Penn State Football is closing in on its 2023 season opener against West Virginia with lofty expectations, and a roster capable of competing for the program’s first College Football Playoff appearance.
However, the Nittany Lions‘ charge to a championship is set to take place with the backdrop of a changing college football landscape. This season, the clock will not stop for a first down, and there are several other new rules that teams will need to adapt to, as well.
In this week’s edition of our weekly mailbag, we tackle questions regarding those new rules, Penn State‘s developing wide receiving corps, and much more.
How well does Penn State seem suited to the running clock after a first down rule change? – Andrew from Pittsburgh
Every college football team will have to adjust to the new rules this season that the clock will continue to run after a first down instead of stopping until the markers are set for the new downs.
Penn State Football however, with its dynamic running game, could benefit more than other teams with the new rules late in games. Penn State is set to enter 2023 with one of the best running back rooms in the nation, headlined by true sophomore phenoms Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen.
If Penn State Football can build a lead into the second half of games, with the new clock rules, Mike Yurchich’s offense may be able to run the clock out easier on opponents.
With the new rules, teams will likely see at least a couple less plays each game on offense. Because of this, offensive efficiency and not turning the ball over will be key.
Last season, Penn State lost eight fumbles and threw seven interceptions, with four of those fumbles coming in a very rainy game against Northwestern. Penn State finished top ten in the nation in turnover margin and, if the Nittany Lions can protect the football again in 2023, could benefit from the rule change.
If we are to believe Cephas won’t be a starter in the first few weeks is it more because he isn’t as advertised or more because others have dramatically improved or a bit of both? –Erikas
The answer here is probably a combination of other wide receivers developing and Dante Cephas needing time to transition to a power 5 weight and conditioning room.
Cephas was excellent at Kent State and fared well against power 5 competition.
In 2022, Cephas caught six passes for 105 yards against Washington and four passes for 50 yards against Oklahoma. In 2021, Cephas caught 10 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown against Maryland. So the potential is there for Cephas to have a great season against power 5 competition in the Big Ten.
However, playing one or two games against the competition and going up against one of the top defenses in the country everyday in practice is quite different.
I still believe Cephas will be a large part of the Penn State offense in 2023 and just needs a bit more time to adjust. This adjustment probably would have come in the spring and we would not be talking about it now if he was able to enroll before summer, so the delayed enrollment probably set him back a little for this season.
On the other hand, other receivers are also stepping up and stopping Cephas from separating from the pack. Indications out of camp are that Liam Clifford is having a very strong summer camp and that Omari Evans has continued the form that impressed during the spring game.
So, a combination of factors may lead to Cephas not starting, however he will still have the opportunity to make a great impact on the offense whether he starts in the first few weeks or not.
Who is taking the lead in the kicker position battle? –Andrew from Pittsburgh
On Wednesday, James Franklin declined to name a starter at kicker in his availability after practice.
At this point, the competition seems very close between redshirt sophomore Sander Sahaydak, transfer senior Alex Felkins, and possibly even walk-on freshman Ryan Barker.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see this competition last through the first few games and see Penn State trot multiple kickers out in different scenarios in non-conference play until one kicker separates themselves (either for the good or bad).
Could we see a surprise run on make it into the rotation? –Erikas
Penn State has had its fair share of inspiring walk-ons make it into the rotation and even become starters. Carl Nassib turned himself from walk-on defensive end into a third-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
Walk-on linebacker Jan Johnson cracked into the starting lineup and then launched his coaching career with former Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry at Virginia Tech.
In January, former walk-on linebacker Dom DeLuca was given a scholarship and then named a captain for the 2023 season. So it is not out of the realm of possibility for a player to step up and crack into the rotation from walk-on status.
However, outside of DeLuca who will see plenty of snaps this season and possibly kicker Ryan Barker, I don’t see another walk-on stepping up for meaningful snaps outside of special teams this season.
Penn State Football enters 2023 with depth all over the roster at each position and without major injury issues, other scholarship players would probably be in line to grab up any snaps available in the rotations.