Several freshmen will get on the field at Beaver Stadium for the Nittany Lions in 2013.
The Penn State Nittany Lions will head into the 2013 season with a solid group of freshmen who will have an early opportunity to see time on the field. The graduations of several key players have caused holes in the roster that must be filled.
Luckily, head coach Bill O'Brien has put together the 24th-best class in the nation according to ESPN. He will have some talented players to help fill out his 2013 roster.
Lack of depth on the defensive line and at linebacker means that O'Brien and his staff will need to use some newcomers in the rotation. As a whole, the defensive side of the ball will need depth.
The slides that follow highlight five incoming freshmen who have the best shot at seeing the field during the 2013 campaign.
Note: Only true freshmen were considered for this slideshow.
Garrett Sickels is a 4-star recruit from New Jersey who should find playing time early on next season. The Nittany Lions will need to fill spots on the defensive line left by the graduations of Jordan Hill, Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro.
Though Sickels won't start right away, he will be in the rotation at defensive end.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan will be the starters at the ends. Anthony Zettel, who played at end last season will likely be moved to defensive tackle, making it more likely that Sickels will see the field as a true freshman.
There's no question that he will need time to develop. At 225 pounds, he will need to add bulk to become more effective, but the coaching staff will want to make use of his raw skill right away.
According to ESPN Recruiting Nation, "He displays good strength and toughness to be able to take on blockers and defend the run."
A lack of depth on the defensive line next season will work to Sickels' advantage and give him valuable experience right away.
Brandon Bell is another recruit who will look to take advantage of the situation he is walking into. The Nittany Lions have to replace two starting linebackers next season with the departures of Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges.
Bell could step in and find himself in the two or three-man rotation at outside linebacker in 2013. He has athleticism and speed that will make him a good fit on the outside.
His ESPN scouting report says, "He has the instincts and nose for the football that allow him to make plays all over the field."
The two starting outside linebacker spots will be filled by Mike Hull and either Ben Kline or Nyeem Wartman. However, depth beyond the starters is going to be an issue for the Nittany Lions in 2013. Brennan Franklin, a 2012 recruit who figured to see time next season recently left the team for personal reasons.
That leaves an opening for Bell to fill.
Redshirt freshman Gary Wooten and fellow 2013 recruit Zayd Issah will also be in the mix to battle for a spot in the rotation.
Bell won't start in 2013, but situational time at linebacker is not out of the question and he could also be used in coverage on special teams.
There's no question that the Nittany Lions will enter 2013 with a lot of depth at the wide receiver position. Five returning players, including Big Ten leading receiver Allen Robinson, all played at some point during the 2012 season.
In addition to the returning receivers, redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis and Malik Golden will also see playing time next season. Lewis was a top recruit of the 2012 class and has impressed the coaching staff as a member of the scout team.
Despite all of the returning receivers, true freshman DaeSean Hamilton will have a chance to come in and provide the NIttany Lions with yet another weapon in the passing game. The 4-star recruit from Virginia has good hands and an ability to make people miss in the open field.
As per his EPSN scouting report, "His run after catch production is impressive, demonstrating a slashing over the pads running style with the wiggle and burst needed to gain huge chunks of yardage."
Hamilton also has the skills to work as a return man in the kicking game, an area of weakness for Penn State in 2012.
Jordan Smith, a 3-star cornerback from Washington, D.C. will come in as a freshman and bring much-needed depth to the Penn State secondary in 2013. Smith enrolled early in January, so he will get extra time during spring practice this year.
While Adrian Amos and Da'Quan Davis have a lock on the starting gig at cornerback, Smith will definitely compete for situational time and could also serve as a nickelback.
Smith possesses good speed that helps him in man-to-man coverage. His ESPN Recruiting Nation report states that he also, "Has the ability to play off blockers and effectively get involved defending against the run."
He will likely compete with returning players Jesse Della Valle and Jordan Lucas to crack the two-man rotation. Though it may take him time to adjust, Smith's skills will get him on the field in some capacity next season.
Four-star recruit Brendan Mahon should have a bright future as an anchor on the Penn State offensive line. The 6'5" 300-pound guard has great size and all of the potential to be a great lineman.
Though he is better suited to play guard, he could also fill in at tackle if needed.
ESPN recruiting describes him as a "dominant run-blocker." Mahon is ranked in the ESPN 300 and is the 12th-best at his position.
There is a lot of experience returning on the line with guards John Urschel and Miles Dieffenbach and tackles Donovan Smith and Adam Gress all making starts in 2012. However, Mahon should be able to work himself into the rotation for 2013. The offensive line should be a strength for the Nittany Lions, and he will only make it stronger.
Though Mahon needs time to develop, he should get plenty of experience in 2013 and will likely an anchor of the line for years to come.