Penn State Football: Complete Spring Game Preview
On Saturday, James Franklin will take the Beaver Stadium turf for the first time and officially debut as Penn State's head coach.
Since his hiring in early January, Franklin has excited fans with his active presence on social media. While his engagement has been welcoming, he's yet to showcase the football side of things.
Weeks of spring practice sessions will culminate with the annual Blue-White game, an event that brings thousands of fans and alumni back to Happy Valley. It will be the public's first time watching the Nittany Lions under the tutelage of Franklin and his staff.
Here's a comprehensive preview of Penn State's 2014 spring game.
Here's some basic information you need to know about Penn State's 2014 Blue-White Game presented by AAA.
When and Where
The Blue-White game will be played at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12 at Beaver Stadium.
By all accounts, Penn State's spring game will be formatted very much like a normal football game. This will be a change from previous years, when former head coach Bill O'Brien implemented a rather unique scoring system.
Radio and TV
You can listen to the game on the Penn State Sports Network (subscription required). The game will not be broadcast live but instead aired at 6 p.m. on the Big Ten Network later that night.
Admission to the game is free. There will be an autograph session inside the stadium starting at 10:45 a.m. For those not attending the autograph session, all gates to the stadium will open at noon.
Further information on Beaver Stadium's bag policy and Blue-White parking maps can be found on Penn State's official athletics website.
Position Battles to Watch
The Nittany Lions have veteran Mike Hull moving inside, so both outside linebacker spots are question marks right now. Brandon Bell, Nyeem Wartman and Gary Wooten have all spent time in the rotation this spring.
Penn State lacks depth at the position, so the players listed above will have to play a lot of snaps this year. It will be interesting to see the roles walk-ons Charles Idemudia and Adam Cole have in the spring game.
Ben Kline's name would be in consideration for a starting job, but his injury history makes him a relative unknown right now.
Following the loss of Miles Dieffenbach, Penn State will have to replace four starters from its 2013 offensive line. Donovan Smith is cemented in at left tackle, but the rest is up for grabs. With Andrew Nelson (tackle) and Angelo Mangiro (center/guard) battling injuries, there will be plenty of opportunities for other guys to impress Saturday.
Chasz Wright will likely take snaps at the right tackle spot, while Derek Dowrey, Brian Gaia and Brendan Mahon will rotate at guard. Wendy Laurent looks to be the team's primary center right now.
Just how scarce is the depth at offensive line? All players on the unit will wear gray uniforms, so they can play for both the Blue and White teams.
Who Will Emerge as the Top Wide Receiver?
Since Allen Robinson's early departure to the NFL, this topic has been talked about ad nauseam. But for good reason—Robinson accounted for nearly half of the team's receiving yards last season.
Geno Lewis looks primed to become the Nittany Lions' top receiver, but he's not the same talent Robinson was. Who else will Penn State look to in order to replace the lost production?
How Much Has Christian Hackenberg Progressed?
As Penn State's most important player, many are looking forward to seeing how much quarterback Christian Hackenberg has progressed since last season.
Hackenberg did not enroll early last year, so 2014 marks the first time he's participated in spring practice. With a full offseason under his belt, Hackenberg's mental and physical maturation will be on display come Saturday.
What Will the Turnout Be?
While more of a minor storyline, it will be interesting to see the kind of crowd Penn State's spring game draws.
Last spring, only 28,000 people showed up, and Franklin is calling for nearly three times that amount this year. Will the Nittany Lion faithful make it happen?
What the Experts Are Saying
Here are a few extra tidbits of information to pass along from some of the writers on the Nittany Lions beat.
Anthony Zettel Moves Inside
Defensive line depth is also an issue for the Nittany Lions, specifically on the inside.
To combat this, Anthony Zettel has moved from defensive end to defensive tackle. ESPN.com's Josh Moyer reports Zettel has been eating and lifting weights more often to make the switch.
According to Ryan Snyder of Rivals.com, Penn State will host close to 30 prospects for the Blue-White game. This includes defensive tackle Adam McLean, who according to Lions247 will skip a camp in order to attend.
Per 247Sports.com's rankings, McLean is a 4-star prospect and the No. 13-ranked defensive tackle prospect in the nation.
Akeel Lynch Is Third-String
Fans may think Akeel Lynch should be the starting running back, but Franklin doesn't seem to agree.
Per Audrey Snyder of The Patriot-News, Lynch is listed as the third-string running back, behind Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton.
Franklin has noted on several occasions he won't discuss injuries, so the program will be tight-lipped on the issue from here on out. Nevertheless, here are some notable players who have caught the injury bug, according to various media sources.
The redshirt senior reportedly tore his ACL last month, and a timetable for his recovery is unknown. One of only two returning starters on the offensive line, Penn State now has a big hole at left guard to fill.
Adam Breneman was shut down for the rest of the spring with a deep bone bruise in his knee. The tight end's injury does not appear to be serious, and it looks like he's being held out as a precaution.
Kline's status for the game is unknown, but it should be noted the linebacker has a history of shoulder problems. He's gotten some work this spring, but has been held out of contact drills.
A possible option at either guard or center, Angelo Mangiro has also missed time this spring due to an unspecified injury.