Penn State Football: Updating the 5 Best Spring Football Battles
With spring practice in full bloom in State College, the heat is on for some key positions in 2012.
Head coach Bill O'Brien is giving everyone on the roster a clean slate to work with, and he has said he will not be taking into account anything done on film before he arrived as the new head coach.
Here is a look at five of the top position battles this spring.
Still Looking for the True Successor to Daryll Clark
We might as well start with the headliner here—the quarterback competition.
Rob Bolden has started each of the last two seasons as the starting quarterback, but Matt McGloin has ended each of those seasons starting games under center. Will either of these players grab the position from the start and hold on to it for a full season?
The big question is whether or not Paul Jones can make a push for the starting job.
After sitting out the past two seasons with a redshirt season and being academically ineligible for his second, Jones will finally get a chance to make his case. He is eligible as of now for Penn State and many feel his upside is greater than that of Bolden and McGloin.
Bill O'Brien said the starting quarterback may not be named until he night before the season opener against Ohio, so there will be plenty of time to prove something form all three candidates.
Offensive Line Looks for New Look
Penn State's offensive line has been a relative weak spot the past few years it seems.
In 2012, the unit returns just one starter from the previous season—Matt Stankiewitch—so there are plenty of spots available in the fall.
New offensive line coach Mac McWhorter is already bringing new drills to the team in hopes of duplicating some of the success enjoyed at Texas under his watch.
Veteran players have generally had the upper hand in these kind of situations at Penn State, but look for some of the younger players to get their fair looks this spring as well.
Redshirt juniors Nate Cadogan, Adam Gress, Eric Shrive and John Urschel will look to move in to starting jobs for the fall, but redshirt sophomore Miles Dieffenbach should make a push for consideration as well.
Defensive Secondary Has Significant Rebuilding to Do
The secondary is the biggest area of concern for the team this spring.
After losing three starters in D'Anton Lynn, Chaz Powell and Nick Sukay, Penn State has just one starter returning in the spring in Stephfon Morris.
Sophomore Adrian Amos saw some playing time in 2011 and brings great potential with him in to the spring.
Look for him to compete for a starting job at corner opposite Morris, but redshirt juniors Derrick Thomas and Mike Wallace could stand in the way. Wide receiver Curtis Drake has been working at the cornerback position as well.
The safety positions will likely be up to Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong to lose.
Looking for Running Game Support
We know that Silas Redd is going to be the leader on offense, especially in the running game.
Penn State will use this spring to dig up the rest of the supporting cast in the backfield.
Curtis Dukes is focusing on academics this spring instead of football activity, but Bill O'Brien does expect him to be ready for the fall.
In the meantime, Penn State is working former wideout Bill Belton at tailback and O'Brien has big hopes for incoming freshman Akeel Lynch (who will not be in practices until the summer).
Other names to watch this spring include Mike Zordich and Zach Zwinak at the fullback position.
Zordich has been the primary fullback recently and should be the favorite to retain the starting job in the fall, but Zwinak could be ready to make a push for some playing time.
All Eyes on Tight Ends
We touched on the importance of the tight end position the other day, but we should bring it up one more time while discussing the top position battles this spring.
Bill O'Brien is known for his use of the tight end in his offensive system, and Penn State will have a few players looking to take a step forward under the new offense in 2012.
Among the top names to keep an eye on are Kevin Haplea, Garry Gilliam and Dakota Royer, who made the switch from the defense in hopes of being able to contribute on the team in a new way.
O'Brien will make use of multiple tight end sets with the offense, so there will be plenty of opportunities for the group to contribute and show what they can do, starting in spring.
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle.
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