CHICAGO — Penn State rose from the ashes of the Jerry Sandusky scandal quicker than most anyone expected.
The Nittany Lions won the 2016 Big Ten title after shocking Ohio State and finished the 2017 season ranked No. 8 after its Fiesta Bowl over Washington. Perceived by some to be on at least a warm seat entering 2016, coach James Franklin is recruiting at a high level and is expected to contend for the Big Ten title again this year.
But superstar running back Saquon Barkley is just one of numerous players that Penn State lost after last season.
"We probably have more question marks going into this season than we've had the last two years," Franklin said Monday during his Big Ten media days news conference. "We lost a lot of production."
Penn State lost 10 starters, including eight on defense. Franklin said he's particularly worried about replacing three seniors at defensive tackle and middle linebacker Jason Cabinda.
McSorley, offensive line should be strengths: But the cupboard isn't bare. Quarterback Trace McSorley returns and while he lost Barkley and other playmakers, Franklin is more confident about his blockers.
"I don't know if you necessarily can replace a guy like that from a production standpoint," Franklin said of Barkley. "But I do think our offensive line, for the first time since we've been there, becoming a strength is going to help with that. So excited about that group. The game of football always will and always has started up front. I feel really good about that group."
McSorley certainly is a nice security blanket. His flair for clutch plays has made him a preseason Heisman Trophy contender.
"Trace is a guy that you look all the way back to little league, all he's done is won," he said. "He's been highly, highly productive and is universally respected throughout our entire program. He has done things the right way.
"The thing about Trace that we love so much is that you know what you're getting from Trace every single day, not just on game days, but practice, offseason, community service, academically. He's steady Eddie."
More refining than building: Franklin said that Penn State has reached the point when it's more about refining what it does than having to build it.
"The reality is for you to have a program that is a consistent top-10 or top-5 program, you can't do it by just being good in one area," he said. "You can't just do it being good in a scheme. You can't just do it by being good from a development standpoint. You can't just do it from a recruiting perspective.
"You're going to have to be strong in all of those areas. I think if you have weaknesses, that's what you need to be spending your offseason doing — attacking those weaknesses. I think we've done a pretty good job. The area I'm most proud of is how we've developed players. I think that's what we do best."
OTHER BIG TEN
MEDIA DAYS NOTES
McSorley a unanimous pick as preseason honoree: McSorley earned one of 10 spots Monday on the Big Ten’s preseason honors list, but he was the only unanimous selection.
A media panel selected a 10-member preseason list to acknowledge the top players in the conference. Five players were selected from the East and five from the West.
Ohio State and Wisconsin both led the way with two selections apiece. McSorley was the Nittany Lions’ lone representative and was one of just two quarterbacks selected. (Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke was the other.)
McSorley is widely regarded as one of the top Heisman favorites, and he’s on pace to shatter Penn State’s all-time career passing record. McSorley has passed for 7,369 yards — and needs just 1,059 more to break Christian Hackenberg’s mark. (McSorley already holds the career passing TDs record with 59.)
The honorees are defensive lineman Rashan Gary of Michigan, defensive end Nick Bosa of Ohio State, running back J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State, tight end Noah Fant of Iowa, wideout Stanley Morgan of Nebraska, linebacker Paddy Fisher of Northwestern, linebacker T.J. Edwards of Wisconsin and running back Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin.
Delany wants injury report: College football does not have a standardized injury report.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the Big Ten want to change that.
"It's something we should do and probably should have done before, but certainly should do it now," Delany said.
One of the driving forces behind the push for an injury report is the legalization of sports gambling in the United States back in May.
"I think the reason we need to do that is probably with the exception of the home field, the availability of personnel is critical to people who are interested in gambling legally or illegally," Delany said. "And therefore, when players are unavailable, we should know that.
The NFL has long produced weekly injury reports in an effort to be more transparent.
PSU adds recruit from Delaware: Penn State picked up its 12th verbal commitment for its 2019 recruiting class on Monday.
Saleem Wormley, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 300-pound four-star offensive lineman from Smyrna, Delaware, chose the Lions.
He had offers from Notre Dame, Florida State, Oregon, Pitt and West Virginia, among others.
He was rated the No. 1 recruit out of Delaware.
The Lions' 2019 class is now ranked No. 16 nationally by Rivals.com.
Josh Moyer of the Centre Daily Times and Tim Bielik of Advance Ohio Media contributed to this report.