The Penn State Nittany Lions enter 2013 with high expectations after finishing 8-4 last season despite difficult circumstances. While the new season brings high hopes, there will be challenges for head coach Bill O'Brien to face.
Though the media firestorm has died down a bit, there are still issues such as negative feelings toward the school and the NCAA sanctions.
This season brings high hopes, as experienced veterans will mix with talented youngsters on both sides of the ball.
The Nittany Lions return several key pieces from last year's team. Guys like Allen Robinson, Zach Zwinak, Deion Barnes and Adrian Amos will be looked to as leaders.
There are also some talented freshmen who were given a redshirt a year ago to go with a solid 2013 recruiting class.
Despite all the positives surrounding the Nittany Lions heading into 2013, there are several issues that could make things tough on O'Brien and the rest of the coaching staff.
With the graduation of 2012 starter Matt McGloin and the transfer of backup Steven Bench, the Nittany Lions will be led by an inexperienced quarterback in 2013.
Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and top recruit Christian Hackenberg will compete to be the Nittany Lions' starter.
Ferguson spent the spring learning the system and has the upper hand heading into the summer.
Regardless of who starts, it will be someone new, and that's going to present a challenge to O'Brien. The quarterback position is the centerpiece of his NFL-style passing attack.
Last year, the coach had to implement his offense with a new team. While McGloin was new to the system, he did have experience as a previous starter at Penn State.
Things are different this year with two inexperienced starters, and there's bound to be some growing pains.
Getting the offense adjusted to a new quarterback starts with selecting the right guy to start. Ferguson and Hackenberg both need to show that they are capable of learning the complicated offense quickly.
O'Brien will make that decision sometime this summer.
After choosing his man, O'Brien will be tasked with getting him ready for the August 31 season opener against Syracuse.
O'Brien enters the 2013 season with several big holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive linemen Sean Stanley and Jordan Hill, linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges and cornerback Stephon Morris are all starters who have graduated.
Pete Massaro, a reserve who played significant minutes, is also gone.
That's a lot of talent that needs to be replaced, and it could be a challenge for O'Brien and his staff. Luckily, there are experienced reserves ready to step in and take over.
Anthony Zettel, and C.J. Olaniyan both saw time on the line last season, with Zettel finishing third on the team with four sacks. However, even with experience returning, replacing a player like Hill is a tall order that could present a challenge.
The biggest problem area on defense could be at linebacker. Hodges and Mauti were not just the team's leaders in tackles, they were emotional leaders on the defensive side.
The Nittany Lions now have just four linebackers who saw any action last season. Middle linebacker Glenn Carson started every game in 2012. Mike Hull played in every game, but he made just one start. Ben Kline saw limited action and Nyeem Wartman had his 2012 season cut short by a Week 2 injury.
Hull and Wartman will now assume starting roles and have big shoes to fill.
The secondary returns three starters but will need to make up for the loss of Morris, who finished fifth on the team with 60 tackles last season.
Clearly there are some guys ready to step up on defense, but any time so many starters need to be replaced, it always presents a challenge.
O'Brien has a good problem on offense. The squad is loaded with talented playmakers who will all want to be involved in the game plan. Getting everyone enough touches to stay happy could be an issue.
The Nittany Lions have a plethora of talent in the receiving corps. Allen Robinson, the Big Ten's leading receiver a year ago, will be looked to as the leader of the group.
Brandon Moseby-Felder, Matt Zanellato and Alex Kenney all caught passes a season ago and will once again fit into the offensive scheme. Redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis, who was a top recruit in 2012, will also be a pass-catching option for the Nittany Lions this season.
Freshman Richy Anderson may also be involved in the passing attack.
Three experienced tight ends return from last year in Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman and Jesse James. All three finished in the top five on the team in receiving yards in 2012. Carter led the trio with 453 yards, while James led with five touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman Brent Wilkerson and true freshman Adam Breneman will also be in the mix at tight end.
Aside from all the pass-catchers, the Penn State backfield also contains talent that needs to be utilized. 2012 leading rusher Zwinak returns to lead a group that includes Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch.
Penn State has a lot of talent on offensive for the upcoming season. O'Brien is going to have to get creative and figure out a way to fully and correctly use the talents of all of his players.