Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 11, 2018 at 9:30 pm.

Nittany Lions quickly showing off depth on offense

It would be reasonable to doubt that No. 11 Penn State would maintain the explosive offensive pace that lifted the Nittany Lions into the College Football Playoff discussion each of the last two seasons.

But even though they lost three bona fide NFL talents along with their original mastermind play-caller, the Nittany Lions are proving they’re much, much deeper and have plenty of creative ways to attack.

The Nittany Lions (2-0) showed plenty of evidence in last week’s 51-6 win over Pitt where six different Penn State players found the end zone in a driving rain storm that persisted throughout the evening.

“I think under the circumstances, I feel really good about where we’re at,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.

With Kent State (1-1) visiting Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Franklin sees another chance to unleash his speedy roster on a nonconference foe.

Running back Miles Sanders is averaging nearly six yards per carry behind a solidified offensive line while freshman receiver KJ Hamler leads the team with three touchdowns and has looked dangerous on special teams and in end-game situations.

The fact that two of the team’s most experienced players — receivers Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins — are both in a bit of a funk only highlights the emergence of the newcomers.

Thompkins and Johnson have both dropped a handful of passes so far. Thompkins lost his hold on a touchdown in the first half Saturday, though he made up for it with a punt return score later.

“I think both of those guys have higher standards and expectations of who they want to be,” Franklin said. “I got tremendous confidence that those guys, you’re going to end up and we’re going to look back at the end of the year and say, wow, what huge years these guys had. You know, I’m very, very confident that that’s going to happen.”

They’ll get a crack at Kent State’s secondary that’s allowing just over 197 yards per game.