Penn State Football: 5 Players Bill O'Brien Must Keep in Happy Valley

Barry Leonard@@barryleonardjrAnalyst IIIDecember 21, 2012

Penn State Football: 5 Players Bill O'Brien Must Keep in Happy Valley

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    Bill O'Brien had an excellent first season as coach of the Nittany Lions and will look to duplicate that success in 2013. For that to happen, there are several players that must remain on the roster for the upcoming season.

    Under that NCAA sanctions that were handed down against the program in July, current players have until the start of preseason practice to change schools without penalty.

    At the beginning of last season, O'Brien had to deal with the transfers of several key starters that left huge holes in the depth chart. 2013 has the potential to present the same problem. However, there has been no talk at this point of anyone leaving.

    As recently as October, a group dubbed the "Supa Six" reaffirmed their commitment to stay on the team. The group includes running back Bill Belton, tight end Kyle Carter, cornerback Adrian Amos, left tackle Donovan Smith, defensive end Deion Barnes and wide receiver Allen Robinson.

    Though it seems unlikely that anyone who stuck around last year would now leave, the possibility is there. With several breakout performances during the 2012 season, other schools are sure to come to State College in hopes of stealing someone away.

    The following slides look at five players that must stay in Happy Valley in order for success to continue over the next few years.

WR Allen Robinson

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    Allen Robinson had a huge season in 2012 and was a major part of the Penn State offense. He finished as the leading receiver in the Big Ten Conference, catching 77 passes for 1,013 and 11 touchdowns, all team highs.

    With a new starting quarterback, it will be essential for the Nittany Lions to have Robinson as a target. He has big-play ability and will be a great, reliable weapon for whoever takes the snaps at Penn State in 2013.

    Throughout the past season, Robinson showed that he's capable of taking short throws and turning them into a big gain. He also possess the speed to get behind defenders on deep throws.

    If Bill O'Brien wants to have continued success at Penn State, he needs to have Allen Robinson in the role of No. 1 wide receiver for the next two years.

CB Adrian Amos

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    Adrian Amos, a junior in 2013, will be looked at as a leader for the Nittany Lions on defense. Amos started every game in 2012 at cornerback and also returned kicks on special teams. He finished the year with 44 tackles and was second on the team with two interceptions.

    Aside from his contributions on defense, Amos can be a player in the return game, an area of weakness for the Nittany Lions. Last season he had four returns for 73 yards.

    The 2013 Nittany Lions will look to improve in the secondary. This past season, Penn State ranked eighth in the Big Ten in passing defense by giving up over 226 yards a game. The defensive backfield made just three interceptions the entire season.

    If Amos were to leave, it would leave a big hole on a unit that will already need as much help as it can get.

TE Kyle Carter

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    In 2012, Bill O'Brien brought his reputation of using the tight end as an offensive weapon to Penn State. Freshman Kyle Carter wasted no time getting acquainted to the offense. He made six grabs for 74 yards in the home opener.

    Standing at 6'3'' and weighing 247 pounds, the talented tight end presents a big target for his quarterback, particularly in the red zone. He finished his first season with 36 catches for 453 yards and two touchdowns.

    Carter missed the final two games of the year with a wrist injury. Barring any setbacks, he should be good to go for the 2013 season.

    With a year under his belt and an offseason to work with whoever the new quarterback is, Carter could be in line for a huge season and will be a vital part of the Nittany Lions' offense as both a blocker and a sure-handed pass-catcher.

DE Deion Barnes

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    With starters Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley graduating after the 2012 season, Big Ten Freshman of the year Deion Barnes will be a crucial part of the Nittany Lions' defense.

    The defensive end had a stellar rookie season, making eight starts and 26 total tackles.

    Barnes led all Penn State defenders with six sacks. A defensive end with his talent and skill set will likely make other BCS schools salivate at the thought of luring him away from Happy Valley.

    With a year under his belt and the chance to be a defensive leader, Barnes will be an essential piece of the 2013 Nittany Lions who must remain on the roster for years to come.

OL John Urschel

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    Right guard John Urschel started every game in 2012 and will figure to be a leader up front for the Nittany Lions on offense in 2013. Not only is he a talented lineman, he is also an excellent student. He was named an Academic All-American and earned a mathematics degree in three years.

    Next season, establishing the running game will be a must for the Nittany Lions to be successful. With a new quarterback, having a solid rushing attack will take the pressure off.  Urschel will play a major part in opening up holes for the Penn State running backs.

    In 2012, the Nittany Lions struggled to find a run game through the first few games and finished ninth in the Big Ten, averaging 144 rushing yards. However, there was improvement made. Over the final four games, Penn State averaged 162.5 yards on the ground.

    Urschel is an important part of the Penn State offense and his experience will be needed for the Nittany Lions to be successful next season.