Washington State, meanwhile, is 19-0 all-time against FCS opponents.
PSU returns 16 starters (six offense, eight defense, two special teams) but there’s a new head coach and new schemes coming in ‘15. Nigel Burton was fired and offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum was given a one year head coaching contract, with the new AD (hired after Barnum) to decide after the season if he wants to retain Barnum or go get ‘his guy.’
Barnum won’t make wholesale offensive changes for 2015 but he will make changes. PSU this offseason sent their coaches to Oregon, Baylor and other schools to gain some ideas for what Barnum is calling “tweaks.” But you can still expect PSU to run the ball, and likely out of the Pistol.
In each of Barnum’s five seasons as offensive coordinator, PSU has rushed for at least 2,000 yards and averaged 200-plus ypg. PSU ran the ball 458 times last season, with 423 passes attempted. They led the Big Sky with the fewest sacks allowed on the season (10). But they averaged only 24.1 ppg.
Headed into fall camp, the starting QB job is wide open, says Barnum. Odds are it comes down to two: Kieran McDonagh and Paris Penn. McDonagh is the incumbent, with 29 career starts. But Penn, who can make plays with his feet, is pushing him and may have passed him by last year were it not for a shoulder injury. Barnum remains adamant, though, that Josh Kraght, Aidan Wilder and Alex Kuresa are firmly in the mix as well.
The expected o-line starting unit (going off the pre-spring depth chart) averages 298-pounds but features only two seniors.
On defense, Barnum said the plan is to simplify the 4-3 scheme with the No. 1 emphasis being takeaways. Expect PSU defenders to try and jump the routes. PSU forced 14 turnovers last season with a minus-12 turnover margin (last in the Big Sky).
Malik Roberson, who played at WSU and later coached the Cougar d-line for three seasons under Paul Wulff (2008-10), is PSU’s new defensive coordinator after serving as the d-line coach in ’14.
The starting d-line features three seniors and a junior. The two tackles weigh 340- and 290-pounds, with the ends at 275- and 240-pounds. The projected starting linebacker trio is quick but light (220, 230, 215). The likely defensive back starters, two seniors, a junior and a sophomore, are all between 5-10 and 5-11 but PSU returns everyone from that unit, with no DB seniors in 2014.