The past decade has been quite a roller-coaster ride for the Penn State Nittany Lions. The program started the decade battling through the most tumultuous time in the program's history that led to a new era of Penn State football. As a new decade gets underway, Penn State finds itself inching closer to College Football Playoff consideration thanks to strides in recruiting and player development under James Franklin.
The story of Penn State football in the 2010s cannot be explored without addressing the elephant in the room. The sanctions dropped on the program by the NCAA in the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal slammed the program's ability to recruit for then-head coach Bill O'Brien, who already walked into a tough spot to be in after the dismissal of Joe Paterno amid controversy. Because of scholarship limitations, O'Brien did his best to find skill position players where he could. Franklin has continued to find good talent with a full arsenal of scholarships and no more sanctions. As a result, many of the best players from the past decade of Penn State football have played in more recent years.
But that doesn't mean there aren't a few gems worth remembering from earlier in the decade either. Here is a look back at the all-decade team for Penn State.
QB: Trace McSorley (2015-18)
RB: Saquon Barkley (2015-17)
RB: Miles Sanders (2016-18)
AP: Bill Belton (2011-14)
WR: Allen Robinson II (2011-13)
WR: Chris Godwin (2014-16)
WR: DaeSean Hamilton (2014-17)
TE: Mike Gesicki (2014-17)
OL: Donovan Smith (2012-14)
OL: Stefen Wisniewski (2007-10)
OL: Michal Menet (2017-Present)
OL: John Urschel (2011-13)
OL: Ryan Bates (2016-18)
DL: Yetur Gross-Matos (2017-19)
DL: Carl Nassib (2013-15)
DL: Devon Still (2008-11)
DL: Anthony Zettel (2011-15)
LB: Michael Mauti (2008-12)
LB: Mike Hull (2011-14)
LB: Micah Parsons (2018-present)
CB: Grant Haley (2014-17)
CB: Amani Oruwariye (2015-18)
S: Adrian Amos (2011-14)
S: Marcus Allen (2014-17)
K: Sam Ficken (2012-14)
P: Blake Gillikin (2016-19)
RS: Saquon Barkley (2015-17)
Toughest Position: Tight End
Penn State has had a strong lineage of tight ends over the past decade. Mike Gesicki got the final nod for this compilation after his standout career in a blue and white uniform. But this decade also saw Jesse James rise as one of the top tight ends before leaving for the NFL. And now, Penn State has one of the best tight ends in the country with Pat Freiermuth about to return for the 2020 season.
Best Position: Running Back
Although the defensive line has been one of the more consistent units on Penn State's roster for the past decade, the star power at the running back position in more recent years, and the path the position is taking into 2020 appears to be as strong as it has ever been. Saquon Barkley was the best Penn State player of the past decade, and he was followed by Miles Sanders. The current stable of running backs has great promise as the next decade gets started.
Weakest Position: Offensive Line
Not too surprisingly, the position that has been the toughest to stock has been the offensive line. Recruiting limitations in the abbreviated sanctions phase of the program hurt the depth on the offensive line. Penn State has had a few good linemen come through, but it has been a challenge to provide depth on the line until recent recruiting efforts.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.