The spring game is one of the most exciting times of the year for college football fans because it means the season is approaching faster than anyone expected.
Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien took this job knowing the challenges that came with it, but he has still managed to build a solid roster and add the kind of prospects that can make a difference in the Big Ten.
That will be on full display this Saturday.
While Penn State football may have been dealt a serious blow by the NCAA with the sanctions levied against them, the undying support of Nittany Lions fans and the surrounding communities will keep the legendary program thriving.
It’s time to forget all the talk and just get back to football.
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.
When: Saturday, April 20, at Noon ET
Watch: Big Ten Network
Live Stream: BTN2Go
Position Battle to Watch: Tight End
The biggest position battle during the spring game will be between the tight ends, and the players that shine Saturday will have a head start on making an impact in O’Brien’s pass-heavy offense.
With five players that have the talent and ability to be one of the two starting tight ends—Adam Breneman, Kyle Carter, Jesse James, Matt Lehman and redshirt freshman Brent Wilkerson—this spring game will help sort out the depth chart.
O’Brien's primary experience was with the New England Patriots' offensive staff, and as we have seen with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, that system focuses on getting the tight ends involved.
The same goes for Penn State now, and this spring game will be a great gauge of the positional talent.
Players to Watch: Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson
After losing senior quarterback Matt McGloin, O’Brien and the Nittany Lions will be on the hunt for a new quarterback to take the team to new heights moving forward.
O’Brien worked with Tom Brady in New England and knows what it takes for a quarterback to be successful at any level. While top recruit Christian Hackenberg won’t be at school until the summer, the battle between Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson will be the focus of the coaching staff.
Bench was McGloin’s backup in 2012 and Ferguson is a junior-college transfer looking to make his mark on a major college program. With O’Brien leaving the competition wide open, the ferocity of this battle will yield the best player for the job and make for a great spring game.
Despite having no chance at postseason glory once again because of the aforementioned NCAA sanctions, the Nittany Lions will be fighting with a chip on their shoulder the same way the Ohio State Buckeyes did in 2012.
The team realizes that O’Brien stuck with the program through adversity, and instead of mailing in their effort with nothing on the line, the Nittany Lions will be one of the biggest surprises in the Big Ten Conference and in college football in general.
The spring game will be a good way to gauge how well the new players fit into the team’s schemes and test how some position changes will impact the depth chart, and this will be the start of a very impressive stretch for a program limited in scholarships and players.
The Nittany Lions may not have the big-name recruits that the other major programs have landed over the last two years, but Penn State has built a program predicated on hard work and effort.
That combination will lead to one of the most tenacious teams in the NCAA this year.
Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2 Big Ten)