Penn State Football: Vital Players to College Football Playoff Berth

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

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

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Football: 5 Most Important Players to Making College Football Playoff

Penn State Football has been on the cusp of making the College Football Playoff for the past eight seasons, never breaking through into the four-team playoff, however.

With the field expanding from four to 12 in 2024, Penn State has the opportunity to finally break through and earn a playoff berth for the first time in program history.

Playoff expansion perfectly lines up with key contributors on the Nittany Lions‘ roster entering their third year on campus, a pivotal year after which players are eligible to declare for the NFL draft.

James Franklin, Penn State Football
Penn State head coach James Franklin reacts during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

5 Most Important Players to Penn State Football Making College Football Playoff

Drew Allar

This one should be obvious.

Penn State Football will go as far as Drew Allar and the offense can take them in 2024.

In 2023, Allar posted exceptional numbers on paper (2,631 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns, and only four total turnovers) and tied for first in the Big Ten in passing touchdowns, but Allar struggled in both of Penn State’s losses to Michigan and Ohio State completing less than 50 percent of his passes in both matchups and failing to pass for over 200 yards in either game.

With another offseason to develop and under the tutelage of new Penn State offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki, Allar will have to raise his level of play against top teams if Penn State is to break through into the playoff in 2024.

At 6-foot-5 inches, 243 pounds, the former five star quarterback has the size and tools to be a top quarterback in all of college football but has to prove it on the field this year to help Penn State take the next step.

Penn State Football
Nicholas Singleton #10 of the Penn State Nittany Lions. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Nick Singleton

Penn State’s junior running back tandem is key to Penn State’s offense succeeding in 2024.

Not only will Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen take pressure off of Allar, but the dyanmic backfield duo have the potential to be true weapons in the passing game as well. In 2023, Singleton struggled to return to his freshman year form out of the gate, before breaking back out late against Michigan State and Ole Miss.

On the season however, Singleton’s average rushing yards per attempt was down 2.2 yards per carry from his freshman season.

New offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki will be tasked with scheming to utilize Singleton’s talents with the ball in space, where Singleton shined in the final two games for Penn State in 2023.

Against Michigan State and Ole Miss, Singleton accumulated 168 rushing yards and 154 receiving yards, leading all Penn State players in total yards in the two contests. If Singleton can keep that form found in the final two games and his freshman season, Singleton will be a vital weapon in Penn State’s offense, raising its ceiling in 2024.


Penn State Football, Abdul Carter
Penn State linebacker Abdul Carter (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

Abdul Carter

Abdul Carter is one of the best and most versatile defenders on Penn State’s roster in 2024.

After earning All-American honors as a freshman, Carter followed up his freshman campaign with a first-team All-Big Ten campaign as a sophomore as a linebacker.

Now heading into his third and potentially final season on campus, Carter is moving to defensive end to help fill the void left by NFL departures of Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac.

In pass rush attempts last season, Carter was among the best in college football in win rate, ranking third in the nation with a 24.6 pass rush win rate. In his career at Penn State, Carter has racked up 16 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks in two seasons. In 2024, Carter is primed to be a standout that lives in the opposing team’s backfield creating havoc for opposing offenses.

Julian Fleming

If you told a Penn State fan five years ago that Julian Fleming would be a vital part of a Penn State offense hoping to lead the Nittany Lions to the College Football Playoff, nobody would have batted an eye.

After four years in Columbus playing for the rival Buckeyes and needing to use a COVID-year to return to college for a fifth season after transferring to Penn State, however, Fleming could be a surprising addition to this list for some fans.

The transfer for Julian Fleming though has the potential to work out spectacularly for both parties.

Penn State struggled to find consistent play at the wide receiver position in 2023 and Julian Fleming, despite failing to live up to extremely lofty expectations at Ohio State, is one of the most consistent and experienced wide receivers on Penn State’s 2024 roster.

Boasting a career 79 receptions, 963 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns, Fleming immediately becomes the top target for Allar.

If he can stay healthy in 2024, Fleming can be a vital weapon for quarterback Drew Allar at wide receiver, and has the ceiling to lead Penn State receivers next season.

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KJ Winston

With Penn State Football losing three key contributors in the defensive backfield in Johnny Dixon, Kalen King, and Daequan Hardy, safety KJ Winson will be looked at as the leader of Penn State’s defensive backfield after a breakout season in 2023.

In his true sophomore season starting at safety for the Nittany Lions, Winson posted 61 tackles, an interception, five pass deflections, and two fumble recoveries, en route to an All-Big Ten team honorable mention. The rising junior will be key to Penn State’s defensive secondary play in 2024, anchoring a secondary full of young talent.

Penn State brings back a ton of talent on offense in 2024 and reloads with plenty of talent on defense. With many of Penn State’s key contributors entering their third season on campus and having the opportunity to enter the NFL draft after the season, it is a pivotal year to break through into the college football playoff and build momentum for the future. If Penn State is able to break through, these five players will likely be vital to Penn State’s success in 2024. 

MORE: 5 Nittany Lions About to Become Household Names

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