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Penn State defense receives high grades, offense not so much

College football continues to change at a rapidly evolving pace.

Once teams finish their regular seasons, they know their rosters will never be the same again.

In fact, new Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Allen referred to the 2023 season as “last season” more than once in his introductory press conference.

Considering that the Nittany Lions will play the Peach Bowl without a few of their top players, the one-man committee that determines their grades has decided to hand out the final report card now.

Quarterbacks: It’s difficult to criticize someone who has thrown for 23 touchdown passes against one interception. Drew Allar had rough outings against Ohio State and Michigan, but he still had a very good season overall. He didn’t get much help from the wide receiver position or from some of the play calling.

Midseason grade: B+. Final grade: B.

Running backs: Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen have not posted the numbers they did last season as freshmen, but they still have run for more than 1,500 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Their decreased numbers stem from defenses crowding the line of scrimmage and Penn State’s lack of explosive pass plays.

Midseason grade: C+. Final grade: B.

Wide receivers: KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Dantre Cephas and Trey Wallace are the only receivers with more than 10 catches and Lambert-Smith is the only one with more than 22, which speaks volumes. He ranked among the Big Ten leaders before finishing with two receptions in the final three games.

Midseason grade: C-. Final grade: D+.

Tight ends: Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren have played superbly in the second half of the season, increasing their combined season numbers to 61 receptions for 620 yards and 13 touchdowns. Khalil Dinkins, who emerged as the third tight end, has two TD catches.

Midseason grade: B. Final grade: A-.

Offensive linemen: Led by consensus All-American Olu Fashanu, who hasn’t allowed a sack, they’ve protected the quarterbacks well and have helped Penn State rank first in the Big Ten in scoring and rushing. The Lions did struggle to run the ball against Ohio State, but topped 200 yards five times.

Midseason grade: A. Final grade: A-.

Offense: The poor offensive performances against Ohio State and Michigan overshadow an otherwise solid season. The lack of explosive plays and the struggles on third down all year led to the midseason firing of Mike Yurcich as offensive coordinator.

Midseason grade: B. Final grade: B.

Defensive linemen: It would be difficult to find a better pass-rushing trio than Chop Robinson, Adisa Isaac and Dani Dennis-Sutton, who have combined for 15 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss. Interior linemen Dvon Ellies, Coziah Izzard and Zane Durant also have been productive. These guys are a chief reason why Penn State ranks first nationally in total defense, rushing defense and sacks.

Midseason grade: A. Final grade: A.

Linebackers: One of the more underrated groups in the Big Ten, Abdul Carter, Curtis Jacobs and Kobe King have enjoyed solid seasons. They don’t have high tackle numbers, but they have helped the Lions hold 10 of their 12 opponents to under 100 rushing yards. Freshman Tony Rojas showed flashes of being a future star.

Midseason grade: A-. Final grade: A-.

Secondary: This might be the best secondary the Lions have had in at least 40 years. Opponents have thrown seven touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. The Lions did allow Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. to catch 11 passes for 162 yards and a TD and Indiana to pass for three scores. Otherwise they’ve had a great season.

Midseason grade: A+. Final grade: A.

Defense: Penn State ranks first in the nation in total defense, rushing defense and sacks, second in tackles for loss and third in passing defense. Coordinator Manny Diaz did a magnificent job before leaving earlier this month to become head coach at Duke.

Midseason grade: A. Final grade: A.

Special teams: Alex Felkins, a transfer from Columbia, has made 18-of-22 field goal tries and all of his extra points. Riley Thompson has gradually improved and has helped Penn State rank 10th nationally in net punting. Behind Singleton and Daequan Hardy, the Lions are third in the Big Ten in kickoff returns and punt returns.

Midseason grade: C-. Final grade: A-.

Coaching: The internal problems on offense, which led to Franklin releasing Yurcich, hurt Penn State in its losses to Ohio State and Michigan. The lack of explosive plays has been a concern all season. Except for a few moments, the defense surpassed preseason expectations. The Lions have held all of their opponents to 24 points or less.

Midseason grade: A-. Final grade: B.


Source: Berkshire mont

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