Penn State Football: Projecting the Lions' 2013 Offensive Depth Chart
With no bowl game to look forward to, it's time to start looking ahead to next season for the Nittany Lions. While it's very early and current players could still transfer, let's take a look at the possible offensive depth chart for next season.
Running back Curtis Dukes is the only player who has even remotely hinted at leaving the team. According to Nittany Nation's Josh Moyer, Dukes is upset over his lack of playing time and will consider taking his game elsewhere. Therefore, he was not considered when making the depth chart.
Several offensive starters are set to return from the team that surprised many by finishing with a record of 8-4. Key positions like the offensive line, wide receiver and running back will be filled with players who were solid contributors during the 2012 season.
Allen Robinson, Kyle Carter, Bill Belton and Donovan Smith are all starters from 2012 and part of the group called the "Supa Six." The group vowed this fall that they would all be returning to Penn State in 2013.
So as fans start dreaming of next year, the following slides take an extremely early look at the possible depth chart.
Starter: Steven Bench
Backup: Tyler Ferguson
The biggest question mark on offense for the 2013 Nittany Lions happens to be at arguably the most important position. With the graduation of quarterback Matt McGloin, Penn State is left with only one quarterback from the 2012 roster.
Steven Bench, McGloin's backup in 2012, would seem to have the upper hand on the starting job after spending an entire year in O'Brien's system. He saw time in two games last season, finishing 2-of-8 for 12 yards.
Recently signed junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson figures to enter the offseason as Bench's backup but could easily take the job with an impressive spring. He was a starter in 2012 for College of Sequoias and threw for 2,614 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 10 games.
With the signing of Ferguson, incoming freshman Christain Hackenberg figures to now be given a redshirt for 2013. Hackenberg, a top recruit at his position, will be able to spend a year learning and practicing in the Penn State system.
Whoever the starter is in 2013, the transition should be made easier with several experienced guys returning at other key positions.
Eric Francis/Getty Images
RB: Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, Akeel Lynch, Richy Anderson
FB: Pat Zerbe, Jack Haffner
The emergence of running back Zach Zwinak in 2012 was a pleasant surprise for the Nittany Lions. The sophomore saw time in every game, including starting the final four games of the season. He finished the year with 1,000 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Heading into 2013, the starting running back job should be Zwinak's to lose. He will likely be pushed by former starter Bill Belton. Belton's 2012 was tarnished by injury and inconsistent play. He finished with just 263 yards and three touchdowns for the year.
Redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch, whom ESPN's Recruiting Nation called a "potential sleeper," will also be in line for carries out of the Penn State backfield. True freshman Richy Anderson should find a roster spot in 2013 and will provide depth at a position that saw five different backs receive touches in 2012.
With the graduation of fullback Michael Zordich, the NIttnay Lions will be left with several inexperienced players who figure to be used as primarily blockers. Senior Pat Zerbe should be the fullback heading into the season. However, Penn State runs a lot of singleback sets so a true fullback is not really used.
Rob Christy-USA TODAY Sports
LT: Donovan Smith, Nate Cadogan
LG: Miles Dieffenbach, Brendan Mahon, Ty Howle
C: Angelo Mangiro, Wendy Laurent, Ty Howle
RG: John Urschel, Eric Shrive
RT: Adam Gress, Anthony Alosi
The 2013 offensive line is stacking up to be a solid, experienced unit. John Urschel started every game in 2012, Miles Dieffenbach started 11, Donovan Smith started nine and Adam Gress made three starts.
The position to watch in 2013 will be center.The graduation of last season's starter Matt Stankiewitch will be felt but it should be filled by Angelo Mangiro who saw time last year.
4-Star recruit Brendan Mahon could find playing time at guard in his first year. According to ESPN Recruiting Nation, Mahon "is a tough, dominant run blocker who could compete for early starting time at the BCS level."
The 2013 Nittany Lions will have a lot of experience up front. Reserves Nate Cadogan, Eric Shrive and Anthony Alosi all saw playing time last season.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
TE-Y: Gary Gilliam, Jesse James
TE-F: Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman
By now it's no secret that Bill O'Brien loves to use the tight ends in his passing attack. Last season proved that whoever was technically the starter didn't really matter.
All four returning players saw significant time in 2012 and started at some point throughout the season.
True freshmen Kyle Carter and Jesse James both proved to be reliable targets for quarterback Matt McGloin. Carter, who missed the final two games with an injury, finished with 453 receiving yards and two touchdowns. James, who really came on at the end of the season, had 276 yards with five touchdowns.
Seniors Garry Gilliam and Matt Lehman round out an impressive group of talented tight ends that the Nittany Lions will have once again in 2013.
The depth at tight end should ensure that 4-star recruit Adam Breneman will be given a redshirt for the 2013 season.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
WR 1: Allen Robinson, Eugene Lewis, Matt Zanellato
WR 2: Brandon Moseby-Felder, Alex Kenney, Jonathan Warner
WR 3: Trevor Williams, DaeSean Hamilton, Malik Golden
Much like the tight end position, Penn State is deep at wide receiver heading into next season. Allen Robinson, Brandon Moseby-Felder, Alex Kenney, Matt Zanellato and Trevor Williams all saw the field at some point in 2013.
Barring an unforeseen transfer, Robinson will once again be the clear No. 1 receiver when the Nittany Lions take the field in 2013. He had a fantastic 2012, his first as a starter. Robinson led the Big Ten with 1,013 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
After Robinson, the depth chart could get crowded with several capable receivers battling for playing time.
Moseby-Felder, third on the team with 31 catches and Trevor Williams (10 catches in 2012) figure to be starters at the beginning of the season because of their prior experience. Kenney, who caught 17 balls could also battle for starting time.
Regardless of who is throwing the passes for the Nittany Lions next season, one thing is for sure. There will be plenty of receivers to spread the ball around to.