Penn State Football 2013 Team Program

Carl StineCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2013

Penn State Football 2013 Team Program

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    Penn State, for all its bad press over the past few seasons, is still one of the powerhouses of college football.

    The program has one of the largest stadiums in the country, some of the most loyal fans in the sport and a brand that is national.

    2013 is going to be an interesting year in Happy Valley.

    Read on for analysis, depth chart and predictions for the Nittany Lions in 2013.

Recapping 2012

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    2012 turned out to be a pretty solid season for the Nittany Lions, in spite of turmoil, change and controversy.

    A team playing under NCAA sanctions and with the burden of controversy on its back, was able to push that aside and have a successful season for a new head coach.

    Quarterback Matt McGloin turned in a solid effort, posting 29 total touchdowns and throwing for over 3,200 yards, leading Penn State to an 8-4 record in a season when the team could not go to a bowl game.

    Head coach Bill O'Brien and his staff did an excellent job, and in spite of the loss of some talent to transfer, gaps were filled and the team kept rolling.

    Tailback Silas Redd looked like the biggest loss to transfer, but Zach Zwinak stepped right in and was more than serviceable at the position. The team kept on rolling despite the difficulties and finished second in the Big Ten's Leaders division.

    While the Nittany Lions were banned from postseason play last season, the team pulled off some big wins against Wisconsin, a ranked Northwestern team and Iowa.

    It wasn't a national title, and it wasn't a trip to the Rose Bowl, but the success last season did much to help sweep away the feeling that this team cannot compete, as well as the stench of offseason turmoil.

     

Depth Chart/Returning Starters

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    Depth Chart - Offense

    Center

    GR/SR Ty Howle 6-0, 292

    JR/SO Angelo Mangiro 6-3, 303 OR

    SO/FR Wendy Laurent 6-2, 283

     

    Right Guard

    GR/SR John Urschel 6-3, 307

    JR/SO Angelo Mangiro 6-3, 303 OR

    JR/SO Anthony Alosi 6-4, 280

     

    Right Tackle

    GR/SR Adam Gress 6-6, 317

    SR/SR Eric Shrive 6-6, 317

     

    Left Guard

    SR/JR Miles Dieffenbach 6-3, 297

    JR/SO Angelo Mangiro 6-3, 303

     

    Left Tackle

    JR/SO Donovan Smith 6-5, 327

    SR/JR Garry Gilliam 6-6, 305

     

    Quarterback

    SO/SO Tyler Ferguson 6-3, 213 OR

    FR/FR Christian Hackenberg 6-3, 218

    FR/FR D.J. Crook 6-1, 206

     

    Running Back

    SR/JR Zach Zwinak 6-1, 240

    JR/JR Bill Belton 5-10, 205

     

    Fullback

    SR/SR Pat Zerbe 6-1, 231

    SO/FR Dominic Salomone 5-10, 230

     

    Tight End - Y

    SO/SO Jesse James 6-7, 249

    SR/SR Matt Lehman 6-6, 260

     

    Tight End Y/F

    JR/SO Kyle Carter 6-3, 244

    SO/FR Brent Wilkerson 6-3, 245 - Dealing with injury and has yet to practice this fall day-to-day

    FR/FR Adam Breneman 6-4, 235

     

    Wide Receiver

    JR/JR Allen Robinson 6-3, 211

    SO/FR Eugene Lewis 6-1, 201

    SO/FR Jonathan Warner 6-1, 196

     

    Wide Receiver

    SR/SR Brandon Moseby-Felder 6-2, 199

    Jr/SO Matt Zanellato 6-3, 202

    SR/JR Alex Kenney 6-0, 194

     

    Depth Chart - Defense

    Defensive End

    SR/JR C.J. Olaniyan 6-3, 251

    SO/FR Evan Schwan 6-6 242

     

    Defensive Tackle

    SR/SR DaQuan Jones 6-3, 318

    SO/FR Derek Dowrey 6-3, 308

     

    Defensive Tackle

    SR/JR Kyle Baublitz 6-5, 286

    SO/FR Austin Johnson 6-4, 297

     

    Defensive End

    JR/SR Deion Barnes 6-4, 249

    JR/SO Anthony Zettel 6-5, 257

     

    Outside Linebacker

    SR/JR Mike Hull 6-0, 226

    JR/SO Ben Kline 6-2, 227 - Recovering from offseason back surgery, expected to be ready for season opener.

     

    Middle Linebacker

    GR/SR Glenn Carson 6-3, 240

    SO/FR Gary Wooten 6-2, 233

     

    Outside Linebacker

    SO/FR Nyeem Wartman 6-1, 240

    SO/FR Charles Idemudia 5-11, 235

     

    Cornerback

    SO/SO Trevor Williams 6-1, 189

    FR/FR Anthony Smith 6-0, 187 OR

    FR/FR Jordan Smith 5-11, 184

     

    Safety

    GR/SR Malcolm Willis 5-11, 213 OR

    SR/JR Ryan Keiser 6-1, 205

    JR/SO Jesse Della Valle 6-1, 194

     

    Safety

    JR/JR Adrian Amos 6-0, 211

    S. Obeng-Agyapong 5-10, 207

     

    Cornerback

    SO/SO Jordan Lucas 6-0, 192

    SO/SO Da'Quan Davis 5-10, 164

     

    Depth Chart - Special Teams

    Punter

    SR/SR Alex Butterworth 5-10, 206

     

    Kicker

    JR/JR Sam Ficken 6-2, 183

     

    Holder

    SR/JR Ryan Keiser 6-1, 205

    SR/SR Alex Butterworth 5-10, 206

     

    Kick Snapper

    GR/SR Glen Carson 6-3, 240

     

    Kickoff Returner

    JR/JR Bill Belton 5-10, 205

    SR/JR Alex Kenney 6-0, 194

    SO/FR Akeel Lynch 6-0, 214

    FR/FR Richy Anderson 5-11, 171

     

    Punt Returner

    JR/SO Jesse Della Valle 6-1, 194

    FR/FR Richy Anderson 5-11, 171

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

Injuries

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    Penn State has been fortunate to avoid the injury bug among key players so far in fall practice, but there are a few players in the two-deep who will be limited.

    Brad Bars, DE - Bars was listed as the second end in the depth chart coming out of spring practice. In July the team announced that he had ruptured a tendon and would miss the 2013 season after playing in eight games in 2012.

    Ben Kline, LB - Kline is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and has been labeled as day-to-day by head coach Bill O'Brien. When healthy, he will be a key part of the Penn State two-deep at the linebacker position.

    Brent Wilkerson, TE - Wilkerson is struggling through a nagging back injury, and nobody knows when he will be back for good. Given the depth at the position, this is not too much of a concern, especially if he eventually recovers completely.

     

Players to Watch

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    Kyle Carter, TE - Carter finished last season as the second leading receiver on the team, in spite of an injury that forced him to miss three games. He's a tall, speedy guy at the tight end position, and Bill O'Brien loves to use his tight ends in the offense. While the team is stacked with players at the position besides Carter, watch for him to improve on his 453 receiving yards and two touchdowns from last season.

     

    Allen Robinson, WR - Robinson was the Big Ten's top receiver in 2012, and has the potential to duplicate that accomplishment in 2013. He will be a huge asset for whoever wins the quarterback position, as a big wide receiver with the ability to stretch the field. If he doesn't lead the Big Ten in receiving yards again in 2013, it will be surprising.

     

    Deion Barnes, DE - Barnes finished last season with 10 tackles for loss, six sacks and three forced fumbles in 12 games as a redshirt freshman. He will be one of the best defensive ends in the conference in 2013. He is an excellent pass-rusher, but it will be interesting to see if he has been able to develop into a guy who can stay on the field every down and play the run as well.

     

    John Urschel, G - Urschel is a monster. At 6'6'', 307, he helped pave the way for the Big Ten's best offense last season. He is excellent in run-blocking schemes, as evidenced by the success of running back Zach Zwinak last season, and did a great job protecting quarterback Matt McGloin in 2012. He's also smarter than you, as he is working on his Master's Degree in Mathematics.

Coaches

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    Head coach Bill O'Brien is entering his second season at the helm, and will do so with only one major change to his coaching staff.

    The major change came when defensive coordinator Ted Roof left for Georgia Tech, and secondary coach John Butler was promoted to fill his position.

    Butler will remain in the position of cornerback coach this season, while also filling defensive coordinator duties.

    After a summer in 2012 that was filled with all kinds of change, entering 2013 with as little change as possible has only helped this team.

    It remains to be seen how much the impact of Roof leaving will be felt, as the Nittany Lions enjoyed tremendous success with him leading the defense. The team finished first in redzone defense, second in scoring offense and first in sacks last season with Roof making the calls.

    Coaching Staff:

    Bill O'Brien - Head Coach

    John Butler - Defensive Coordinator/Cornerbacks Coach

    Charlie Fisher - Quarterbacks Coach

    Stan Hixon - Assistant Head Coach/Wide Receivers Coach

    Larry Johnson - Defensive Line Coach

    Charles London - Running Backs Coach

    Mac McWhorter - Offensive Line Coach

    Anthony Midget - Safeties Coach

    John Strollo - Tight Ends Coach

    Ron Vadnerlinden - Linebackers Coach

    Jim Bernhardt - Special Assistant to the Head Coach/Director of Development

    Bill Kavanaugh - Director of Player Personnel

    John Power - Assistant Recruiting Coordinator

    Brenna Mathers - Recruiting Operations Assistant

    Craig Fitzgerald - Director of Strength and Conditioning

    Dwight Galt IV - Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach

    Sean Hayes - Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach

    Brian Bell -  Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach

    Greg Miskinis - Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach

    Jevin Stone - Video Coordinator

    Kirk Diehl - Director of Football Operations

    Brad Caldwell - Equipment Manager

    Dan Sowash - Assistant Equipment Manager

     

     

2013 Schedule and Most Important Games

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    The schedule is more difficult than it appears at first blush for Penn State in 2013. Kent State and UCF both have the talent to upset the Nittany Lions, and last season's loss to Ohio to open the season is still fresh in the minds of PSU fans. There are plenty of opportunities to win a big game in conference play, as the Nittany Lions face Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska in 2013.

    Aug. 31 vs. Syracuse (at New Meadowlands Stadium; East Rutherford, N.J.)

    September 7 vs. Eastern Michigan

    September 14 vs. Central Florida 

    September 21 vs. Kent State

    October 5 @ Indiana

    October 12 vs. Michigan

    October 26 @ Ohio State

    November 2 vs. Illinois

    November 9 @ Minnesota

    November 16 vs. Purdue

    November 23 vs. Nebraska

    November 30 @ Wisconsin

     

    Games to Watch:

     

    Syracuse - This will be the first game for whichever quarterback wins the battle. Syracuse is a great opponent against which to make a first start, as the team has all kinds of holes on defense. It will give the starter a chance to make a statement early in the season.

     

    @ Ohio State - The Buckeyes are predicted to be the best team in the conference, and possibly the nation. If the Nittany Lions hope to win the Legends division of the Big Ten, a huge road win at the Horseshoe is a must.

     

    @ Wisconsin - The Nittany Lions handed the Badgers their final loss of the regular season during the 2012 season. Penn State's season was then over, while the Badgers moved on by default to the Big Ten title game and eventually the Rose Bowl. UW will be out for revenge, while the PSU needs to prove it can win when it matters.

What to Look for on Offense

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    Bill O'Brien's philosophy on offense can pretty much be summed up in this quote given to ESPN.com:

    "We understand that when we substitute, the referee gives the other team a chance to match that substitution," he said. "We also understand that when we don't substitute, we can go fast. I believe in playing fast. I believe in different tempos."

    Penn State finished the 2012 season averaging 77.6 offensive plays per game, second only to Indiana in the Big Ten.

    While not exactly Oregon speed, it is clear that O'Brien likes the offense to move quickly, efficiently and with relentless speed when possible. But O'Brien has referred to his offense as a "gameplan offense" and will adjust as needed depending on the defense.

    The cast he can field on offense this season will allow him to make pretty much whatever adjustments he needs to make, given their level of skill and experience.

    Kyle Carter and Allen Robinson will be the top tight end and wide receiver in the Big Ten, while tailback Zach Zwinak will break the 1,000 yard plateau barring any sort of injury.

    The offense returns eight starters to a unit that was one of the best in the Big Ten last season. Whoever wins the quarterback battle will have plenty of experience at his disposal.

What to Look for on Defense

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    This is definitely the side of the ball that should pose the most problems for O'Brien and his staff in 2013.

    Defensive coordinator Ted Roof is gone, as are Jordan Hill, Michael Mauti, Stephon Morris and Gerald Hodges, all stalwarts of an excellent defense in 2012.

    Only five starters are returning on this side of the ball, which should be at least mildly concerning.

    The defense is not entirely bereft of talent, and there is definite potential.

    End Deion Barnes will be one of the best in the conference, safety Adrian Amos is moving into his natural position, and will have an immediate impact.

    Linebacker Nyeem Wartman, while taking over for a Butkus Award semifinalist, has tons of upside, and will be a star by the time he leaves the program.

    All that said, the youth and lack of depth, particularly on the front seven of the defense will make some mistakes early in the season, hopefully during non-conference play when it doesn't matter as much.

    By season's end, they will again be one of the best in the conference.

X-Factors for 2013

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    "X-factors" can make or break a season. Entering 2012, TAMU quarterback Johnny Manziel was an x-factor. An unknown quantity with the potential to make or break the football equation. Below is a list of unknowns that will have a major impact on PSU in 2013.

     

    Nyeem Wartman, LB - Wartman is a redshirt freshman who has some big shoes to fill taking over for Gerald Hodges. But in limited time on the field early last season, he showed why he has the raw potential to be a stud at the position. Wartman blocked a punt in the Nittany Lions' opener last season, and has displayed the sideline-to-sideline speed needed to be an elite linebacker.

     

    Road Battles - PSU has only four true road games on the schedule in 2013, but two of them are going to be very, very difficult. The Nittany Lions travel to both Ohio State and Wisconsin this season, to face the predicted conference champion, and the team that has won the last three Big Ten titles. That's a tall order. Wins on the road in these big games would mean the Nittany Lions have won the Legends division of the Big Ten. Losses at both would mean at best, third place in the division.

     

    Quarterback - This is the big question mark. The starter has yet to be named, but whether Hackenberg or Ferguson wins, he will be the key to the offensive success of Penn State in 2013. All the weapons in the world on the edges do no good with no one to get them the ball. This position could be the difference between a .500 season and double digit wins.

     

     

Top Storylines to Watch

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    Bill O'Brien - O'Brien is well on his way to taking over some guy named Paterno, and making it look easy. Last season, he led PSU to a far better season than expected, did so with dignity, class and grace, and appears ready to stay in Happy Valley for the long haul. His ability to help coach up quarterbacks will be key to PSU's success.

     

    Replacing Defensive Stars - Jordan Hill, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges are gone, departed for the greener pastures of the NFL. This means that Penn State must replace three guys with All-American caliber talent on its defense. Nyeem Wartman, Kyle Baublitz and the rest of the new starters are going to need to step up in order for this defense to remain one of the best in the Big Ten.

     

    Quarterback - Not to beat a dead horse, but much of the season hinges on quarterback play. With mediocre play at the position, the Nittany Lions have the rushing game and talent on the edges to muddle through to seven or eight wins. If someone steps in and plays extremely well, this team could be 6-0 heading into a road showdown with Ohio State.

     

     

Season Prediction

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    Record - 8-4 (4-4)

    Bill O'Brien has a knack for developing quarterbacks, the Lions are loaded on offense and flying somewhat under the radar. It is difficult to see them beating the conference elite, but it is also difficult to see them dropping a game unexpectedly. This team deserves more credit than they are receiving.

    Bowl Game -  The program is still laboring under NCAA sanctions, so a bowl game is out of the question, but there is no doubt that without said sanctions, this team would be bowl eligible by season's end.

    Summary -  Due to their postseason ban, there is no conference title game in the offing for the Nittany Lions, no matter how well they play in 2013. That said, the season ending game against Wisconsin could decide whether they finish atop the Legends division. Losses outside the division to either one or both of Nebraska and Michigan would not be devastating, and if Ohio State drops a game or two, there is a chance PSU could finish atop the division, albeit slim. The more likely scenario is losses to Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State, resulting in a top three finish in the division. All that aside, if Penn State continues to win games, after the inspiring 2012 season and demonstration of support fans have given, it would mean so much to the program and its fans. Even a perfect season wouldn't mean anything in the overall scheme of college football, but a team that fights through difficulty, stays true to itself and displays the kind of intestinal fortitude that this team has displayed a little over a year into the NCAA sanctions deserves all kinds of respect.