Let’s be frank, Penn State’s 2022 season will go down as one of James Franklin’s best coaching jobs at Happy Valley.
At the start of the year, Penn State’s season prospects were all over the place. Critics cited the Nittany Lions’ 11-11 record over the past two seasons, while optimists saw through last season’s struggles to find a team clearly more talented than their record. (Penn State had more NFL draft picks than wins a year ago, after all.)
Penn State lost a lot in those eight 2022 draft picks, but it still had a talented roster that was more than capable of putting together a successful season.
The floor for Franklin’s team seemed to be around seven or eight wins, while the ceiling was way up at the double-digit mark — there were just a lot of question marks between said floor and the ceiling.
Brent Pry left as Penn State’s defensive coordinator, and who knew what to expect with Manny Diaz filling the role. It turns out Diaz was a home run — to say the least — and Penn State’s defense has been firing on all cylinders for most of 2022.
The linebacking corps was the biggest question on Penn State’s roster. With Brandon Smith, Ellis Brooks and Jesse Luketa all heading to the next level, Penn State found itself with little to no experience in the middle of defense. By the end of the year, Tyler Elsdon and Kobe King were both playing more than usable football at Mike’s linebacker.
And the biggest question of all? The offensive line, especially the Nittany Lions’ performance with the ball.
The group led by Juice Scruggs, Olu Fashanu and Sal Wormley got through most of the season, as Penn State finally pulled the monkey off its back on the ground. He also went from being the most sacked team in the Big Ten in 2021 to dropping fourth in sacks this year.
All of those questions were answered and more as Penn State dominated the majority of its competition en route to a 10-2 campaign this year. Sure, it lost to Ohio State and Michigan, but each of those teams will finish in the top five, and Penn State wasn’t supposed to beat either one this year anyway. The timeline of success is starting to re-start.
By reaching the 10-win mark, Franklin and his team not only maximized the potential of this roster, but also restored Penn State fans’ faith in the program.
Meanwhile, as Penn State continued to climb to its preseason “ceiling,” Franklin did the best job of his career rotating players and creating a level of depth that Penn State hasn’t. not seen for a very long time.
Seventeen Penn State defensive players have recorded at least half a sack this season — a stat Franklin said he “has never seen” before. Sixteen players have recorded an offensive touchdown of some kind this season.
There’s some depth to this Penn State roster, and Franklin has hammered the table on the subject since fall camp, continually emphasizing how important it is for his staff to develop talent this year. This was especially prevalent with the entrance of such a vaunted freshman class.
Enter Abdul Carter, Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen and other true freshmen who became stars in their first year. Carter leads Penn State with 6.5 sacks, while Allen and SIngleton became the first freshman duo in Big Ten history to record more than 700 rushing yards each.
Then there’s Drew Allar, the golden boy of the Penn State faithful, who has thrown 59 passes this season and seen snaps in nine games. That’s more action than some of the best quarterbacks in the country saw when they were real freshmen.
Looking at it holistically, the progress Franklin and Penn State have made this season is pretty remarkable. This team is on course for a top-10 finish, likely a New Year’s Six Bowl game, and its roster is filled with high-impact young players.
The 2022 season has met or exceeded virtually all expectations, and it has prepared Penn State very well for the years to come. Franklin and his staff deserve a lot of credit.
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