Big Ten Media Days: James Franklin excited about offensive depth of Nittany Lions in 2022

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Penn State head coach James Franklin took to the podium on Wednesday, the second day of the Big Ten football media day event in Indianapolis, and stressed how optimistic he is about what the Nittany Lions will look like on offense this fall. The key theme for the offensive side of the ball was depth, and Franklin could not have been more excited about what he feels his program has to offer this upcoming season with the football.

“One of the things that probably stands out about our team right now is I love our overall depth,” Franklin said in his opening remarks at his press conference at Big Ten media day. “I think our overall depth is as good as it’s been in a number of years. I think a couple of the things that have factored into that is obviously we had a very well-regarded recruiting class coming in, a combination of some transfer student-athletes, not a lot, and a junior college player.”

Penn State signed a consensus top 10 recruiting class in the Class of 2022, one of the best in program history to date, for a good mix of some talented freshmen to look forward to. Penn State also plugged some key holes on the roster with additions through the transfer portal, including wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley from Western Kentucky and Hunter Nourzad from Cornell, one of the top offensive linemen in the transfer portal this offseason.

“In this class, what we’ve been able to evaluate since they’ve been on campus, is there’s probably a larger number of those young men that we feel like are going to be able to impact our program and our organization earlier in their careers than probably normal, in our normal recruiting classes,” Franklin said. “So we’re excited about that.”

Franklin notes improved depth at quarterback in 2022

One of the biggest detriments to the Penn State roster was the lack of depth at the quarterback position. The transfer of Will Levis to Kentukcy hurt Penn State on the depth chart and the pursuit of a coveted quarterback transfer ultimately came up empty, leaving Penn State with a lack of experience behind Sean Clifford. That came back to bite Penn State in a big way most notably in the first loss of the season at Iowa.

But this year could be a different story, according to Franklin.

“Kind of going through our roster, you look at the quarterback position, obviously returning an experienced player at the quarterback position, a starter, a guy who’s been a captain for three years,” Franklin said, referring to Clifford coming back for a sixth year of eligibility. “But this year our depth at the quarterback position with four quarterbacks that we feel very, very strong about, we feel great about the competition in that room.”

Backing up Clifford is Christian Veilleux, who got some playing time in last season in place of an injured Clifford late in the year. Penn State also adds one of the top passers in the Class of 2022, Drew Allar. Allar is expected by many to be the next in line to be Penn State’s full-time starter when Clifford leaves the program, but Veilleux is not about to fade away just yet either.

Of course, it may not matter who is playing quarterback if the offensive line still struggles in the fall.

NEXT: Franklin wants the offensive line to prove themselves

What James Frankin said about the offensive line in 2022 at Big Ten media day

In addition to Sean Clifford being banged up behind a struggling offensive line, Penn State’s lack of a running game was a detriment to the team as well. Much of the blame gets placed on the play of the offensive line, and justifiably so. But Franklin is on the record of promising a much better showing up front this fall.

“O-line is the group that we come and talk about every single year, and I tell you this is going to be the year for the next step at that position,” Franklin said during Big Ten media day. “I’m not going to do that this year. I’m going to let them prove that to you on the field, but I’ve been very, very pleased with that unit and the depth that we have created.”

High expectations for year two under Mike Yurcich

Joe Hermitt/The Patriot-News via AP

Another reason for optimism with the Penn State offense? Another year under the same offensive cooridnator. Franklin hyped the second year under Mike Yurcich at offensive coordinator while going through the offense in his opening remarks at Big Tne media day.

“Feel very good on the offensive side of the ball with what we’re able to do, with our offensive coordinator, Mike Yurcich, being year two for him,” Franklin said.

Penn State ranked 82nd in the nation in total offense and 90th in scoring average in 2021. Penn State’s running game ranked 118th in the nation, with only four other P5 schools having a lower rushing average per game in 2021 (Washington, Stanford, Purdue, and Mississippi State). Penn State did have the nation’s 26th-best passing offense, but it was a rough year for the offense overall.

All quotes were provided by Penn State athletics.


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