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Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders are two of the reasons why ESPN thinks Penn State will compete for a playoff spot in 2018.

Penn State an early favorite in ESPN’s eyes; recruiting assistant joins Nittany Lions staff

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A big year coming

The headlines might be all about Clemson and Alabama, but ESPN thinks Penn State will be right in the middle of the college playoff conversation again in 2018.

The network released its first FPI rankings, albeit, really early rankings, but the Nittany Lions are No. 8 in the initial Football Power Index rankings. ESPN also thinks it will be a big year for the Big Ten too, with Ohio State at No. 4 and Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin at Nos. 10-12 respectively.

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No vacancy

James Franklin has been busy both recruiting and hiring assistants this offseason.

His latest hire, Sean Reedy, will take over as recruiting coordinator, writes Sean Fitz of Lions 247. Reedy moves over from Syracuse where he was a recruiting assistant in charge of graphic design, per Fitz’s report.

Reedy also took to social media to announce his move.

Switching places

Lions 247 writer Andrew Callahan checks in with another question and answer post, breaking down potential position switches and which position battles could be the ones to watch this spring.

From Callahan:

Should Tommy Stevens leave and another quarterback go down due to injury, what’s the scouting report on Will Levis? The freshman performed extremely well at camp last summer, demonstrating great arm strength and ability to hit a variety of throws. He seemed to take coaching well and was one of the most athletic quarterbacks of the 2018 class. Questions reside with his accuracy, consistency, as is the case with all freshman signal callers, adjusting to the college game. But the ceiling appears high.

What about current third stringer Sean Clifford? He has been seldom heard from since arriving on campus. With Trace McSorley and Stevens back in the fold for 2018 and Levis waiting his turn, the quarterback spot has some depth, but also unanswered questions.

Breakout candidates aplenty

Who will step up and assume a larger role for the Nittany Lions in 2018? The staff at Pennlive takes that question and offers a look at players who could step up or may be ready to become important pieces.

One of the more interesting names Pennlive thinks could have an impact is wide receiver K.J. Hamler.

From Pennlive:

K.J. Hamler begins his second season with the Penn State Nittany Lions, having made his way to State College from Florida’s IMG Academy. PSU redshirted the 5-9, 172-pounder last season and the Lions receiving corps is in need of some playmakers after losing DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall. PSU does return projected starters Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins but the Lions must settle on a new slot receiver.

Hamilton’s loss to the NFL could be eased if Hamler is ready to step up.

Down the stretch

Will Penn State’s men’s basketball team make it to the NCAA Tournament? An even more interesting question is if the Nittany Lions go on a run in the Big Ten Tournament, will anyone even remember it come Selection Sunday? The conference tournament is a week earlier than the other Power 5 conferences this season because it is being played in New York’s Madison Square Garden, which hosts the Big East Tournament.

The Nittany Lions’ chances might come down to the regular-season finale when Penn State takes on Nebraska, writes Thomas Schlarp of The Daily Collegian.

Penn State holds at No. 40 in KenPom’s latest rankings. But that might not be enough.

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