It won’t be long now.

Penn State’s coaching staff is putting the finishing touches on its Week 1 depth chart in anticipation of its Thursday night Big Ten showdown Sept. 1 at Purdue.

James Franklin no longer puts out official depth charts for public consumption, but he and his staff do provide hints with their public statements throughout the spring and summer.

With 7 of last year’s top 11 tacklers and 3 starting offensive linemen to replace, there is certainly intrigue about the position battles as preseason camp winds down. Jahan Dotson tops the list of 8 NFL Draft picks that’ll have to be replaced.

Here are my best guesses as to how it will shake out, at least for the season-opener vs. the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind.

(If you want to see every last uniform number, height, weight and year, here’s a link to the school’s official roster.)


Depth chart: Sean Clifford, Christian Veilleux, Drew Allar, Beau Pribula

Entering his 4th year as the starter, Sean Clifford remains entrenched. And that’s a good thing.

The guy many fans want to see, 5-star Drew Allar, isn’t ready for opening night on the road. Whether the 18-year-old will be ready to play significant snaps at any time in 2022 is open to debate. He didn’t show out nearly enough in the spring to warrant such consideration, so listen for updates from the coaching staff over the next couple weeks.

Right now, redshirt freshman Christian Veilleux holds the No. 2 spot over the 6-5, 242-pound Allar and fellow true freshman Beau Pribula. That’s a way better top 4 than what Penn State had coming out of the gate in 2021.

Clifford begins 2022 poised to break multiple program career marks, and should have his best season now that he’ll be playing a 2nd year under OC Mike Yurcich. Veilleux proved his B1G chops in a strong relief effort last year vs. Rutgers, and the 2 true freshmen will perform better than last year’s No. 2, Ta’Quan Roberson, if pressed into duty.

Running back

Depth chart: Keyvone Lee or Nicholas Singleton, Kaytron Allen, Devyn Ford

I’d love to see Singleton, the 5-star freshman and Gatorade National Player of the Year, take over and leave the others grappling for the crumbs. Penn State needs the dominant feature back it hasn’t had the past couple seasons. But my guess is that returning leading rusher Lee at least shares the top spot early on. True freshman Allen has turned heads in camp, so veterans Lee and Ford could be phased out as the seasons evolves.

Wide receiver

Depth chart: Parker Washington, Mitchell Tinsley, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Kaden Saunders, Malick Meiga

The first 3 are the starters, returnees Washington and Lambert-Smith plus transfer Tinsley. True freshman 4-star Saunders brings elite speed, and sophomore Meiga provides size at 6-4, 200 pounds. Liam Clifford, based on name recognition if nothing else, leads the pack of unproven guys vying for spots in the pecking order.

Tight end

Depth chart: Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, Tyler Warren

James Franklin thinks he has the best TE group in the country, and he’s not far off in that belief. These are 3 big, agile guys, with sophomores Johnson and Warren both going 6-6 and about 260 pounds. Strange (6-3, 246 pounds) led the group in 2021 with 20 catches for 225 yards. Johnson was just behind at 19-213. Warren only caught 5 balls, but he occasionally lined up in the backfield and scored on 2 of his 6 carries.

Offensive line

Depth chart: LT Olu Fashanu, LG Landon Tengwall, C Juice Scruggs, RG Sal Wormley, RT Caedan Wallace. Key reserves: Hunter Nourzad, Bryce Effner, JB Nelson

Nourzad, the grad transfer from Cornell, could push Wormley at RG; otherwise, he’ll be first off the bench at the interior positions. Effner brings experience as a redshirt senior and JUCO transfer Nelson at least has been playing rather than sitting the past 2 seasons. Line coach Phil Trautwein will hope others, such as true freshman 4-star Drew Shelton, can get into the mix and give the team better depth than it has had recently.

Defensive line

Depth chart: DEs Adisa Isaac, Dani Dennis-Sutton, Chop Robinson, Nick Tarburton. DTs PJ Mustipher, Dvon Ellies, Coziah Izzard, Hakeem Beamon

Tarburton, a gritty redshirt senior, might get the start vs. the Boilermakers, but the freakishly athletic 5-star Dennis-Sutton might be the better choice to rattle standout Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell. Robinson, a transfer from Maryland, was a 5-star recruit in 2021. Penn State is loaded with young talent on the edges. Mustipher returns from injury to anchor the interior as a senior and team captain. Beamon is intriguing as a once-promising guy returning from unspecified issues a season ago.


Depth chart: Curtis Jacobs, Jonathan Sutherland, Tyler Elsdon, Kobe King, Charlie Katshir, Jamari Buddin, Abdul Carter

Jacobs and Sutherland are locked into outside LB spots. I’ll take Elsdon to beat out King in the camp battle for the MLB job. The veteran Katshir and redshirt freshman Buddin are the likely No. 2s on the outside. True freshman 4-star Carter has already been given jersey No. 11, made famous by LaVar Arrington and Micah Parsons, among others. There are reports suggesting the coaches think the 6-3, 235-pounder out of Philadelphia is worthy of it, too.

Defensive backs

Depth chart: Ji’Ayir Brown, Joey Porter, Daequan Hardy, Keaton Ellis, Kalen King, Zakee Wheatley, Jaylen Reed, Johnny Dixon, Marquis Wilson

Brown, the team’s top returning tackler and nation’s top returning pickoff artist (6 INTs in 2021), is locked in at one safety spot. Porter will lock down one corner. Hardy played outstanding football at nickel, and should see even more snaps this year. The other guys will battle it out for the remaining spots and backup roles. Even with Jaquan Brisker and Tariq Castro-Fields having graduated, this secondary remains loaded and will be one of the best in the B1G.