Training camp is underway for Penn State Football, ahead of a season that carries the loftiest expectations the program has seen in nearly a decade.
Thanks to a roster loaded with talent on both sides of the football, and the arrival of the most highly touted quarterback of the James Franklin era, fans in Happy Valley and beyond have legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations.
Brian K. from Twitter: “Do you think London Montgomery has a chance to help in the return game, kickoff or punt, in any way?
Montgomery, a 4-star recruit in the 2023 recruiting class, is coming off an ACL injury he suffered last August that forced him to miss his entire senior season at Scranton Prep.
While he should be a participant in Fall camp, the staff will likely take it slow with Montgomery this season.
Maybe we see him on the field for a game or two late in the season in mop up duty, but considering kickoffs are deemed a “dangerous” play, I’d be surprised if the staff put a true freshman coming off an ACL injury back there.
Look for the likes of Kaden Saunders, Daequan Hardy and maybe King Mack to handle punts, while Singleton, transfer Trey Potts and possibly fellow true freshman running back Cam Wallace to handle the bulk of the kickoff returns.
The 2024 season will definitely be a different story for Montgomery, though.
Anthony from Walnutport, Pa: “Is Penn State built to beat Ohio State or Michigan?”
From a roster construction standpoint, this 2023 Penn State Football team matches up better with Ohio State than Michigan.
The Nittany Lions have two great corners in Kalen King and Johnny Dixon, who will be tasked with stopping the best wide receiver duo in the nation in Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.
Penn State also has the pass rush necessary to slow down Ohio State’s powerful pass attack with a trio of talented defensive ends in Chop Robinson, Adisa Isaac and Dani Dennis-Sutton, plus two elite outside linebackers in Abdul Carter and Curtis Jacobs.
The Buckeyes are replacing both of their offensive tackles from last new and new expected starting quarterback Kyle McCord does not possess the same elusiveness as C.J. Stroud. The pass could be a huge difference maker.
To beat Michigan, it comes down to Penn State Football getting bigger and more physical on both sides of the trenches.
The Nittany Lions have to be able to run the ball and stop the vaunted Michigan rush attack.
Last season, Penn State failed to do either of those things. The Penn State offensive line is one of the more experienced in the country, with the youngest projected starter being a junior.
This could help Penn State be more competitive running the ball against the Wolverines. If Penn State improved its defensive line play, specifically at tackle, from last season, they will have a chance to slow Michigan’s run game, but that’s something we have to see to believe.
Penn State actually has a better chance to beat Michigan than Ohio State because the Michigan game is at home, but the Buckeyes are a better matchup.
Larry from Ocean City, NJ: “What is your confidence that Manny Diaz churns out another top defense this season?”
There’s an extremely high chance that the Penn State defense is top 10 in the country when all is said and done after the season.
The Nittany Lions are strong at defensive end, linebacker and cornerback.
There’s an argument to be made that Penn State has the best starting duo at all three of those positions in the Big Ten and possibly the nation.
Safety is a bit of a question mark with Ji’Ayir Brown off to the NFL, but man, there’s a lot of talent there with youngsters like Zakee Wheatley, Kevin Winston and Jaylen Reed.
The defensive tackle position left some to be desired last year at times, but the talent is there for that group to be great, they just need to put it all together.
This is a group that led the Big Ten in sacks last season, and I expect that to be the case again this year.
It really comes down to how this team performs against heavy run teams like Illinois and Michigan, those games will tell us a lot about this defense.
Dan from the Lehigh Valley: “How far do you see Drew Allar leading the Lions this year?”
The sky is the limit for former 5-star quarterback recruit Drew Allar.
Whether or not he reaches that ceiling this season as a first-time starter remains to be seen.
Thankfully, Allar will have a great running game to carry the offense early, an elite defense on the other side to keep the opposition at bay and the best left tackle in the country protecting his blind side.
That is a recipe for success.
At a minimum, Allar should be able to carry Penn State back to another double-digit win season and New Year’s Six bowl.
On the flip side, if he comes out blazing and reaches that No. 1 quarterback potential a lot sooner than people expect, this team has the pieces around him to make a run and win the Big Ten and reach the College Football Playoff.
I see Allar leading a 10-2 squad, but will not rule out an 11-1 regular season for the Nittany Lions.