If Penn State wants to sniff eight wins this year, it's going to come on the defensive side of the ball. This should be familiar. Last year's squad relied on the same thing.
The Nittany Lions return a ton of talent at all levels, but their secondary leaves room for concern. The group is devoid of playmakers outside of budding sophomore Adrian Amos at corner.
Amos played well in D'Anton Lynn's brief absence last season, and he will be looked to for production and leadership.
Opposite of Amos will be Stephon Morris. Morris' height (5'9'') can be a disadvantage, but his physical mindset makes him a perfect fit for Ted Roof's stingy man-to-man coverage scheme.
After that, things get much murkier at corner. Jesse Della Valle, Jordan Lucas and Da'Quan Davis have virtually no experience at all, but must play well in nickel and dime packages.
The safeties will be Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong with Ryan Keiser and Jake Fagnano ready to pounce on any leftover snaps. Expect a committee approach here unless one of the starters emerges as a reliable playmaker.
Now it's time for the fun stuff.
Penn State's "Linebacker U" moniker will live on this year, despite Khairi Fortt's departure. Michael Mauti returns from injury, and Gerald Hodges is one of the best linebackers in the country. Glenn Carson can hold his own in the middle as well.
The Nittany Lions' defense almost always relies on its linebackers, and this year's group will be no different. Look for quality depth from Ben Kline and Mike Hull.
The defensive front is also talented, but not oozing the linebackers' skill.
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill has the ability to repeat Devon Still's breakout performance from last season. He's explosive and strong, but DaQuan Jones must give him room to work.
Flanking the two monsters in the middle will be Sean Stanley and redshirt freshman Deion Barnes. You can also expect Pete Massaro to see his share of time as he works his way back into the Nittany Lion fold.
Penn State had the No. 5 scoring defense in the nation last season, and it won't take a major step back. The defensive backfield is a question mark, but their front seven will wreak enough havoc to hide the majority of those issues.