By seanmeyers @sdmeyers1 on August 27, 2014
Last season, the Penn State football team battled inconsistency en route to a 7-5 record. With a new coach at the helm and several key players returning, the Nittany Lions have many reasons for optimism heading into the season opener. Here are the top five reasons why fans should be excited for the 2014 campaign.
Shortly after taking over as head coach, James Franklin vowed that Beaver Stadium would be sold out for every game. Although Penn State has remained a top draw even in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, attendance numbers have been on the decline in recent years. Franklin hopes to attract approximately 75,000 more fans this year than in 2013, and if the blue-white scrimmage turnout was any indication, he very well might accomplish that goal.
Penn State's tradition at the linebacker position is second to none in college football, as indicated by its "Linebacker U" moniker. From 2005 until last year, the Nittany Lions have featured at least one of the top linebackers in college football every season. Heading into his senior year and seemingly healthy, this is the year that Mike Hull ascends to that status, joining the likes of Posluszny, Connor, Lee, Bowman and Mauti.
Record-breaking receiver Allen Robinson is now in the NFL, and his production won't be replaced by a single player. The Nittany Lions have a bevy of talented youngsters at the receiver position, though, who could make a major impact. Sophomore Eugene Lewis, along with redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton and true freshmen Saedd Blacknall, Chris Godwin and DeAndre Thompkins are inexperienced, but their talent will be apparent immediately.
As a true freshman last season, Hackenberg exceeded all expectations. He has all the physical tools imaginable for a signal-caller, and his poise and maturity far surpass his age. Already, Hackenberg is projected by many to be the top overall pick in the draft once he decides to declare of the NFL. This season, he has a chance to jump into Heisman contention.
Bill O'Brien did a terrific job in his two years in State College, but the excitement that Franklin has brought to the Nittany Lions is unprecedented. In addition to his incredible success in recruiting, Franklin has given a shot of energy into the Penn State fanbase. While he has said and done all of the right things since taking over in January, Franklin's ultimate success will be determined on the field in 2014.
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