Redshirt senior offensive lineman Andrew Nelson — without cracking a smile or breaking focus — surprised a few reporters.
“These guys are more motivated than I’ve ever seen Penn State football players,” Nelson said Saturday afternoon, before Lift for Life at Holuba Hall. “Guys aren’t settling for anything less than a shot at the national championship this year.”
Nelson wasn’t speaking out alone, either. A few weeks away from fall camp, that’s the collective goal for the Nittany Lions.
After starting the 2016 season 2-2, no one thought a Big Ten Championship and trip to the Rose Bowl was in the cards. No one at all believed the College Football Playoff was a possibility.
But the Nittany Lions came close.
Of course, the committee kept the Nittany Lions out of the playoff. It took Ohio State instead and ranked Penn State the No. 5 team in the country.
That irked some of the Nittany Lions at the time — but they know it was out of their control. Now, the plan is to make sure the committee can’t deny them a shot at playing for the title.
“Put in the work to take it all,” senior safety Marcus Allen said. “...That’s our motive, and that’s our goal.”
Defensive tackle Curtis Cothran added: “We all know what happened last year. We know we had a great season. People are expecting us to have a dropoff. Maybe they think this was a one-year thing. But we want to be consistent with it. ...We want to win it all.”
Cothran and his teammates certainly aren’t shy about that goal.
It’s not something they rant on and on about in the Lasch Building, but it’s discussed. Nelson said it’s ingrained in the minds of everyone on the team.
The Nittany Lions are fixated on not only repeating as Big Ten champs, but also becoming national champions.
“It’s a little early to talk about it because we haven’t even hit camp yet,” Cothran admitted. “But we all have the same mindset, same focus and same drive to get it done.”