Penn State started the 2018 season with high expectations of competing for a Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. But the Nittany Lions had to settle for third place in the Big Ten East Division behind Ohio State and Michigan, losing games to each along the way as well as Michigan State. And with another year of some roster turnover between graduating players, a hefty number of transfers and early declarations for the NFL draft, the Nittany Lions could have a bit of a new look in 2019.
A new quarterback and a new wide receivers coach will look to find a way to get receivers to hold on to the football more in the fall, and the running game will have a new leader for a second straight season. The defense will look to find ways to make some big plays in bigger games, and Penn State will look to find a way to close out games with fourth-quarter leads.
Thoughts about competing for a Big Ten championship may be a slight reach at this point in time, but with other teams in the division also facing some challenges before the 2019 season begins, it is not out of the question. Here are a few reasons why Penn State should feel optimistic about what is to come in 2019.
1. Life after McSorley may not be all that bad
Trace McSorley certainly left his mark on the Penn State program the past three seasons, but Tommy Stevens is expected to take over the offense. Stevens has shown some glimpses as Penn State has tried to get him involved in the offense the last couple of seasons, but now he will get a chance to run the show with his own set of skills. Or will Sean Clifford get a chance to compete for the job and use his arm to his advantage in the spring?
2. Micah Parsons may only get better
It did not take long for Parsons to leave his mark on the Penn State defense. After enrolling early last January, Parsons ended his freshman season leading the team in tackles, providing a possible preview of things to come. Now with a full year under his belt, Parsons should be expected to be even better and stronger in 2019.
3. KJ Hamler will be fun to watch again
Hamler became the lightning spark the Penn State offense needed at times, providing a burst of speed few defenders could keep up with once he found room to work. Look for Hamler to once again provide the same energy in key situations as a go-to option. It would be wise to find new ways to get him involved as well, although how much Hamler gets asked to do remains to be seen.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.