The 2022 season has come to an end. It was a great season that leaves many questions to be answered as we enter the 2023 offseason. Michigan won the Big Ten for the second year in a row, taking the crown from Ohio State.
Ohio State enters the new year a field goal away from a national championship appearance, but now has to replace C.J. Stroud. Will this be the first time in almost a decade that the best quarterback in the conference doesn’t wear scarlet and grey?
Nebraska, Purdue, and Wisconsin enter 2023 with new coaches while Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Indiana’s Tom Allen enter on the hot seat. Penn State has high expectations, Illinois will try to rebound from a late-season collapse, and Minnesota is trying to replace four of the best players in program history.
This is the final offseason before USC and UCLA enter the conference and the new TV deal starts. Teams must build a foundation that will last in the ever-changing landscape of college football. The 2023 offseason is essential for every team, so let’s dive in and see which five questions each team must answer before the 2023 season begins.
Is Drew Allar ready to be QB1?
Penn State enters the offseason with a new quarterback for the first time since 2019, as four-year starter Sean Clifford finally ran out of eligibility after the 2022 season. Former five-star quarterback Drew Allar is the heir apparent, and his potential has the Nittany Lion fanbase dreaming big.
Penn State has put all of its eggs in the Allar basket as he enters the 2023 offseason the oldest quarterback on the roster. If Allar is not ready to compete or does not play at a high level, this season could go off the rails early and have season-long ramifications. There will be some early season struggles, as is the case with most first-time starting quarterbacks, but for Penn State to reach its potential and compete for the Big Ten East division title and a spot in the playoffs, they need Allar to pan out.
Can they live up to the hype?
After the end of the 2022 season, Penn State hyped itself into a frenzy believing that the next year was their year. If you read the tea leaves — mainly social media and player interviews — there is a belief that the 2023 Nittany Lions team should finally exercise their demons and win the Big Ten East for the first time since 2016.
To reach their goals, they have to find a way to beat Ohio State and Michigan in the same season. They also have crossover games against Iowa and a much improved Illinois team — two teams that should be competing for the West Division crown.
The Penn State faithful is putting a lot of faith in their second-year players, as they enter the year without Sean Clifford, Joey Porter Jr., PJ Mustipher and Parker Washington. They got a boost with star offensive tackle Olu Fashanu putting off the NFL for another season to earn his degree.
Since 2016, Penn State has been almost a full step behind Ohio State and Michigan. It won’t be easy to ascend to the top of the conference, despite their faith that 2023 is the year they’ll do it.
How do the second-year players improve on and off the field?
Penn State’s 2023 season rests on the shoulders of their second-year players. They must improve both on the field and as leaders, as this will be a pretty young team.
Drew Allar, simply by being the quarterback, is the most important second-year player on the roster, but he is also the least experienced. Allar’s success will largely be impacted by how successful they are at running the ball.
Penn States’ running game was significantly better in 2022 thanks to true freshman running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. The talented duo ran for a combined 1,928 yards and 22 touchdowns. They enter 2023 as one of the most talented duos in the country, but they will have to avoid a sophomore slump.
On defense, the Nittany Lions will be led by second-year linebacker Abdul Carter, who finished the season second in tackles with 56. He also had 10.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 4 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. Penn State will only go as far as Allar, Allen, Carter, and Singleton take them. They’ll need them to enter 2023 ready to lead the team both on and off the field.
Who steps up to replace key defensive starters?
Penn State had one of the best defenses in the country under first-year coordinator Manny Diaz. Diaz’s defense finished the season 17th in total defense and fifth in stop rate, but will have his job cut out for him as he will be tasked with replacing defensive end Nick Tarburton, defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, safety Ji’Ayir Brown, and star corner Joey Porter Jr.
Linebacker Abdul Carter will be expected to have an increased rol,e while returning players Keaton Ellis, Kalen King, and Curtis Jacobs will need to step up to replace the player entering the 2023 NFL Draft.
The biggest concern on the roster is most likely the defensive line. There is some returning production, but they are really light at defensive tackle and there isn’t much star power at defensive end. Safety is another concern, as it’ll be hard to replace Brisker and Brown in back-to-back offseasons.
Is there anyone on the roster who is ready to contribute at wide receiver?
Last season, Penn State struggled to replace the production of former star receiver Jahan Dotson. In 2021, Dotson put up 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns. The combination of Dotson and Parker Washington put up nearly 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. That production was sorely missed in the 2022 season, as Washington was not able to step into Dotson's shoes and failed to match his performance from the year before.
Penn State’s top two receivers, Washington and Mitchell Tinsley, combined couldn’t match Dotson's production, putting up a combined 1,188 yards and seven touchdowns.
After the season, James Franklin fired their wide receivers coach and brought in Marques Hagan from the University of Virginia. Washington is no longer on the team as he decided to enter the NFL Draft. Penn State enters 2023 with a new wide receivers coach, and no production in the room. The only positive for this room is the commitment of star wide receiver Dante Cephas from Kent State.
Cephas is a true burner who has put up 1,984 yards and 12 touchdowns in 23 games for the Golden Flashes. Cephas has to show he can play at the highest level but even if he can someone else in the room needs to step up, especially with Allar being a first-year starter.