Penn State Football: 5 Recruits Who Will Start as Freshmen in 2013
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Despite the NCAA sanctions, Penn State has been able to recruit a solid crop of freshmen for 2013. Several incoming players will have an opportunity to start for the Nittany Lions next season.
Rivals.com differs slightly from ESPN, ranking the Lions at No. 42.
Head coach Bill O'Brien had to deal with player transfers before the start of the 2012 season, forcing him to start several freshmen at key positions. That trend should continue next season.
Under the NCAA sanctions, current players can still transfer without penalty until August.
Graduating seniors will leave O'Brien searching for talent to insert into the starting lineup. The following slides highlight five Penn State recruits who should see starts in 2013.
Note: Included in the slides are highlight videos of each recruit that showcase their talents.
QB: Christian Hackenberg
Christian Hackenberg is the prize of the Penn State 2013 recruiting class. The quarterback from Virginia is ranked by Rivals.com as the third-best quarterback in the nation. ESPN recruiting has him listed as the top pocket passer and the No.16 prospect overall.
Current Nittany Lions quarterback Matt McGloin is having a great season, ranking as the top passer in the Big Ten Conference. McGloin's success in head coach Bill O'Brien's NFL-style offense is likely one of the reasons Hackenberg has stayed committed to Penn State.
Hackenberg will come in and have a chance to start right from the beginning. Current backup Steven Bench has seen little action in 2012 and will likely remain a backup in 2013.
The 6'4" frame of Hackenberg makes him a good-sized quarterback. According to ESPN, "He is a smart player who reads defenses quickly and rarely forces the football."
Hackenberg is a top recruit who can help to take the Penn State pass offense to the next level. He is too talented to keep on the bench. For that reason, look for O'Brien to turn to him early in the 2013 season.
TE: Adam Breneman
Tight end prospect Adam Breneman will look to follow in the footsteps of current Penn State freshman tight ends. Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman and Jesse James have all started for the Nittany Lions in 2012.
Head coach Bill O'Brien likes to feature the tight end in his pass-friendly offense. Breneman, who is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 2 tight end prospect, will be a perfect fit for the Lions.
ESPN has him ranked as the 49th overall prospect.
Standing at 6'5", Breneman presents a big target for his quarterback and could be a great asset in the red zone.
According to ESPN, "He is a good football player who displays the tools to contribute quickly as a receiving target and develop into a well-rounded, versatile and very good college tight end."
Despite being loaded at tight end, look for Breneman to see starts as a freshman. O'Brien has already proven that he can spread the starts around and give plenty of playing time to all of his young tight ends.
OL: Brendan Mahon
The 6'5" 300-pound offensive lineman Brendan Mahon could start at either guard or tackle for the Nittany Lions in 2013.
Currently, there will be six guards and four tackles returning in 2013. Despite that, Mahon should find some starts, especially at tackle. Mike Farrell, who has started every game this year at offensive tackle will be graduating at the end of the season.
ESPN recruiting describes him as a "dominant run-blocker." That is an area that the current Penn State line needs help in. Penn State ranks 10th in the Big Ten in rushing offense, averaging just 140.2 yards per game.
It's likely that Mahon will give way to more experienced lineman such as John Urschel and Donovan Smith to start the year. However, it shouldn't be long before he lands in the starting lineup.
DE: Garrett Sickels
The Penn State defensive line will see three starters graduate at the end of the 2012 season. Jordan Hill, Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro have all been fixtures for the Lions' defense.
2013 recruit Garrett Sickels will come in and have a chance to make an early impact. The only problem for Sickels is that Deion Barnes, DaQuan Jones and Anthony Zettel have all started as well in 2012 and are set to return next year.
That being said, Sickels is too good of a talent not to to find a spot in the starting lineup. Rivals.com lists him as a 4-star recruit and the No. 4 defensive end. He plays linebacker and tight end for his high school team but will move to the defensive line in college.
The staff at Penn State will want to add weight to his 225-pound frame in order to have more versatility with him on the defensive line.
ESPN says that, "He displays the tools to be able to develop into a productive starter."
With Sickels' skill set, that should happen at some point in 2013.
OL: Andrew Nelson
Much like fellow recruit Brendan Mahon, Andrew Nelson will enter Penn State with a chance to see playing time on the offensive line.
Several experienced offensive lineman return for the Lions in 2013, but the position is still a weak spot. Nelson, a 4-star recruit according to ESPN, will bring added depth to the line. His current body build and skill set make him a perfect candidate to play offensive tackle in college.
His ESPN scouting report states that, "he is a very effective run-blocker." Watching his highlight video, one can see his ability to get out in front of runners and open up holes.
The current offensive line has struggled this year with run-blocking. Nelson brings a solid 6'5" frame that will only get bigger.
He might not start right away, but he should see time in early games to gain some experience. Injuries and fatigue are common on the offensive line and that's why Nelson will see some starts during his freshman year.