STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — James Franklin has a pretty good idea of what he will see from quarterback Drew Allar on Saturday night.
Penn State’s coach saw glimpses last season and he’s seen it all summer. The strong-armed sophomore is ready to take over what could be one of the more explosive offenses in the country when No. 7 Penn State hosts West Virginia in the season opener for both teams.
“I want him to continue to play like last year,” Franklin said. “With poise and a really good understanding of how to manage the game. I also want him to let the plays come to him, because with our running game, and with the weapons that we have at tight end and wide receiver, he doesn’t need to force anything.”
Not that he would.
Although Allar put up solid numbers in relief of five-year starter Sean Clifford during Penn State's 11-2 season last year, the 6-foot-5, 242-pounder has turned heads this summer with his ability to make big throws and protect the football.
Franklin guessed it was “practice 13 or 14” before Allar threw an interception in camp.
Additionally, Allar has decorated skill position players around him. Behind an experienced offensive line, the Nittany Lions are one of 17 FBS teams with three 800-yard rushers and one of just 11 with two 1,000-yard receivers. That doesn’t include tight ends who combined for eight touchdowns last year.
“He doesn’t need to feel like he’s got too much on his shoulders,” Franklin said.
West Virginia will have to shoulder the din of 100,000-plus voices in a raucous Beaver Stadium. Cracking Penn State’s star-studded defense will be another challenge, West Virginia coach Neal Brown said.
“I may be conservative in this, but they’ve got nine (NFL) draft picks probably on their two-deep on defense,” Brown said. “That’s not just me up here talking, that’s legit.”
The Mountaineers will rely on a quarterback who’s played most of his career to this point off the bench.
Dual-threat Garrett Greene will likely lead West Virginia’s offense as the Mountaineers try to ascend in a crowded Big 12. They finished ninth in the league’s 10-team alignment last season.
While Greene is West Virginia’s top returning passer, his running ability makes him dangerous. He threw for 493 yards and five touchdowns and also added 276 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 45 carries, many of them designed runs.
After combining for 25 total touchdowns as freshmen last year, Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen are sure they can do more.
Penn State’s running backs spent the summer pushing one another in the weight room and studying film. Allen noticeably is up to 222 pounds from the 201 he played at last year while Singleton spent more time catching passes than he has before, determined to add that to his duties that also include kickoff returns.
They also got a new teammate. Former Minnesota back Trey Potts transferred in the spring after rushing for 1,195 career yards with the Golden Gophers.
“We can definitely be dominant,” Singleton said.
Penn State’s front seven includes returning defensive ends Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac who combined with rangy linebacker Abdul Carter for 47 1/2 stops behind the line of scrimmage last season. West Virginia is aware.
“We’ve got to win some 1-on-1 battles up front vs. probably the most talented group we’ll play up front as a whole,” Brown said. “It’s a group that can really run and get to it, so we’ve got to be able to break some tackles.”
West Virginia didn’t hold back when it came to hitting this summer. Brown expects a physical affair in Beaver Stadium and believes the Mountaineers have already set a good tone by banging pads as much as the rules allow.
“That’s kind of the price you pay,” Brown said. “I knew that this game was going to extremely physical. When you look at both their line of scrimmages and the talent that they have, we had to give our guys a chance and the only way we give ’em a chance is to be super physical.”
Penn State’s offensive line took a hit earlier this week when left guard Landon Tengwall announced on social media Wednesday that he can no longer play due to an unspecified injury. Tengwall, a sophomore, started five games last year. He was expected to slot in next to star left tackle Olu Fashanu this season.
Penn State has a handful of guards who’ve played, notably JB Nelson who appeared in four games last year after starting 10 at Lackawanna Community College as a freshman.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll