Penn State Football: 5 Players Who Will Be Under the Most Pressure in Fall Camp
As Bill O’Brien and the Penn State football team heads into the summer, the 2013 season creeps ever closer.
The transfer of Steven Bench has been the most recent blow to the team, as O’Brien tries to weather his first full season completely under the scholarship sanctions.
With the loss of scholarships and players from last season, O’Brien will be leaning heavily on a group of young individuals to step up into major roles.
Obviously players like Glenn Carson and Zach Zwinak have been around awhile and will be able to lead the young team.
But nonetheless, there are several players that will be feeling pressure this fall – either from players challenging their starting spot or from inexperience.
Here’s a list of five players that will be feeling a lot of these kinds of pressure in fall camp.
Da’Quan Davis, CB
As the new defensive coordinator in Happy Valley, John Butler didn’t wait to make some major decisions for his 2013 starting defense.
Butler announced that Adrian Amos was moving to safety after Penn State’s Blue and White game.
So what does this mean for Da’Quan Davis?
It means the sophomore will need to step up and produce solid results automatically.
Davis saw limited playing time in 11 games, collecting five tackles and recovering a fumble.
This fall O’Brien and the defense will need Davis to step into a starting role easily.
Of the corners currently listed on the roster, Davis has the most experience and he will need to show that he can assume that role.
These are big shoes to fill for the young Davis.
Sam Ficken, K
Most of last season seemed like a nightmare for Sam Ficken that occurred every Saturday.
Ficken struggled so much as the Lions place kicker that O’Brien’s offense was tied for sixth in Division I football for fourth down attempts.
To put that into context, in 2011 Penn State was tied for 57th in fourth down attempts.
Leading up to the Blue and White spring game this spring, all signs were pointing to Ficken turning a new page in his career and getting more consistent.
Then came the actual Blue and White game where Ficken missed his only field goal attempt and then missed an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter.
This doesn’t exactly point toward a new, more consistent Ficken.
The fall will be once again full of pressure for the Penn State kicker who seems to still struggle with consistency.
O’Brien will not want to be in the top ranks of fourth down attempts again this year, so the pressure will be on Ficken.
Nyeem Wartman, OLB
It’s never easy to step up as a freshman and produce on a high level.
But it’s even more difficult to try to replace the production that Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti gave Penn State last season.
For Nyeem Wartman these are both of his tasks for this fall.
Wartman looks to have the spot locked down next to Glenn Carson and Mike Hull, and the freshman showed signs of play making ability in the spring game.
This fall Wartman will need to stay healthy and play older than he is.
It will be very hard to replace the on field production of Hodges and Mauti, but Wartman is one of O’Brien’s best chances at it.
Matt Lehman, TE
Penn State is very, very deep at tight end.
Kyle Carter, Jesse James, Adam Breneman and Matt Lehman all are capable of being starters on this roster.
Carter and Breneman are very athletic, and Carter proved last season before getting injured that he can be a lethal receiving tight end.
James and Lehman both have made big catches, but they also provide huge blocking bodies with both being over 6’5”.
Now obviously Lehman isn’t going to drop on the depth chart and never see the field, but he will be under serious pressure this season.
Lehman will have serious competition for his spot this fall.
This kind of pressure can be good and raise the level that Lehman plays at, but nonetheless this is a lot of pressure for the former walk on.
Christian Hackenberg, QB
No matter what happened during the 2013 spring practices, Christian Hackenberg was destined to come into Happy Valley this fall with very high expectations and lots of pressure.
Then Steven Bench transferred, leaving Tyler Ferguson as the only serious option for O’Brien until Hackenberg gets on campus.
Hackenberg is coming in as one of the best high school quarterback recruits in the nation.
This fall the competition will be between Hackenberg and Ferguson for the starting spot, and Hackenberg should win it.
It seems almost unfair to the 18 year old to come into Happy Valley this fall with the weight of the offense on his shoulders and produce in front of 100,000 fans.
But Hackenberg’s talent and maturity should help him shake off this pressure in fall camp.
Nonetheless the most pressure will be placed on Hackenberg this fall, especially if he wins the starting job.