Penn State football has a big spring ahead of them as the team loses a ton of key players from 2018. Record-setting quarterback Trace McSorley has exhausted his eligibility, while former five-star recruit Miles Sanders left early for the NFL. The duo combined for 2,072 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, creating a big void in the running game.
Ricky Slade and Journey Brown are a pair of intriguing running backs to watch, but they will be missing Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern as both players left for the NFL Draft. Mike Miranda, C.J. Thorpe and Rasheed Walker all need big springs as coach Franklin is relying on them to take a big step up from the 2018 season. All three players saw valuable playing last season, but will be pressed into starting duty for 2019.
Slade entered the 2018 season with the potential to take Sanders’ job, but was unable to do do last year. The sophomore from Virginia is one of the most electrifying playmakers on the Penn State team as he has the speed to score a touchdown on every play. Slade is not guaranteed a starting spot in 2018, but he will definitely do better than 257 yards and six touchdowns.
Brown will need to have a bigger spring than Slade as he is fighting for the backup job. Notre Dame transfer CJ Holmes and incoming freshman Noah Cain are also vying for playing time in the Penn State backfield. Both players are extremely talented players and will give Brown a serious battle for the number two spot. Devyn Ford is another top 100 running back recruit, but he did not enroll early.
Justin Shorter is another star recruit from the 2018 cycle that needs to have a big spring practice. The five-star receiver from New Jersey struggled with injuries during his freshman season and only played in four games in 2018. He was able to get a redshirt year in 2018 because he did not play in more than four games, but Shorter will have to stay on the field in 2019.
The loss of Juwan Johnson hurts the Nittany Lions as he provided a big target for McSorley in the passing game. Shorter can bring that same type of physical presence, but he will have to earn it. Florida State grad transfer George Campbell has the size to compete with Shorter as he is 6’4″ and 207 pounds. Despite going to Tallahassee as a five-star recruit, Campbell has not accomplished anything for the Seminoles as he has 13 career receptions for 206 yards and zero touchdowns.
A change of scenery could be exactly what Campbell needs as he did not seem to fit Florida State’s system. Campbell will definitely push Shorter as the redshirt senior was one of the most talented high school players in the 2015 recruiting cycle. His experience in the wide receiver room is something that Penn State desperately need as Mac Hippenhammer and KJ Hamler are the most experienced scholarship receivers on the roster.
Shorter gives the Nittany Lions a target that they have not had since Allen Robinson. His combination of size and speed is unmatched by anyone on the roster. Shorter has to prove to the coaching staff that he was worthy of that five star rating in high school or he will fall behind on the depth chart.
The Nittany Lions have won 31 games over the past three years, but they need Shorter, Brown and Slade to all have big spring practices if they want to continue their recent success.