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A Closer Look at the Post-Spring Depth Chart

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2013 Post-Spring Depth Chart - June 13

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Bill O'Brien and the Nittany Lion coaching staff spent the month following spring practice analyzing each position on the Penn State roster.

8602037.jpegOn Thursday, O'Brien revealed the post-spring practice depth chart, which features nine senior starters (five on offense, three on offense and one specialist) and 21 players with at least one start in their careers.  When camp commences in 53 days on Aug. 5, there will be open battles at every position across the depth chart, including competition for starting spots.

"We met with every player," O'Brien said.  "We reviewed all of the film from the spring.  Number one, we felt like it was a productive spring.  We felt like we were able to accomplish a lot at all three areas.  And that was good.  A lot of that had to do with the fact that our players have been in the program for a year.  And then the newer players could watch the older players and follow their lead.  We felt like some of the younger players on our team were really improved."

"When we met with the players, I think they appreciate us sitting down with them and tell them one-on-one what their role is on the team and how they can change that role," O'Brien said.  "We have a very good feeling about our team this summer."

Beginning at the quarterback spot, sophomore Tyler Ferguson and freshman Christian Hackenberg are on the top line heading into camp.  Ferguson enters his first regular season in Happy Valley following a spring practice period marked by progress.  Hackenberg comes to Penn State following a decorated scholastic career.  Both players are smart, instinctive athletes ready to work hard and compete for the starting job.

"Everything the quarterbacks do is on their own this summer," said O'Brien.  "So, hopefully you have taught them enough during the spring that they know what they can do on their own to improve, whether it's watching film, studying the playbook, 7-on-7, 1-on-1 drills, running routes with the receivers, and things like that. And these guys are the type of guys who will work at it.  Matt McGloin made great strides last summer.  Now, he was an older guy and these guys are younger.  So we'll see how they do with that.  I think they will work hard, and we'll see how it goes when we start training camp."

Both quarterbacks will have the luxury of lining up behind an offensive line rotation that features no fewer than eight players with game experience.  All-Big Ten right guard John Urschel will anchor the Nittany Lion offensive line, which features three senior starters heading into camp.  Fifth-year senior Ty Howle will line up at center, with Urschel and redshirt junior Miles Dieffenbach at the two guard spots.  Senior Adam Gress (right) and redshirt sophomore Donovan Smith (left) enter camp as the top tackles.  Additionally, Angelo Mangiro (center or guard), Eric Shrive (guard) and Garry Gilliam, who moves to tackle for 2013, all have game experience.

The running back position will be one of the strong spots for the Nittany Lions in 2013.  Zach Zwinak returns after a superb 1,000-yard rushing season in 2012.  Junior Bill Belton has put together the best offseason in his Nittany Lion career, and he is ready to contribute in a variety of ways for the Lion offense.  Redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch, who showed great potential during spring practice, will bring another dimension to the running back stable with a superb blend of speed and power.  After a consistent spring practice season, Pat Zerbe will be the top fullback when camp opens.

Like the running back spot, Penn State has a deep pool of talent at tight end.  First Team All-Big Ten honoree Kyle Carter, sophomore Jesse James and senior Matt Lehman all return to the group after combining for 75 receptions and 10 touchdowns in 2012.  Additionally, talented redshirt freshman Brent Wilkerson and true freshman Adam Breneman join the fold following great progress in the spring.  In all, five tight ends appear on the depth chart heading into fall camp.

Coming off a record-setting sophomore season, First Team All-Big Ten wideout Allen Robinson tops the list of returning receivers on the depth chart.  In addition to Robinson, senior Brandon Moseby-Felder, sophomore Matt Zanellato and junior Alex Kenney are all veteran players primed to contribute on the offense in 2013.  Redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis heads onto the field for the first time in his career this fall.  Lewis had a terrific spring for the Nittany Lions.

Moving to the defensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lions will have a nice blend of youth and experience in the defensive line rotation.  Big Ten Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes and junior C.J. Olaniyan top the end positions.  Sophomore Anthony Zettel and junior Brad Bars, who made significant strides during the offseason, make up the two deep at end.  In the middle, senior DaQuan Jones and junior Kyle Baublitz are primed to be key forces in the success of the Nittany Lion defense.  Redshirt freshmen Austin Johnson and Derek Dowrey are among the primary candidates in rotation behind Jones and Baublitz at tackle.

At linebacker, senior Glenn Carson, junior Mike Hull and redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman collectively played at a high level during spring practice.  That trio will enter fall camp as the top three linebackers on the depth chart.  Redshirt sophomore Ben Kline, who returns from injury in the fall, redshirt freshman Gary Wooten and redshirt freshman Charles Idemudia fill out the two-deep at linebacker.

In the secondary, the Nittany Lions enter 2013 with increased depth at all four positions.  At corner, sophomores Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams, who moved to the defensive side of the ball from receiver in the spring, are atop the depth chart.  Sophomore Da'Quan Davis and freshmen Anthony Smith and Jordan Smith make up the two-deep.  At safety, junior Adrian Amos will enter the fall filling one spot.  Amos is a gifted player with the ability to play a number of positions on the defensive side of the ball.  At the other safety spot, senior Malcolm Willis and junior Ryan Keiser will enter camp in a battle for the top line of the depth chart.  Both Willis and Keiser are leaders in the secondary who practiced at a high level during the spring.  Senior Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, sophomore Jesse Della Valle, Malik Golden and Jake Kiley will all battle for time in the rotation at safety.

The special teams unit made good strides during the offseason, and both Sam Ficken and Alex Butterworth enter fall camp with a great deal of confidence.  Ryan Keiser and Alex Butterworth are listed as the primary holders, with Glenn Carson (punts) and Ty Howle (kicks) handling the snapping duties.

Bill Belton, Alex Kenney, Akeel Lynch, freshman Richy Anderson, Trevor Williams and Eugene Lewis are among the kickoff return candidates.  Jesse Della Valle, Anderson, Belton and Williams are listed as the punt returners heading into camp.

"We know that we have some depth at certain positions where we are hoping younger players can step in and fill some needs there as we work through training camp, but we feel good about our team," O'Brien said.

The depth and talent at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball stand out.  The Lions will head into 2013 breaking in a new quarterback, but the new signal-caller will have his choice of weapons, including five skilled tight ends, three running backs with three unique styles and the Big Ten Receiver of the Year headlining deep receiving corps.

Penn State kicks off the 2013 season inside MetLife Stadium, the home of Super Bowl XLVIII, against Syracuse on Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m.  The Lions kickoff their home slate on Sept. 7 against Eastern Michigan at noon.  The Nittany Lions begin their 21st season in the Big Ten on Oct. 5 at Indiana.  Call 1-800-NITTANY for tickets.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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I am pumped! This offense is the real deal. Special teams should be the best it has been in a few years, and the DE position should generate a lot of pressure on QBs. The LB core lacks depth, and the secondary is going to be a question mark, but if the team can stay healthy, they are going to put up a lot of points and will be competitive against anybody. Go Lions!

Central Florida at home. Also Michigan and Nebraska.
Better than 8-4 for sure.

Like the move of Amos to SS. Having him and SOA there should help LB's. Depth is obviously going to be an issue for a while. Expect some incoming freshman to contribute significantly.

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