Penn State Football

5 Penn State Football BOLD Predictions for 2023 season

Penn State Football is under one month until the season kicks off in 2023.

Behind quarterback Drew Allar and an experienced defense that’s loaded with talent at all three levels, the Nittany Lions have the pieces in place to make a run at the College Football Playoff.

Will this be the year that James Franklin leads Penn State into the realm of college football’s elite?

Here are five BOLD predictions for the 2023 Penn State Football season:

1. Nick Singleton does NOT lead the team in rushing attempts or rushing touchdowns.

I want to preface this with the fact that I believe Nick Singleton will be fantastic for Penn State in 2023 and will be an incredible asset to the team.

However, I believe that Kaytron Allen will lead the team in rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns.

Last season, Singleton and Allen both had stellar true freshman seasons for the Nittany Lions, splitting carries essentially evenly over the season and both putting up double digit touchdowns. As if that wasn’t enough, the duo of Singleton and Allen became the only true freshmen tandems in Big Ten History to each put up over 700 rushing yards in a single season.

Singleton was the team’s “homerun” back, racking up an astonishing seven 40+ yard carries, including five for touchdowns.

Allen, on the other hand, was used as the steady, “ground and pound” back, especially at the goal line.

While Allen lead the team in carries last season, Singleton lead the team in touchdowns.

I will predict that Allen will lead Penn State Football in both categories in 2023, with Singleton becoming more of a focus in the passing game than he was last season.

2. Neither starting defensive end leads the team in sacks.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s defense is loaded with talent for 2023.

Penn State Football will enter 2023 with two extremely talented predicted starting defensive ends, Adisa Isaac and Chop Robinson.

Robinson, entering his second year with the program, is a projected first round draft pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

However, while Penn State will name starters for the defense, the expectation is that a number of players will rotate onto the field to keep the defense fresh through games and throughout the season.

On the defensive line, head coach James Franklin mentioned at media day last weekend that Penn State was “three deep” at many positions and “2.5 deep” at defensive line, per Daniel Gallen and Tyler Donohue of 247 Sports.

With five players at defensive end that Franklin believes the team can win with, there will be plenty of faces along the defensive line to cause disruption in the opposing team’s backfield, including true sophomore former five-star defensive end Dani Dennis Sutton.

Add the rotation at defensive end to the fact that Abdul Carter led the team in sacks last season from the Will linebacker position and I will make the bold prediction that neither starting defensive end will lead the team in sacks in 2023.

by “2 1/2 deep,” Franklin used defensive end as an example — five guys for the two spots https://t.co/CgywbdGdtv

— Daniel Gallen (@danieljtgallen) August 6, 2023

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3. The team leader in interceptions is a linebacker.

With Ji’Ayir Brown off to the NFL after leading Penn State Football in takeaways for the last two seasons, Penn State will be crowning a new takeaway king this year.

The last time that a non-defensive back led the team outright in interceptions (Brandon Smith tied for the lead in interceptions in 2020 with 1) was in 2016 when linebackers Brandon Smith and Brandon Bell tied for the lead in interceptions with 2. With teams throwing away from Kalen King who has cemented himself as one of the top defensive backs in the country, my bold prediction is that a linebacker will once again lead the team in interceptions.

Specifically, I will boldly predict that Curtis Jacobs will lead the team in interceptions. In his career at Penn State, Jacobs has two interceptions and three passes defended.

With Jacobs now fully occupying the Sam linebacker position from the start of the season, I believe Jacobs will flourish and get a hand on more footballs this season.

While Penn State will have an excellent secondary, Jacobs will shock the world in what is expected to be his final season in Happy Valley and lead the team in interceptions.

4. A wide receiver is not among the top 3 in touchdown receptions for Penn State Football.

Penn State Football enters the 2023 season loaded with talent, but one question mark on offense remains at wide receiver.

Penn State returns both KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Harrison Wallace III, but the duo only combined for 43 receptions and 662 yards in 2022.

Behind Lambert-Smith and Wallace III, Penn State is looking for a third starting receiver and rotational pieces.

Omari Evans, transfers Malik McClain and Dante Cephas, Kaden Saunders, and Liam Clifford all look to factor in at wide receiver, but the question is where on the depth chart and how reliable each will be.

Penn State also enters the 2023 season with seasoned veterans and young talent at tight end that can challenge for catches, especially at the goal line.

Juniors Tyler Warren and Theo Johnson have proved reliable targets over their first three seasons on campus and the duo racked up 7 touchdown catches in 2022. Pair that with highly regarded freshman Andrew Rappleyea, rising redshirt sophomore Khalil Dinkins, and redshirt freshman Jerry Cross and the Penn State tight end room is busting at the seams with players fighting for playing time.

Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen will also be pushing for receptions out of the backfield from first time starter Drew Allar in their second years on campus. The pair combined for a pair of touchdowns in 2022 but should be a larger focus of the passing offense in 2023.

With multiple talented tight ends and running backs fighting for catches, and Penn State expected to run more 12 and 21 personnel in 2023, I will predict that a Penn State receiver will not rank among the top 3 in touchdown receptions for Penn State in 2023.

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5. Penn State Football returns two or more kicks for a touchdown

Going back to Nick Singleton and how valuable he is for the 2023 Penn State football team, Singleton also is expected to be the starting kick returner for the Nittany Lions this season.

In 2022, Singleton returned 14 kicks for 349 yards and one touchdown. Singleton’s 100-yard kick return touchdown against Rutgers was Penn State’s first kick return touchdown since Lamont Wade’s return against Illinois on senior day in 2020.

Penn State has only had a player return more than one kick for a touchdown in a season twice this century, Derrick Williams in 2008 and Saquon Barkley in 2017.

My bold prediction is that Nick Singleton adds his name to this renowned list of Penn State legends by returning at least two kicks for a touchdown in 2023.

 

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Robert Casturo

Expertise: College Football, Penn State Football Education: Saint Vincent College, Penn State Law School Location: Washington, DC Experience: Robert Casturo has covered Penn State football for NittanyCentral since 2022. Casturo previously covered Penn State football through a social media presence (@PSU_FB_Thoughts on X) since 2019. Casturo earned his bachelor's degree from Saint Vincent College in 2015, where he was a punter for 1 season on the Saint Vincent College football team and worked in the athletic department for 2 years as a student manager. Casturo earned his JD from Penn State Law in 2018 where he was a senior editor of the Penn State Law Review.