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Nittany Lions Up and Running During Offseason

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lasch Football Building has been a hub of activity since the 31-24 victory at Wisconsin on Nov. 30 to close out the regular season.

9557957.jpegIn the weeks since the triumph in Camp Randall Stadium, head coach Bill O'Brien and the coaching staff hit the recruiting trail, the returning Nittany Lion players ramped up offseason conditioning, O'Brien held extensive coaching staff meetings to iron out personnel plans and spring practice and paid a visit to the ESPNU headquarters for a film breakdown on the BCS National Championship.

The month of December has been filled with postseason accolades.  Three Nittany Lions earned first-team All-Big Ten honors - Allen Robinson, John Urschel and DaQuan Jones - on the first day of the month.  Robinson was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year and Christian Hackenberg earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

Robinson was tabbed a first-team All-American and has claimed six All-America accolades.  Urschel was presented the prestigious Campbell Trophy in New York after being named the top scholar-athlete of 2013.  Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman earned Freshman All-America recognition.  Jones was named MVP at the team's senior banquet.

The 2013 season ended in thrilling fashion with the team's most complete performance of the year coming on the final Saturday in November.

No one gave the Nittany Lions a chance heading into finale at heavily favored and 15th-ranked Wisconsin.  The team took it personally.

For two years, the story has been the same.  The resilient fiber engrained in this group of Nittany Lions is unique.  No matter how big the obstacle, the team is never fazed.

With the deck stacked against them, the Nittany Lions capped 2013 with a trademark victory.  The 17 members of the senior class who chose to stick with Penn State through great adversity earned the sendoff they deserved, and the young talent on the roster will use it as a springboard into 2014.

The Nittany Lions return a corps of talented athletes on both sides of the ball, headlined by two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year and All-American Allen Robinson, Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg, the running back trio of Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch, wide receivers Eugene Lewis and Richy Anderson, tight ends Kyle Carter, Jesse James and Adam Breneman and two starters on the offensive line in Miles Dieffenbach and Donovan Smith, along with key contributor Angelo Mangiro.

Defensively, the Lions return Deion Barnes, C.J. Olaniyan, Austin Johnson, Anthony Zettel from the defensive line rotation, linebackers Mike Hull, Ben Kline, Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell and defensive backs Jordan Lucas, Adrian Amos, Trevor Williams, Ryan Keiser, Da'Quan Davis, Jesse Della Valle and Malik Golden, all of which played a significant impact on the 2013 defense.

Additionally, defensive end Brad Bars, tight end Brent Wilkerson and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton should be available in 2014 after injuries last season.

The Nittany Lions again laid the groundwork for the future of Penn State Football with a hard-working, gritty style during the 2013 season.  Now, it is up to the 2014 squad to establish its identity during offseason workouts.

Penn State wrapped up final exams this week before heading home for the holiday break.    Offseason conditioning and recruiting will pick back up in January.  The spring semester begins on Jan. 13.

The 2014 season begins in 253 days when the Lions take on UCF in Dublin, Ireland, at the Croke Park Classic on Aug. 30.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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