With each spring, a new day dawns for Penn State football as it does for the palette of colors splashed in all their majesty across Happy Valley. Winter has taken its last breath and likewise, Penn State football is bidding adieu to an era that reacquainted Nittany Nation with the sweet smell of roses, the festivity of fiestas, and the legend known as Saquon. The senior class is getting ready to take their next steps, Beaver Stadium now fading in the rear-view mirror. There are hold-overs for sure, and upper-classmen that have bided their time, but for all intent and purpose, when you lose a QB that meant so much to the team, the reset button has effectively been put in motion in Happy Valley.
So here WE ARE again, awash in the murky waters of unknown territory. There’s a mini-quarterback battle on our hands, one we haven’t seen in three years, and a backfield that lost its workhorse to the bright lights of the bigger stage for the second year running. The question marks have failed to escape the clutches along the O-Line, but we’re kind of used to that by now, unfortunately, and there’s a receiving corps that couldn’t catch a cold at times during the 2018 season. That alone has left plenty of questions in its own right as we embark upon this new era.
On defense, a rabid pack of Wild Dogs that led the country in sacks a year ago have holes to plug if they expect to wreak havoc and feast on opposing QBs again in 2019. With the exception of seniors Cam Brown and former walk-on Jan Johnson, our linebackers are as young as cubs, their manes barely more than peach fuzz, and the No Fly Zone on the back end has two slots to fill as Big Ten jets prepare to make another run at them in the vertical game. Those are facts and facts don’t lie as we stand at the gates of a new era. It’s enough to make us cringe a little if I hadn’t spent this early part of spring watching a team loaded with talent, and discovering a healthy dose of hunger in their eyes as those practices wore on.
So don’t worry friends, I’m not here to sing the blues, despite being blanketed in a sea of the unknown. No, I’m here to strum a different tune today as our annual spring Blue-White game is just a few days away. Sometimes it’s best to take them by surprise, and let me tell you, we have weapons galore locked and loaded in our arsenal on both sides of the ball. Yes, it’s true. Today is the dawn of a new era and just like it’s always been, all will be well in Happy Valley. This time around its names like Ricky Slade, ‘Don’t Sleep On Me’ Journey Brown, and Mr. Electric himself, KJ Hamler, leading the charge.
It’s tight end Pat Frieirmuth, who not only led the team in receiving touchdowns during his freshman campaign but tore down the notion that ’88 All Day’ Mike Gesicki was irreplaceable, brick by brick. It’s Tommy Stevens, as he finally settles into his one season in the sun, and Sean Clifford, who has every intention of pushing The Lion to his limits. It’s a pack of Wild Dogs reportedly way ahead of schedule that have James FrankLion singing their praises and a pride of Lions at Linebacker U unsatisfied with 9-4. It’s Micah Parsons grading himself a C on an otherwise stellar freshman year. Coming from last year’s leading tackler, if that doesn’t tell you where their mindset is, then I don’t know what does.
Finally, it’s the unsung heroes like walk-ons Hunter Kelley and Isaac Lutz, who have done nothing more than roll up their sleeves and bring their lunch pails to practice every day as they push their more heralded five-star and four-star teammates to the max, no questions asked. On Saturday, at the 10th of 15 practices that culminates with this week’s Blue-White family reunion, they both earned scholarships and earned their turn in the spotlight. It was well deserved to say the least and as sure a sign as any that the dawn of a new era is off to a roaring start!