Penn State Football: 5 Burning Questions for 2024 Season

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NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

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Penn State Football: 5 Burning Questions For 2024 Season

The days of running up and down the Lasch building in shorts and t-shirts in the wee hours of the morning for winter conditioning are over. Penn State Football has wrapped up spring practices, with lofty expectations in the first year of the expanded 12-team college football playoff.

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Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

However, with three new coordinators and needing to retool the starting lineup, particularly on defense, spring ball does not come without questions for the Nittany Lions and head coach James Franklin.

5 Burning Questions for Penn State Football Ahead of Spring Practices

How will Drew Allar’s development go under new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki?

On the surface, Penn State starting quarterback Drew Allar had a remarkable 2023 season in his first year under center for the Nittany Lions, accumulating 2,631 passing yard, 25 passing touchdowns, and four rushing touchdowns to only four turnovers on the season.

Allar also ranked in the top 6 in almost every category among Big Ten quarterbacks in 2023, including tying for the Big Ten lead in passing touchdowns.

However, despite what the statistics say, Allar struggled in Penn State’s two biggest games last season against Ohio State and Michigan.

In both contests, Allar failed to pass for more than 200 yards (passing for a season-low 70 yards against Michigan) and completed just 43 percent of his passes. While both Ohio State and Michigan had top-three ranked defenses last season, both performances left plenty to be desired out of the former five-star quarterback.

At times, it seemed as though Allar and the receivers were not on the same page (particularly on critical fourth downs late in both games). Now, entering spring ball in year three for Allar, the question is whether the issue on offense last season was Drew or now-fired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.

After the Michigan game last season, Franklin fired Yurcich and brought in Kotelnicki this offseason to retool the offense.

This spring will be critical for Allar and the rest of the Penn State offense to learn Kotelnicki’s system and get on the same page heading into fall camp.

With a tough matchup at West Virginia looming in Week 1, it is critical that Penn State’s offense does not start the season flat in 2024.

What will Penn State Football get out of the wide receiver room?

Julian Fleming, Penn State Football, Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Julian Fleming (Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports)

Penn State got very inconsistent play out of its wide receivers in 2023. KeAndre Lambert-Smith led all Nittany Lions with 53 catches and 673 receiving yards last season, but after Lambert-Smith, there was a severe drop off at the position.

Now, Lambert-Smith is an Auburn Tiger, departing via the transfer porta.

Penn State’s next three pass catchers in 2023 were tight ends Tyler Warren and Theo Johnson (who both caught team leading seven touchdown passes) and Nick Singleton.

The second most productive receiver for Penn State in 2023 was Dante Cephas with only 22 catches for 246 yards (and he is not on the Nittany Lions 2024 roster). Ohio State transfer wide receiver Julian Fleming could be a massive addition to the wide receiver room in 2024, adding both leadership and experience at a position of need for Penn State.

This spring, Marques Hagans and Andy Kotelnicki will need to sort through the 13 scholarship wide receivers on the roster to find at least five or six that can contribute in 2024 to the offense.


Who steps up at cornerback to replace all three NFL draft entries?

Penn State lost three starting cornerbacks to the 2024 NFL draft (counting Daequan Hardy as a starting cornerback at nickel). The Nittany Lions dipped into the portal to grab two quality players in AJ Harris and Jalen Kimber.

Combined with young, but somewhat unproven talent in Cam Miller, Zion Tracy, and Elliot Washington, Terry Smith should have the pieces to reload at the position in 2024.

The key will be who to start and how to split snaps among the group. After an extended run in the Peach Bowl, I would expect Cam Miller to have a bit of a leg up in the race for one starting position. AJ Harris could also be a star in the making.

As a former five-star recruit in the 2023 class and the number 2 cornerback in the 2023 class according to 247 Sports, Harris’ ceiling his very high and he has the potential to be a star on Penn State’s defense in 2024 and beyond.

Will Penn State’s kicking game be an issue?

Penn State Football fans may have forgotten that the Nittany Lions kicking game had a very rocky start to the 2023 season before Alex Felkins stepped in.

In week one against West Virginia, Sander Sahaydak missed his only two field goal attempts on the season, before James Franklin turned to Columbia transfer Felkins.

On the season, Felkins converted all 47 of his extra point attempts and 19 of his 24 field goal attempts (79.2 percent), good enough for fifth in the Big Ten in 2023. Heading into 2024, Penn State will again have a transfer kicker (Tulsa transfer Chase Meyer) competing with Sahaydak for the starting kicker position and will look to recreate the magic from 2023.

The Nittany Lions will need either Meyer or Sahaydak to step up this fall and provide consistent special teams play to put critical points on the board when needed.

Are the young linebackers ready to step up in Abdul Carter’s place?

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Penn State freshman linebacker Tony Rojas (13) tackles sophomore wide receiver Omari Evans (Image via USA TODAY Sports)

Penn State and new defensive coordinator Tom Allen probably would not have made the move if the Nittany Lions were not comfortable with what they have in the linebacker room, but Abdul Carter’s transition from linebacker to defensive end creates an opportunity for young players at the position to step up and earn meaningful playing time on the Nittany Lions defense in 2024.

Sophomore Tony Rojas, who flashed his high ceiling playing 13 games for the Nittany Lions as a true freshman will now have the opportunity to compete for a starting spot in 2024 with redshirt freshman Kaveion Keys, Ta’Mere Robinson, and Keon Wylie.

All four players could be in line for greater playing time regardless of who wins a starting spot in 2024 as Curtis Jacobs (NFL draft) and Carter leave plenty of snaps at linebacker to be replaced next season.

Penn State’s lineup and roster are not set in stone at the end of spring practice, but the 15 practices could prove critical in implementing the schemes of Penn State’s three new coordinators in 2024.

Players can certainly work their way into a lead for a starting position or fall on the depth chart over the next month and a half and Nittany Central will keep you covered throughout the spring with anything we are hearing about Penn State heading into 2024.

MORE: Penn State Defensive End Battle About to Heat Up

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