8 Penn State - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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8 Penn State

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OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

Saquon Barkley is the best back I've seen in years. He has great vision, speed and balance. He is so explosive and so great with that jump cut. He's also not afraid to put his shoulder down and is bigger [5'11", 223 pounds] than you think. I love the quarterback, [senior TRACE MCSORLEY]. He doesn't look like much in warmups, but he's a winner. He's excellent at keeping plays alive. The tight end, [6'6", 252-pound senior Mike Gesicki] pops on film. He's so athletic, and you don't have many answers for him. They're not great on the O-line, but that back makes them look better. And they're well-coached. Bringing Joe Moorhead on as the coordinator [before the 2016 season] is the best move James Franklin made. They don't do a lot formationally, but they're dangerous because they run their system so well and they can expose you on the perimeter.

They won't wow you with their talent in the front seven, but they're aggressive and [DC Brent] Pry will come after you. Curtis Cothran [a 6'5", 280-pound senior defensive tackle] could play for anyone. He moves well for an inside guy. They were banged up at linebacker, and it showed, but I like [6'1", 232-pound senior Jason] Cabinda. He jumps out. Christian Campbell [a 6'1", 194-pound senior] has impressed us. He's a long corner who can run and tackle.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

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THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % (118TH)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT (9TH)

COMPLETION % (74TH)

YARDS PER CARRY (64TH)

SACKS ALLOWED (44TH)

TURNOVERS LOST (68TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE (26TH)

YARDS PER PLAY (21ST)

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

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THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % ALLOWED (52ND)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT ALLOWED (17TH)

COMPLETION % ALLOWED (105TH)

YARDS PER CARRY ALLOWED (32ND)

SACKS (14TH)

TURNOVERS GAINED (53RD)

POINTS PER DRIVE ALLOWED (39TH)

YARDS PER PLAY ALLOWED (22ND)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RATING

47

Out of conference the Nittany Lions have three home games, including one against Pitt (9/9), which beat them last year. In conference a brutal three-week stretch awaits: Michigan (10/21) at home, then trips to Ohio State (10/28) and Michigan State (11/4). That's asking a lot.

THE PLAYER TO KNOW

The Nittany Lions have to replace big-play wideout Chris Godwin, their leading receiver in 2016. They're stocked with rangy targets that at field level resemble defensive ends, but the one who has generated the most buzz this offseason has been a 6'4", 218-pound sophomore with 4.5 speed—JUWAN JOHNSON. An Academic All-Big Ten qualifier last year, Johnson was primarily Godwin's backup and a special-teamer. Now he's primed to slide into one of the outside receiver spots which are big weapons in Joe Moorhead's system. "He wasn't consistent before," the offensive coordinator says. "He's brimming with confidence now. Juwan had a phenomenal spring."