Penn State Football: Final Winners and Losers from Spring Ball

Troy WellerContributor IIIApril 30, 2014

Penn State Football: Final Winners and Losers from Spring Ball

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    As with every evaluation period in college football, there's always a few players or position groups that see their stock improve. There's also some who see it drop.

    James Franklin's first spring as Penn State's head coach went relatively well. While the obvious depth and injury issues reared their ugly heads, the Nittany Lions had plenty of positive performances from players on both sides of the ball.

    Here are a handful of final winners and losers from Penn State's spring practice. 

Winner: Anthony Zettel

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Penn State's Anthony Zettel spent this spring transitioning from defensive end to defensive tackle. The move has worked out very well.

    Zettel was able to add much-needed weight to his frame in order to make the switch. He added nearly 20 pounds to his 6'4" body, and he'll continue to up his weight this summer. The coaches want Zettel at 285 pounds by the time camp starts.

    The redshirt junior recorded three total tackles and one sack during the annual Blue-White game. He was a disruptive force on the majority of the snaps he took.

    After losing DaQuan Jones to graduation, the Nittany Lions needed help desperately on the interior of their defensive line. Zettel all but locked up a starting job alongside Austin Johnson with his performance this spring. 

Loser: Offensive Line

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Things went from bad to worse for Penn State's offensive line this spring.

    Already thin on depth, the unit took several hits over the last few weeks. Left guard Miles Dieffenbach went down with a serious knee injury, while lineman Anthony Alosi—who was in the mix for a starting spot—was charged with simple assault.

    Right tackle Andrew Nelson also missed time with an injury, but he should be healthy by summer camp.

    Still, his absence affected the group's ability to jell. 

    Penn State will have three linemen enroll this summer, but none project as immediate contributors.

    Let's hope the injury bug doesn't strike again, or quarterback Christian Hackenberg could be in for some trouble. 

Loser: Ben Kline

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    USA TODAY Sports

    You can't avoid injuries, but linebacker Ben Kline had a prime opportunity to make a name for himself this spring.

    Kline's Penn State career has been marred by injury. He's had a lingering shoulder issue, and he sat out the majority of spring practice because of it. Kline did not participate in the spring game.

    The Nittany Lions are thin at linebacker, so they need all the bodies they can get right now. Kline's absence meant guys like Gary Wooten and Matthew Baney were able to get meaningful reps and impress the coaching staff.

    Kline should see the field in the fall if he's healthy, but the fact he wasn't this spring doesn't bode well for his chances of starting. 

Winner: Cole Chiappialle

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    USA TODAY Sports

    There was no bigger winner this spring than running back Cole Chiappialle.

    A walk-on, Chiappialle was the star of the Blue-White game. He rushed for 63 yards on nine carries, scoring two touchdowns in the process.

    Penn State has plenty of depth at running back, but Chiappialle certainly made his case for being a change-of-pace rusher. His ability as a north-south runner to bounce off initial contact would complement the styles of Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch very well.

    For a player who didn't generate much interest as a high school prospect, Chiappialle looks more than capable of contributing in 2014. Franklin even agrees. He mentioned Chiappialle throughout the course of the spring when talking about Penn State's options at running back.