Penn State has plenty of questions to be asking this year. Who will be the quarterback. Who will be available to play quarterback? Will the defense see anybody take on a leadership role? Can they Nittany Lions win the big game? What will life in the new era of Big Ten football have in store for the Nittany Lions?
Here is a look at some questions to ask of this year's Penn State football team.
Rob Bolden could be a candidate to start in 2011, if he sticks around.
The most pressing issue, of course, is behind center, where Penn State has a few options to go with at quarterback. Of course, it depends on who will actually be around.
Joe Paterno recently suggested that Kevin Newsome was likely to be heading out of the program at the end of the spring semester, an idea that has been rumored since the end of the 2010 season. If Newsome is indeed out of the mix then the competition will be between Rob Bolden, Matt McGloin and Paul Jones, who took a redshirt in 2010.
Bolden experienced some growing pains in his first season on the field as a true freshman and was taken out of the starter's role partly because of a concussion situation. Though Bolden showed flashes of a promising future the offense largely rested in the hands of McGloin for the rest of the season.
Bolden was denied a release form his scholarship, putting his future at Penn State in uneasy water but if he remains at Penn State he has the ability to be the favorite to win the starting job this upcoming season.
Bolden completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,360 yards in 10 total games last season, including a handful of starts. Bolden had five touchdowns and seven interceptions, struggling in the red zone along with the rest of the offense.
Matt McGloin ended on a sour note in 2010.
By now you know that McGloin's 2010 season ended on a low note, throwing five interceptions in the Outback Bowl loss to Florida. McGloin also had poor outings in games at Ohio State and at home against Michigan State in the regular season but remained the starting quarterback under Paterno.
Will he be the front-runner for the job in 2011 or will he take a step back and see Bolden regain the starting job? Or will Jones have a strong spring and impressive Blue-White Game for a second straight season and make his own case for the starting job?
McGloin played in nine games for the Nittany Lions and completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 1,548 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the team in the two latter categories. He took over starting job while Rob Bolden was recovering from a concussion and ended the season with a record number of interceptions thrown in an Outback Bowl loss to the Florida Gators.
Paul Jones came to Penn State in the same recruiting class as Bolden, but despite arriving on campus before Bolden and playing in the Blue White Game in April, the coaches opted to keep Bolden on the active roster and give Jones a red shirt season. This spring, Jones should show what he has learned in his time watching and learning on the sidelines.
Silas Redd has fans excited.
Silas Redd, as a freshman, made a mild impact on the offense in 2010 and with Evan Royster moving on there is a job opening in the backfield on offense. Redd has the stature of what could be a great Penn State running back and with a full season already behind him many feel that Redd is prepared to take the next step in the offense and take on a heavier work load.
Will 2011 be the year for Redd to become the focal point of the offense?
Stephon Green could be due for a rebound season.
Before Redd becomes the go-to guy in the backfield though keep in mind that Stephfon Green is still on the roster and he is ready to regroup in 2011. Green was a spark on the offense in 2009 but his role was reduced in 2010 and he was relegated to special teams work.
Green has talent to be an impact player on the offense and if he can redeem himself in spring practices and the Blue White game he may be able to prove himself worthy of being a contributor in the weekly game plan in 2011.
Winning in Columbus has not been easy for Penn State.
Penn State's 2011 schedule has some big games on the slate and if the Nittany Lions are going to make a push for a Big Ten championship they will have to come through in some big moments.
The Nittany Lions end the season with a home game against new Big Ten member Nebraska and on the road against division foes Ohio State and Wisconsin. It is likely the Leaders Division will be on the line in the final two games with a trip to Indianapolis on the line, but the question will be whether or not the Nittany Lions will be a contender when that time comes.
Don't forget about the big out-of-conference game at the beginning of the season when Alabama comes to State College. The Tide will likely be a national title contender and after Alabama defeated Pen State down south last year, revenge will be on the mind for the blue and white.
Wisconsin is Penn States new end-of-the-season match-up.
The Big Ten begins division play in 2011 and Penn State will have to beat out Ohio State and Wisconsin in the Leaders division for a chance to play for the Big Ten championship in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes will still remain the team to beat given the talent they will have even after some key players serve a five-game suspension. Wisconsin will be Penn State's new regular season finale rival, replacing Michigan State.
Last season Ohio State and Wisconsin combined for a 23-3 record, so Penn State has some work to do.
Stephon Morris could be an impact player.
Penn State's defense was average when you look at the numbers on paper, but fans who have watched the Nittany Lions expect a higher level of play on defense.
Penn State allowed an average of 23.7 points per game in 2010, ranked 50th in the nation and almost double what Penn State allowed in 2009 (12.2 ppg allowed). It was the highest point total allowed by Penn State since allowing an average of 25.5 points per game in 2001 and just the third time since that point Penn State had allowed over 20 points per game.
One of the keys to the lack of defensive edge last season may have been attributed to the lack of on-field leadership. There were no players up to the caliber of guys like Paul Posluszny or LaVar Arrington on the field, but will that change in 2011?
Nick Sukay could be a leader.
Nick Sukay will hope to leave his mark in his final season with the Nittany Lions. Last season Sukay recorded three interceptions and had 29 tackles and one forced fumble. With an increased role in the defense at free safety in 2011 Sukay will be one of the guys to look for in becoming an on-field leader.
Sukay was having a solid season in 2010 before a torn pectoral muscle sidelined him for the second half of the season. Sukay has since had surgery and will be held to limited drills in spring but if he can come back healthy Sukay should help the secondary in 2011.
Jack Crawford needs a better 2011 season.
Jack Crawford entered the 2010 season as one of the Big Ten defensive players on the rise, but a lack of pressure on the line showed that the British defensive end has a long way to go before being in the same category as Jared Odrick or Aaron Maybin.
Crawford played in 10 games last season and recorded just 14 tackles, four of which were solo. Crawford played with an ankle injury for part of the season, which sidelined him for three games and he never fully recovered. If healthy the coaching staff, and fans, will hope that Crawford can live up to the standard set by some of his predecessors on the line, including Odrick and Maybin.
Crawford injured his foot this spring and will sit out the remainder of spring practice, so any improvement Crawford can work on for the upcoming season will have to be done in the summer camps before the regular season begins.
Michael Mauti (shown making a tackle against Alabama) could be the leader of the linebackers.
Penn State is known as Linebacker U and the lineage at the position is well documented. Shane Conlan, Jack Ham, LaVar Arrington, Dan Connor, Paul Posluszny and many more have made the position what it is at Penn State: a signature. But recent seasons have seen the players playing in the middle of the field struggle to stay healthy and play the way Penn State linebackers are expected to perform.
This season all eyes are on Michael Mauti, who was one of the many injured Nittany Lions a year ago.
"This is the first off-season where I'm not rehabbing," Mauti said in an Associated Press report. "I can specifically focus on the bigger, faster, stronger type of deal, which is good for me."
Time will tell if Mauti's time to focus on improving as an athlete will pay off but not having to worry about rehab this spring should be a boost not only for Mauti but for the entire defense. With a healthy Mauti in the middle the defense may be able to resemble what Penn State fans expect form the defense in 2011.