The Penn State Nittany Lions are in the middle of spring practice, preparing for the annual Blue-White game on April 20. Unseasonably cold temperatures and snow forced the Nittany Lions indoors to start the week, but drills still went on as normal.
While the big talk in practice is the battle of the two quarterbacks, Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson, several other positions have strong competitions going on. Spots on both the offensive and defensive lines, as well as at linebacker still need to be filled.
This week gave the first look of what the first unit of the offensive line could look like. It was also confirmed that a few guys are switching positions.
Garry Gilliam has been moved to offensive tackle and wide receiver Trevor Williams practiced with the defensive backs.
With two weeks of spring practice in the books, let's look at whose stock is climbing and whose is heading in the wrong direction.
Akeel Lynch spent a year practicing last season by being given a redshirt and is ready to compete for playing time in 2013. The running back has already impressed during spring practice according to Dustin Hockensmith of PennLive.com.
The redshirt freshman has the potential to be a sleeper this year and could see solid playing time behind starter Zach Zwinak. Bill Belton, who'll likely start the year second on the depth chart, has a lot to prove after a disappointing 2012 and could quickly be passed by Lynch.
Coming out of high school in 2102, Lynch was listed as a 3-star recruit by ESPN's Recruiting Nation. The recruiting report stated that he's "a well-built back with quality running skill and load-carrier attributes."
Regardless of where he falls on the depth chart, he's bound to find playing time. Last season, the Nittany Lions had four different running backs start due to injuries.
Lynch is definitely one to keep an eye on as the spring moves forward. He's a talented back who could be a mainstay in the Penn State backfield for the next few years.
Angelo Mangiro is a redshirt sophomore who saw time in every game last season. He's a an offensive lineman who can play both guard and tackle. Early projections had him starting at center for the Nittany Lions in 2013.
However, that has not happened so far this spring. Ty Howle has been practicing as the starting center, leaving Mangiro with the second unit.
According to Greg Pickel on PennLive.com, when the Nittany Lions took the practice field on March 27, Mangiro was lined up at left guard with the second team, while Wendy Laurent handled the snapping duties.
When asked about the center position last week, Bill O'Brien told Tony Mancuso of gopsusports.com,
Angelo Mangiro who will be in there. He's got a little bit of a hamstring issue right now so he won't be there initially. But hopefully he can get out of the tub and get on to the field because that's where he needs to be, and he'll have a chance to play center, too. He'll be in that competition.
Maybe it's the injury, or maybe it's the fact that Howle has impressed so far this spring, but Mangiro is currently losing the competition and seems headed to start the season as a backup on the offensive line.
Austin Johnson is a redshirt freshman who is primed to take advantage of an opening at defensive tackle left by the graduation of Jordan Hill. After not being heavily recruited out of high school, the New Jersey native chose Penn State and spent last year learning the system and participating in practices.
Now it's time for Johnson to step up and play a big role on the defensive line.
Head coach Bill O'Brien was quoted on Statecollege.com as saying, "We think Austin Johnson has a chance to be a really good player, hopefully sooner rather than later."
Johnson received a vote of confidence in January when Hill was asked about his possible replacements by Bob Flounders on PennLive.com,
Austin, he's a guy with a huge amount of ability and potential He's got great athleticism. He's guy that could play a lot of different positions if he didn't weigh that much, because of his athleticism.'
The redshirt freshman is also impressing his current teammates. Linebacker Mike Hull told Flounders, "Austin Johnson's looking really good."
At 6'4", 302 pounds, he's a great size for an interior lineman and should see plenty of playing time in 2013.
After playing tight end during his first three seasons at Penn State, Gary Gilliam has now switched to offensive tackle. He played in every game last year and made eight starts after missing the entire 2011 season with an injury.
The move to tackle isn't much of a stretch, as Gilliam was used mostly as a blocker last season.
Unfortunatly for the redshirt junior, it doesn't seem that he'll be seeing that many starts this season. According to Bob Flounders on PennLive.com, Gilliam will be behind a fifth-year player at right tackle in Adam Gress, who started three games in 2012.
Hurting Gilliam this spring is the fact that he's not 100 percent healthy. Greg Pickel wrote on PennLive.com that the tackle is dealing with a right calf injury.
Once Gilliam is fully healthy, there is sure to be a transition period. He'll surely see time in the rotation on the offensive line, but it's difficult to see him winning a starting job early on in 2013.