UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Bill O'Brien and his staff spent the month following spring practice analyzing each position on the Nittany Lion roster.
On Tuesday, Coach O'Brien revealed his first post-spring practice depth chart,
which features 12 senior starters (seven on defense and five on offense) and 17
players with at least one start in their careers. The quarterback and just a handful of other
positions are set, as of today, setting up competition throughout the depth
chart when the Nittany Lions begin training camp in 62 days on Aug. 6.
When camp commences, there will be first-team battles at wide receiver, left guard, middle linebacker and right cornerback. Beginning at receiver, sophomore Allen Robinson and redshirt junior Shawney Kersey share the top line at one of the three wide receiver positions on the depth chart.
Robinson and Kersey are two players Coach O'Brien noted after spring ball for consistent progress and playing their best football at the end of the practice season. Seniors Justin Brown and Devon Smith top the other two receiver spots, but Robinson and Kersey enter fall camp sharing the top line. Overall, Penn State will have very good depth at the receiver position in 2012.
"We have guys with good hands," O'Brien said. "We have guys who are smart, instinctive football players. I feel pretty good about that group right now."
Moving to the offensive line, the starting spot at left guard will be up for grabs when camp begins. Redshirt sophomore Miles Dieffenbach and redshirt junior Mark Arcidiacono are currently sharing the top line. Like the receiving corps, O'Brien was impressed with the offensive line throughout spring practice.
"The benefits of having so many guys on the depth chart across the offensive line are No. 1 - if you have a health issue there really is not a big drop off to the next guy and No. 2 - you can keep guys fresh during the game, especially at the tempo we want to play with. There are probably eight to 10 guys up there who can play."
At the tight end position, you will notice a Y and F listed. In all, seven tight ends are on the depth chart. Coach O'Brien explains the differences in the two positions below.
"The Y is your traditional big, blocking tight end and the F is your more receiving-type tight end who moves around," O'Brien said. "Many of those guys, like Kyle Carter and Garry Gilliam, are interchangeable. They can play the Y or the F. That's why it is important to list all of those guys there. They've all got a chance to play for us."
Across the board, Penn State is three or four deep at nearly every offensive position on the depth chart.
"The offensive philosophy that we have here is really about a lot of guys playing," Coach O'Brien said. "The depth is definitely set at offensive line and quarterback, and running back to a certain degree. But at tight end and receiver, it depends on what type of personnel grouping we are in - a one, two, three or four wide receiver grouping or a one, two or three tight end grouping. We're planning on playing a lot of guys at those two positions."
On defense, middle linebacker and right cornerback are the two starting spots set for preseason camp competitions. Juniors Glenn Carson and Khairi Fortt share the top line of the depth chart. Additionally, sophomore Adrian Amos and junior Derrick Thomas are atop the depth chart at right cornerback. Amos played corner as a freshman and safety during spring practice, but was moved back to corner for added depth at the position.
Two groups that have the personnel to stand out for the Nittany Lions in 2012 are the defensive line and linebacker units. Both spots have experience, superb depth and a great deal of talent.
"Since the day I arrived here, the front seven on defense has been really strong," O'Brien said. "Now, that being said, they have to go out and prove to us that they are as good as I think they are. There is good depth on the defensive line with a good mix of young players and veteran players. There is good depth at linebacker, as well, with four, five or even six guys who could play there. I think the front seven is one of the strengths of this football team."
Penn State kicks off the 2012 season with the Ohio Bobcats on Sept. 1, marking the first of 10 bowl teams on the slate for the fall.
Follow GoPSUsports.com Media Specialist Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony