I'm not sure it comes down to any one issue. The offensive line seemed to get going late under Matt Limegrover and I was surprised to see him let go after the 2019 season. That definitely hurt recruiting for a cycle and probably cost them Nolan Rucci. They then bought in Phil Trautwein before a pandemic, which meant he was coming in and unable to actually work hands on with his linemen in the offseason, that's a really tough ask. Then you add a new OC the next year in Mike Yurcich, and one whose style doesn't really mesh with what Trautwein had been doing at BC. Fast forward a year and Trautwein seems to have gained recruiting momentum. He's changed the philosophy on how PSU evaluates OL prospects and seems to have a better understanding with Yurcich. Only time will tell if it pays dividends.
Moving to the running backs, the staff is still extremely high on the group, even the upperclassmen. Jajuan Seider has been begging Keyvone Lee to be more physical, whether that works is yet to be determined. But there's a level of comfort with the freshmen which is uncommon. They won't hesitate to turn to them if need be.
Lastly, I'm not sure we can read too much from the quarterbacks right now. They seem to be about where coaches expected. Allar is extremely talented, but needs to improve his mechanics and settle his feet. Pribula is a bit more polished right now and his accuracy has impressed the coaching staff.
Why do we recruit so many WR vs LB/DL/OL? Are there just misses at the other spots or are we giving too many offers at WR? - Bison13
There are a combination of a few things at play here. Foremost, the game is more spread out. So you'll have more wideouts and less linebackers on the field than ever before. Additionally, a lot of kids listed at wideout, particularly from last year's class, have two-way capability and could end up at corner or safety. I think the staff would like better numbers up front, as evidenced by this class where they could take six offensive linemen. So short numbers up front usually comes down to missing on the guys they truly want.
Does Shakir coming on board recently have anything to do with Gallagher's July 4th commitment date? - Online Persona
I think it's possible that Ejani Shakir was aware of Gallagher's commitment date, as the recruits often have a group chat that they're all in. But I don't believe the two are related. Shakir has been a longtime target for Penn State and after verifying some times on the track this spring, he was given the green light to commit and took it.
While we seem to have an above average Tight End room, they were underwhelming blockers and seemed underutilized in the passing game last year. Has the blocking improved, and do you see Them being utilized more in the passing game? - SR108
Put plainly, the tight end room was a disappointment in 2021. The coaches will tell you as much as will the players. Utilizing that group more has been a point of emphasis in the offseason, as has the unit's blocking as Penn State looks to sort out the run game. Whether that's taken a step forward or not? It's tough to say after a handful of practices and a makeshift scrimmage.