Penn State coach James Franklin closed spring drills Saturday by saying the team had answered some questions while extending others to August training camp.
In a previous piece, we looked at the questions Penn State addressed this spring. Now let's examine those that will remain ahead of the season opener at Purdue. Here are three positions that Franklin noted will be atop his to-do list.
Yes, this is an annual refrain. Franklin has expressed his belief before that the line had turned a corner, only to watch it labor through another season. The head coach addressed that sentiment Saturday.
"Can we take a step where you guys [in the media] ask about the offensive line, I say something and then we back it up?" Franklin asked.
Penn State didn't really answer that question this spring. The Lions played short-handed on the line, which prompted Franklin to limit the number of Blue-White Game scrimmage snaps. They had 6-7 healthy linemen through spring, which meant more reps for them but also required practice adjustments to compensate.
Left tackle Olu Fashanu said the line made "positivity" its code word of spring. Fashanu clearly thrived, as he likely secured the starting spot. Caedan Wallace is back at right tackle, and Juice Scruggs made a smooth switch from guard to center.
But those guard spots will be open through training camp. Sal Wormley, a projected starter who was injured last season, returned this spring to reclaim his spot. Cornell transfer Hunter Nourzad, an FCS All-American last season, will enter with a chance to start as well.
But even with a solid starting lineup, the offensive line knows it has plenty of ground to cover.
Franklin said that Penn State lost some "horsepower" at linebacker, referring to likely NFL draft picks Brandon Smith and Ellis Brooks. Curtis Jacobs returns, at a new spot, but the other two starters will be new. And behind them is an inexperienced group.
Jonathan Sutherland, a sixth-year senior, shifted from safety to outside linebacker, a move Franklin said will benefit him and the team. Franklin said the same thing last year regarding Jesse Luketa, who moved from linebacker to defensive end. He was right then; is he right again?
At middle linebacker, Kobe King and Tyler Elsdon will continue their competition in camp. King, who led Penn State's defense with five tackles at the Blue-White Game, drew praise from teammates for his ascension. As did Elsdon, who did not play in the spring game.
Elsewhere, Penn State has to develop some depth at the position. One player to watch is incoming freshman Abdul Carter, who will enroll this spring. Notably, Penn State's hallmark linebacker No. 11 remains available.
Jordan Stout did everything but hold last season, so Penn State has openings for a punter, field-goal kicker and kickoff specialist. Sander Sahaydak and Jake Pinegar will duel, or possibly split, the kicking role. The punter might not be on campus yet.
Sahaydak, a redshirt freshman, has the strongest leg on the roster. He made a 47-yarder during the Blue-White Game and has the power to take kickoffs. Pinegar has been around for a while. The fifth-year senior was the starting kicker in 2018, went 11-for-12 in 2019 and gradually began sharing more of the role with Stout.
Last year, Stout did everything while Pinegar nursed an injury. But Pinegar stayed with the program.
"I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted to be or needed to be," Pinegar said. "But I played here three years. One year doesn’t go your way, you don’t leave. You stay here and you finish what you built. So that was my own mindset."
Franklin liked what he saw Saturday from the punters, notably Gabe Nwosu, a 6-6, 278-pound redshirt freshman. "It was awesome to see Gabe Nwosu punt the hell out of the ball," Franklin said. "He hadn’t done that all spring to be honest with you."
But Penn State's punter still might be in high school. Alex Bacchetta, the nation's No. 1 punter in the 2022 recruiting class according to Kohl's Kicking, will graduate from the same Georgia high school as former Penn State punter Blake Gillikin.
Gillikin has worked out with Bacchetta and offered this scouting report.
"Blake says he's the best freshman he's ever seen," Franklin said. "So, we'll see how that plays out."
Next up for Penn State: a few weeks off, followed by the team's discretionary period, during which quarterback Sean Clifford said he expects a significant commitment from the full team.
After that, Franklin and the coaching staff will assess the team before camp.
"One of the things that I love to do preseason every year before the fall and every year before the spring is, let’s rank our 22 best players," Franklin said. "And then based on that ranking, that should dictate how we play on offense and defense. Let's rank our units, offensive line through quarterback and everywhere in between, and [determine] what's our strongest units to our weakest units. And then as coaches at the end of the year, let's re-rank it and see if it plays out the same way.
"You've got a chance as a position coach to fix your position group if it was the last-ranked group on offense or defense. Let's fix it."
AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button's on the home page) for more great content across the SI.com network.