Penn State's annual spring Blue White game will officially bring an end to a spring practice schedule that has seen a fair share of injuries on both sides of the ball. It will also serve as the final audition for the spring for some starting jobs in 2011.
1. Quarterback competition heated up
Joe Paterno said on Wednesday that he was very pleased with the progress shown by both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, while stating that Paul Jones still has a way to go before being in contention for playing time. So, as expected, the quarterback situation seems to come down to a duel between Bolden and McGloin.
The future of Bolden could rely heavily on his performance on Saturday. Bolden and his family remain uncertain where he will be when the fall comes around, but if Bolden puts together a solid outing on Saturday and leads the offense in to the end zone a couple times, then his chances of being the front-runner for the starting job at quarterback may convince him to stick around, instead of seeking a transfer to leave Penn State.
Of course, with McGloin, the Blue White game will be the first chance fans and coaches will get to see what he can do in a game atmosphere since ending the 2010 season on such a sour note.
McGloin had his moments to bask in since taking over for Bolden in the second half of the 2010 season, but it is hard to ignore his cloudy judgment that put Penn State in a precarious situation. This spring has been one of redemption for McGloin, and if he wants to make his case to keep the starting job, he needs just as strong an outing as Bolden does.
Both quarterbacks must know that, and that should make for an interesting game on Saturday.
2. Outside linebackers looking to make a statement
Everybody has designated Michael Mauti as both the defensive leader and the top linebacker who will look to take charge in the middle of the field in the same way Paul Posluszny and Shane Conlan once did.
But the question remains: who will be flanking on the sides of Mauti in the fall? This Saturday's spring game could be a strong indication of where the position stands.
Some reports out of spring practices have stated that Khairi Fortt has been seeing a majority of the first string snaps, ahead of Nathan Stupar. Stupar is looking to rebound and make an impact in 2011 after being sidelined last season.
Gerald Hodges is also hoping to win a starting job and has shown some positive signs when he has gotten on the field. Hodges seems to have the ability to bring certain intensity to the position that is reminiscent of guys like Navorro Bowman and LaVar Arrington, but he has plenty of work to do before drawing any other comparisons to the two former Nittany Lion linebackers.
3. Offensive line stability, defensive line pressure
Both sides of the ball need to improve in the trenches in 2011.
The offensive line started to come together a bit as the 2010 season progressed, but has been one of the weak areas on the team in the past two seasons.
The defensive line has shown an inability to pressure the quarterback and stuff the run in their big games each of the past two seasons. So which side will have the more promising Saturday?
Looking at the injury situation, the offensive line may have a slight edge going in to the spring game. Defensive ends have been decimated by injuries this spring including a season-ending ACL injury to Pete Massaro. Jack Crawford (foot) and Eric Lattimore (wrist) may be limited if they see the field at all on Saturday.
4. Stephfon Green's role in the running game
Before the entire running game plan is centered on sophomore back Silas Redd, let's see what Stephfon Green has in store.
Green has missed some time this spring with a shoulder injury, but would like to play a key role in the offense in his senior season. After being placed behind Redd on the depth chart last season and placed on special teams, in addition to limited action in the backfield, Green should see increased playing time in 2011 regardless of whether or not he is the starting running back.
Redd's talent bar seems to have him as the favorite for the starting role, but Green, when healthy, has the ability to make Penn State's offense more dynamic and explosive.
And lots of it. A look at the latest weather forecast for the game on Weather.com shows a 90 percent chance of precipitation on Saturday in State College. That would certainly put a damper on some tailgating plans, but could also limit the number of people planning on attending the free game.
As far as football is concerned though, rain could play a troubling role in getting a chance to fairly assess the players at every position, as sloppy field conditions may hold some players back in terms of production. The spring game is only a small part of what coaches will look over, of course, but it would be nice to see what some players do in a game situation.
The Penn State spring game will be broadcast live on-line at GoPSUSports.com and will air on Big Ten Network at 9 p.m. EST.
Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Examiner.com. Follow his college football discussion on Twitter @CFBExaminer.