Countdown to Big Ten Media Days: Penn State | College Sports


Penn State is one of college football’s bluebloods, but the Nittany Lions have gone through a rough patch over the past two seasons.

A surprisingly weak run game played a part in Penn State losing six of its last eight games and finishing the year 7-6 after a 24-10 loss to Arkansas in the Outback Bowl. Overall, Penn State has become an 11-11 pedestrian over its past two seasons.

Despite recent struggles, Penn State coach James Franklin was rewarded with a seven-year, $70 million contract extension last November based on a work package that includes a record 67 -34 in nine seasons in Happy Valley and a 2016 Big Ten championship.

The addition of former Miami coach Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator was the biggest move of the offseason, and there’s hope the offense will lock in and become more balanced in its second season under offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Penn State returns six starters on offense and six starters on defense.

Toughness at both lines of scrimmage was a priority this offseason to help repair a running game that ranked 13th in the Big Ten at 108 yards per game.

“We answered some questions this spring, but obviously we still have questions before fall camp,” Franklin said after Penn State’s spring football game. “There’s a lot of work to do before now and fall camp.”

Here’s a look at Penn State heading into the 2022 season:


Sean Clifford, Sr., QB: Clifford had 71 touchdowns — 61 passes, 10 rushing — and had more than 8,000 total rushing yards in 37 career games.

PJ Mustipher, Sr., DT: At 6-foot-4, 321 pounds, Mustipher anchors the defensive line and pressures the quarterback, after posting three career sacks.

Ji’Ayir Brown, Sr., S: The hawking defenseman is tied for the Football Bowl Division for the lead in interceptions with six last season.


Nick Singleton, Fr., RB: A five-star rookie from Reading, Pa., Singleton could be in the running for races this season.

Mitchell Tinsley, Sr., WR: The Western Kentucky transfer had 87 receptions for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers last season.

Hunter Nourzad, Jr., RG: The transfer from Cornell will bring depth to the offensive line.


Clifford’s return gives Penn State a proven winner at quarterback, but he’ll need the backing of the running game for the Nittany Lions to progress in 2022.

An offensive style of defense that Diaz will use could be interesting to watch, given Penn State’s size, speed and athleticism on this side of football.

Penn State has suffered upset losses to Indiana, Maryland and Illinois in recent seasons and must strive to achieve a level of consistency that matches its talent on both sides of football.


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