Coach Bill O’Brien and Penn State did more than surprise college football last season.
O’Brien showed how proper coaching can take a team that had little depth in many areas and turn it around.
Players such as Allen Robinson and Zach Zwinak were sleepers heading into 2012 that virtually no one noticed.
In 2013, another small group of “sleepers” or little-known players will begin to shine.
With seniors leaving many key spots open for next year, such as quarterback and linebacker, there will be a new group of stars in Happy Valley.
But these sleepers might not be at the spots you expect.
By no means did freshman Anthony Zettel become a star in 2012.
The defensive lineman recorded only 15 tackles during limited playing time all year.
What Zettel did do very well, though, was get to the quarterback.
With four sacks and four tackles for a loss, Zettel showed glimpses of what may be coming in the near future.
At 6’5” and 253 pounds, Zettel has the frame to turn into a dominant defensive lineman.
The graduation of defensive tackle Jordan Hill may not help Zettel, but he will continue to get better.
Zettel might be able to turn into a player like Devon Still was for Penn State.
With safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong seeing his first starting role last season, there were definitely some growing pains.
Although Obeng-Agyapong is a hard-hitting and instinctive safety, there were mental lapses in his coverage downfield.
Obeng-Agyapong had the fewest tackles of the four starters in the secondary and finished the season with no interceptions.
The reasoning behind putting Obeng-Agyapong as a sleeper is because he wasn’t able to make big plays in the secondary.
He is athletic enough and strong enough to make those big plays for Penn State. Look for Obeng-Agyapong to be a big part of the secondary in 2013.
Freshman Akeel Lynch may be one of the most unknown talents heading into the 2013 season.
Coming into Happy Valley, Lynch wasn’t exactly considered a top talent at running back.
ESPN’s Recruiting Nation ranked Lynch as the 77th best running back in the nation for the class of 2012.
There has been some hype starting to build with Lynch, especially because of O’Brien’s decision to keep Lynch’s redshirt during a time when the Lions had limited options at running back.
O’Brien said that Lynch is a “very, very good player,” and that his future is bright in Happy Valley.
Again, though, Lynch hasn’t played yet, and he will most likely start the season behind Zwinak and Bill Belton.
But don’t be surprised if by the middle of the season, Lynch begins to emerge as a top runner along with Zwinak.
Similar to Lynch, Eugene Lewis was another young talent O’Brien was able to redshirt in 2012.
Lewis was Penn State’s top recruit in the 2012 class, but he wasn’t able to showcase his skills on the field.
At arguably the Lions’ deepest position, instead of playing on Saturdays, the wideout made plays on the practice field as a dual-threat quarterback on the scout team.
But Lewis isn’t likely to be a bust—in fact, his future will be quite the opposite.
Penn State’s wide receiver coach Stan Hixon said that Lewis has “off-the-chart” athleticism.
Although the Lions already have receivers to play alongside Allen Robinson, Lewis may be taking Brandon Moseby-Felder’s spot as the second receiver.
Lewis is a big, athletic receiver and while teams are focusing on Robinson, Lewis may develop into one of the B1G’s top receivers.