Penn State Football: Projecting the Nittany Lions' 2013 Defensive Depth Chart
With the 2012 season finished, Penn State fans can spend the offseason thinking about what the team will be like next year. The defensive side of the ball will be without several key components from previous years. Familiar names like Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill will no longer be around.
However, barring any transfers, the Nittany Lions will return six regular starters from the 2012 squad. Some of the projected starters in 2013 saw extensive time and gained valuable experience as backups last season.
Anytime a team loses talent, it creates glaring holes in the depth chart. Such will be the case for the Nittany Lions as the coaching staff tries to find new starters, particularly at the linebacker position and on the defensive line.
Here is a very early look at the projected 2013 Penn State defensive depth chart.
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DE: C.J. Olaniyan, Anthony Zettel, Garrett Sickels
DT: Kyle Baublitz, Austin Johnson
DT: DaQuan Jones, Derek Dowrey, Brian Gaia
DE: Deion Barnes, Brad Bars, Evan Schwan, Jordan Kerner
The defensive line will definitely feel the loss of three seniors in 2013. Jordan Hill, Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro all played major roles on the D-line for the Nittany Lions over the past few seasons.
The good news is that two returning players started last season. Defensive end Deion Barnes, the 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones made 19 total starts between them last season.
While two of the starting positions on the line are settled, the remaining ones are still up for grabs. Junior Kyle Baublitz played in six games last season at tackle. Though he made just three tackles in 2012, he has the most experience of anyone behind him.
The end opposite of Barnes could see either Anthony Zettel or C.J Olaniyan start. Both players saw extensive time in 2012 and finished the year with 15 total tackles. Zettel made an impressive four sacks, while Olaniyan made one.
Olaniyan should be named the starter at end, as Zettel may be used to add depth at defensive tackle.
4-star recruit Garrett Sickels should also see time along the line in 2013. ESPN Recruiting Nation says that "he displays the tools to be able to develop into a productive starter."
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OLB: Mike Hull, Gary Wooten
MLB: Glen Carson, Nyeem Wartman
OLB: Ben Kline, Brennan Franklin, Zayd Issah
Much like the defensive line, Penn State will be without key contributors at the linebacker position. The graduations of stars Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti mean that Bill O'Brien and his staff need to find a way to replace 204 tackles from last season.
Glenn Carson, who started every game last year, will be a familiar face in the middle. Carson was third on the team with 85 tackles. He also added one sack.
Nyeem Wartman began last year as the backup to Carson as a freshman. Unfortunately, he played in just two games last season after suffering a knee injury in Week 2. Wartman showed his skill in the season's opener by blocking a punt. He should get an opportunity to get on the field early and often in 2013.
Mike Hull, Mauti's replacement in the final game, will lock down a starting role at outside linebacker in 2013. Hull had an impressive 2012 campaign, making 58 tackles, one interception and four sacks. Against Navy, he had a 74-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
The second outside spot is likely to be filled by Ben Kline. The sophomore will bring needed experience, as he saw time in every game last season and finished with18 total tackles.
Brennan Franklin, who was a freshman in 2012, could be Kline's backup due to his already having a year to learn the system. However, true freshman Zayd Issah, a 3-star recruit according to ESPN, seems to have a lot of upside and could also see time at linebacker.
True freshmen Brandon Bell and Jonathan Walton will likely be redshirted, but one of them may be used to add depth to the middle in 2013.
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CB: Adrian Amos, Jesse Della Valle, Jordan Smith
SS: Malcolm Willis, Ryan Keiser
FS: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Jordan Lucas, Neiko Robinson
CB: Da'Quan Davis, Jordan Lucas, Jake Kiley
In 2012, the Penn State secondary was a bit of a weak spot. The group only produced three interceptions on the season and finished eighth in the Big Ten, giving up 226 passing yards a game.
Though there's room for improvement, next season's team will be returning three starters and a total of seven players who played at some point in 2012.
Adrian Amos, who will be one of the best corners in the Big Ten heading into 2013, started every game in 2012. He totaled 44 tackles and two interceptions. Amos is also a key player on special teams and figures to play a role in the return game once again.
The side opposite of Amos will be taken by Da'Quan Davis. As a freshman last year, he played in 11 games and made five tackles. Davis will fill the hole left by Stephon Morris, the team's fifth-leading tackler in 212.
The safety positions will be filled by two guys who both started last season. Malcolm Willis made 10 starts, and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong started the final 11 games of the year. The pair combined for 86 tackles and have an opportunity to give Penn State the best safety pair in the conference.
Ryan Keiser also saw playing time last year while Willis was injured and made five tackles. He will be in line to be one of the first backups used in 2013.
Jesse Della Valle and Jordan Lucas played in every game last year on special teams. Della Valle served as the main punt returner. Both saw time in the secondary in the finale against Wisconsin and could play several different positions in the secondary.
3-star recruit Neiko Robinson has "the range and physicality of a BCS level safety," according to ESPN. If given a roster spot, he should see time on special teams and could sneak into the rotation at some point during the season.