2013 Penn State Spring Football Analysis
Penn State Nittany Lions 2013 ...
Head Coach: Bill O'Brien
Penn State Nittany
Why To Be Excited: After last year, trying to deal with adversity this season should be a piece of cake. For the most part the focus is on football – as much as it can be – allowing Bill O’Brien to spend more time on trying to build up a team that’s not going to feel the effects of the sanctions personnel-wise for another season or so. With 16 returning starters and enough holdover prospects to provide a little bit of depth, it should be like a more normal football season up until the end of November. O’Brien had far bigger problems last season.
| 2013 Schedule|
(in East Rutherford)
9/7 Eastern Michigan
9/21 Kent State
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 at Indiana
10/19 OPEN DATE
10/26 at Ohio State
11/9 at Minnesota
11/30 at Wisconsin
Why To Be Grouchy: The offensive line that was such a key part to the success last season gets the left side back intact with tackle Donovan Smith and guard Miles Dieffenbach leading the way, but the right side needs a few replacements and center Matt Stankiewitch is done. Defensively, the linebacking corps is going to be a focus with Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges done. Glenn Carson and Mike Hull are good ones to start with, but with tackle Jordan Hill and end Sean Stanley done, it’s going to take a little while to find the right pieces for the front seven.
What Needs Working On: Special teams. The quarterback situation will be the biggest key to the spring session with Steven Bench and JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson trying to show what they can do before super-recruit Christian Hackenberg arrives on campus, but for a team that’s likely going to be involved in several close battles, the special teams have to be better. The return game was abysmal finishing last in the league in kickoff returns and near the bottom in punt returns, while the punting game averaged a mere 34.45 yards per punt. Kicker Sam Ficken is mostly known for the Virginia game, but he rallied and finished hitting 14-of-21 kicks.
Non-Conference Games: Syracuse (in New Jersey), Eastern Michigan, UCF, Kent State
Games Against The Legends: Michigan, at Minnesota, Nebraska
Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4
Worst Case Record: 4-8
Likely Finish: 6-6
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, at Indiana, Illinois, Purdue
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: UCF, Michigan, at Ohio State, at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Wisconsin
Schedule Analysis: Can the Nittany Lions recreate the on-field magic of last year? They start out with an even tougher task than Ohio playing Syracuse in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Eastern Michigan will be a good chance to get all the pieces together before a rougher-than-it-looks home game against UCF followed up with a Kent State squad that should be almost as good as the one that almost went to the BCS. It’ll be tough to get to 4-0, but it’s possible before getting a week off to prepare for the Big Ten season.
It’s a bad break to have to play both Michigan and Nebraska from the Legends, but at least the two big games are at home. The road trip to Indiana to start things off is a must win with Michigan and an away game at Ohio State to follow, but there’s a week off to prepare for the Buckeyes. Illinois, at Minnesota and Purdue is the light section that needs to be taken advantage of with Nebraska and a road game at Wisconsin to close out the year.
Team Concerns For 2013: Beyond the ongoing issues of the university and the image problem, on the field, the Nittany Lions have to keep pressing forward by getting production from young players who'll now get more and more of a shot considering all the restrictions going forward. Getting the quarterback situation settled with Matt McGloin gone will be the first goal after a shocking year for a passing game that went from miserable to excellent. The special teams have to be better after an awful year punting averaging just 34.5 yards per kick and a paltry 18 yards per kickoff return.
The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Hackenberg to Breneman. Bill O'Brien is doing what he can considering all the program's problems and restrictions - who wants to sign up to play a career full of exhibition games? Even so, getting superstar quarterback prospect Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman would make this a successful class even in normal times. The problem is going to be the lack of depth, and O'Brien can't miss. Recruits for the next few years have to be ready to rock and roll and have to be part of the depth chart as soon as possible, but it's still a tough overall sell. The
defensive line is getting some help with Garrett Sickels a good-looking pass rusher and Curtis Cothran a potentially excellent end.
There are some nice talents across the board - linebacker Zayd Issah will be a player
- but if Hackenberg and Breneman aren't great, this class will be average at best.
2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking:
55. That Class Was Heavy On ... Whatever head coach Bill O’Brien can get. A few prospects have said they wanted to come to Penn State no matter what, but for the most part, the top players are staying away from the mess. This is hardly a disastrous recruiting season considering all the problems with few good receivers signing on and the defensive line is getting a few three-star types, but this isn’t nearly the type of class the program is used to getting.
2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 34. That Class Was Heavy On ... Offensive linemen. Not since the Derrick Williams class of 2005 has Penn State brought in a group of receivers like this with Bill Belton, Matt Zanellato and Allen Robinson all good enough to be the No. 1 target. The defensive front should be stronger with Shawn Oakman and Deion Barnes on the end and Ben Kline at linebacker, but the focus is on the offensive front as Donovan Smith leads a phenomenal group of talents. Angelo Mangiro is one of the nation’s best guards, and Anthony Zettel isn’t far behind. Tackle Anthony Alosi might start right away.
2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 14. That Class Was
Heavy On ... Linebackers. Are
top prospects worried about the Joe Paterno era
ending any time soon? Hardly. Only three linebackers
were signed, but it would've be a stunner if Mike
Hull in the middle and Khairi Fortt and Dakota Royer
on the outside form the nation's best corps going
into the 2013 season. Hull was the nation's top
inside prospect and he should be the program's next
great linebacker. DaQuan Jones and Evan Hailes are
ready-made 300-pounders for the inside of the line,
while C.J. Olaniyan is a speed rusher for the
outside. Offensively, Paul Jones is one of the
nation's best quarterback prospects, but that didn't
stop Robert Bolden, a passer who'd make the
recruiting season for about 100 other programs, from
2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 11. That Class Was
Heavy On ... receivers. The strength of the class is at offensive tackle, but the immediate need was at receiver with Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood gone. Joe Paterno and his staff aren’t going to ask the incoming freshmen to step in and start right away, but it would be nice if Justin Brown, Shawney Kersey, Brandon Felder, Devon Smith and Christian Kuntz were able to push for potential playing time. Brown is the star of the bunch, but Kersey and Smith are the speedsters who could make a more immediate impact.