The 2018 football season for Penn State football was a bit of a mixed bag as the team went 9-3, but was inconsistent throughout the year. Trace McSorley was a perfect example of that as he looked like a Heisman candidate against Ohio State where he accumulated 461 yards of total, but only managed 77 total yards against Michigan.
His inconsistency at the position made it hard for Penn State to consistently threaten teams offensively, even though the offense possesses some of the best young talent in college football. KJ Hamler was supposed to be the deep threat that the offense sorely lacked last season, but instead he became McSorley’s most trusted receiver. The redshirt freshman from Pontiac, Michigan led the team in receptions and receiving yards with 41 and 713 and was second on the team in touchdowns with five.
His 17.4 yards per catch was good for third in the Big Ten and his 93-yard touchdown against Ohio State showed that he was one of the most explosive receivers in the nation. Outside of Purdue’s sensational freshman Rondale Moore, there was not a better freshman receiver in the Big Ten than Hamler and Penn State needed that with Juwan Johnson taking a big step back from his breakout year last season.
Pat Freiermuth stepped into the role vacated by Mike Gesicki and became one of the best freshman tight ends in the country. The Massachusetts native led the team in touchdown receptions with seven, finished second in receptions with 24 and third in receiving yards with 330. His emergence as a red zone threat was huge for Penn State as Freiermuth was the team’s only red zone option throughout the season.
His run blocking could use some improvement, but he was a very capable blocker throughout the season as he opened holes for Miles Sanders to run through. Freiermuth was arguably the best tight end in the Big Ten that did not attend Iowa and could enter the 2019 season as the conference’s best tight end if TJ Hockenson joins teammate Noah Fant in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Defensively, Micah Parsons anchored the Penn State defense as he led the team in tackles with 69 as he transitioned from high school defensive end to college linebacker. His greatest strength is attacking the line of scrimmage as he is very capable of disrupting plays in the backfield. Parsons needs to work on his coverage skills, but 2018 was his first ever season playing linebacker so his struggles in coverage are understandable.
Hamler, Freiermuth and Parsons all look like future stars for Penn State and their developments could help Penn State compete for Big Ten titles in the years to come.