UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin released a depth chart heading into the 2016 season opener against Kent State Tuesday morning.
The first depth chart of the fall season features a little bit of everything, from veteran returnees to new faces poised to rise to an opportunity for the very first time.
Penn State's offense includes a host of powerful returnees with significant experience as well as newcomers who possess the potential to make an impact in the new up-tempo style offense.
Newly appointed signal caller Trace McSorley steps into a starting role for the first time in the season opener. McSorley will have no shortage of options though, with a wealth of talent returning at both receiver and running back.
Led by Preseason All-Big Ten selection sophomore Saquon Barkley, Penn State's running back group features nothing but talent. Barkley is joined by redshirt freshman Andre Robinson, redshirt sophomore Mark Allen and true freshman Miles Sanders on the depth chart.
On the offensive line, at least six players with starting experience are listed. Having made the move from right guard to center, senior Brian Gaia will lead in the middle, with redshirt freshman Ryan Bates at left guard and redshirt senior Derek Dowrey at right guard. Redshirt junior Brendan Mahon is listed at the top spot at left tackle with returning starter Andrew Nelson at right tackle. With 91 retuning career starts, Penn State's offensive line is the 17th most experienced in the unit in the country and second-most experienced group in the Big Ten.
Returning starter Mike Gesicki returns at tight end, with redshirt junior Tom Pancoast and redshirt freshman Jonathan Holland also included on the depth chart.
Redshirt sophomore DaeSean Hamilton (H) and juniors Chris Godwin (X) and Saeed Blacknall (Z) are the starting receivers listed, but the Nittany Lions are stacked with potential at the position. In addition to the trio, DeAndre Thompkins, Brandon Polk, Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles are just a few returners who could also play a role in the rotation.
Following some sizeable departures to the NFL, the Nittany Lion defensive line has reloaded with a fairly new look this year, especially in the front seven.
Junior Garrett Sickels will anchor the line as the only returning starter at defensive end. He's joined by senior Evan Schwan at the end position. Junior Parker Cothren and redshirt freshman Kevin Givens will both take over at the tackle position, with Cothren having the most experience following a 2015 season that included 13 tackles and three multi-tackle outings.
Coming off a 2015 season cut short due to an injury, Nyeem Wartman-White returns to lead at the weak side linebacker spot, with 2015 All-Big Ten honorable mention selection Jason Cabinda at middle linebacker. Between the two, Wartman-White and Cabinda have more than 40 combined career starts. Returning veteran Brandon Bell is also listed on the top line at the strong side linebacker spot.
2015 All-Big Ten honorable mention selections Marcus Allen (free safety) and Grant Haley (cornerback) return to highlight the Nittany Lion secondary. Sophomore John Reid and (cornerback) and senior Malik Golden (strong safety) also return having each appeared in 13 games in 2015.
Junior Tyler Davis is listed as the top kicker, while true freshman Blake Gillikin is listed as the top punter. Junior Chris Gulla returns for another season as the top holder, while Tyler Yazujian also returns as the Nittany Lions' top long snapper. Redshirt sophomore Nick Scott and Barkley are listed as the top two kick returners, while senior Gregg Garrity and Thompkins will handle the punt returns.
A total of seven true freshmen are listed on the depth chart including five on offense. The complete list includes: Will Fries (LT), Michal Menet (LG), Connor McGovern (RG), Jake Zembiec (QB), Miles Sanders (RB), Blake Gillikin (P) and Alex Barbir (K).
Penn State is set to open the 2016 season at home for the first time since 2012 Saturday, Sept. 3, welcoming Kent State for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff in Beaver Stadium.