Penn State Football: 6 Players Bound for Stardom in 2013

Barry Leonard@@barryleonardjrAnalyst IIINovember 30, 2012

Penn State Football: 6 Players Bound for Stardom in 2013

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    The 2012 Penn State Nittany Lions fought through adversity and finished with an impressive 8-4 record.

    Though a core group of seniors led the team, there were several young players who were forced into early action due to injuries and the transfer of a few starters.

    Many of those young players ended up playing key roles in 2012 and will have high hopes heading into the next season.

    Due to the circumstances at Penn State, players who were buried on the depth chart to start the year, stepped in when needed, and took full advantage of the opportunity.

    2012 was a breakout year for several Niitany Lions, and things continue to look good for them in 2013. Some of the players could already be considered stars, while others are close to reaching that potential.

    This slideshow takes a look at six players whose strong 2012 puts them in line to be (or continue to be) stars for the Nittany Lions in 2013.

WR Allen Robinson

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    Allen Robinson was probably the biggest surprise of the season and can already be considered a star for Penn State.

    The sophomore showed flashes of his playmaking abilities during the spring game and practice, but few could have expected the numbers that he put up in 2012.

    Robinson wasted no time getting involved in the offense, becoming a favorite of quarterback Matt McGloin early on.

    The sophomore caught nine passes for 97 yards in the season opener against Ohio.

    He found the end zone four times over the next three games, including a three-score performance against Navy in Week 3.

    He finished the year as the top receiver in the Big Ten, catching 77 balls for 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    While the 2013 Penn State quarterback situation may be a question mark, there’s no doubt that Robinson will be a frequent target of whoever is under center.

RB Zach Zwinak

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    This one should be a no-brainer.

    After having little chance at regular playing time to start the season, Zach Zwinak was forced into action after several injuries, and performed better than anyone could have hoped.

    After getting just two carries through the first three games, the sophomore saw his first real action in Week 4 against the Temple Owls. He ran the ball 18 times for 94 yards and really impressed the coaching staff.

    From that point, he received at least 10 carries in every game.

    Zwinak performed so well that he ended up starting the last four games of the season, and finished the year with 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.

    It seems that the starting running back job will be Zwinak's to lose in 2013.

    He had a statement game in the 2012 finale versus a Wisconsin defense that was one of the best in the nation against the run. Against the Badgers, he rushed for 179 yards and a score.

    Zwinak is no longer a no-name at Penn State. He has clearly shown the ability to be a regular starter and put up solid numbers.

    Being the main guy right from Week 1, he could be in line for an even bigger season in 2013.

TE Jesse James

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    Freshman tight end Jesse James had a solid 2012 campaign and will look to improve even more next season.

    James saw action in 11 of Penn State's 12 games, including six starts.

    While fellow freshman tight end Kyle Carter received most of the attention in 2012, James quietly put up decent numbers, especially in the later part of the year.

    He finished the season with 15 catches for 276 yards and five touchdowns. His five scores were the second-highest on the team.

    With Bill O'Brien set to return in 2013, the tight ends should continue to play a large role in the Penn State offense.

    That bodes well for James, who draws less attention than Carter and wide receiver Allen Robinson, allowing him to get open.

    Look for James to put up big numbers for the Lions next season.

DE Deion Barnes

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    Freshman defensive end Deion Barnes played a huge role for the Nittany Lions in 2012. He started eight games and put up solid numbers, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

    Barnes finished 2012 with 26 tackles and three forced fumbles.

    His six sacks were tops on a team that included defensive studs such as Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. The six sacks were tied for fifth in the Big Ten.

    With the losses of Hill and Sean Stanley on the defensive line, Barnes will take the lead, and could be in line for a monster sophomore season.

TE Kyle Carter

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    Tight end Kyle Carter is another Lion who made a major contribution in 2012.

    As long as he comes back healthy from a wrist injury that kept him out of the last two games, Carter should be able to put up even better numbers next season.

    The freshman took advantage of Bill O'Brien's tight end friendly offense and finished as the top tight end in the Big Ten.

    For the year, Carter had 36 catches for 453 yards and two touchdowns.

    Carter was a big part of the offense and became a reliable target for McGloin.

    He put up big yardage numbers as a tight end but was lacking in the touchdown department. He's a big target who is very valuable in the red zone, and should increase his touchdown production next season.

LB Mike Hull

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    Mike Hull has the job of replacing Michael Mauti, perhaps the most popular player from the 2012 squad.

    Hull saw regular playing time this past season, and started the final game due to Mauti's injury.

    Though the sophomore had just one start, he saw significant time in every game, finishing the year with 58 total tackles, which was good enough for sixth on the team.

    He also added four sacks, an interception and an amazing 74-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

    Hull has already shown that he has the skills to be a solid linebacker at Penn State. He's in line to be a starter heading into next season and should be looked at as one of the leaders on defense.

    Look for the linebacker to take full advantage of his increased minutes next year and be one of the Nittany Lions' leaders in tackles for 2013.