After the spring practice period, which culminated in the Blue-White Game, some of the position battles on this Penn State football team seem to have been resolved. And yet, in the intervening months, other new holes have opened up. Although there's still the entire summer period still ahead of us, the coaching staff has been kind enough to let us know where the players stand, at least as of right now, and there are a number of surprising spots on the first depth chart release of the O'Brien regime.
You may remember that Joe Paterno always seemed to have some ulterior motives with his depth charts, which were largely meaningless and seemed to focus more as motivational tools than as a gameday preview. O'Brien has made his regime much more transparent and friendly to the public, and if for that reason only, it's worth putting a little more stock into this release.
Here's a breakdown of how the roster seems to shake out:
- Your tackles are Donovan Smith and Adam Gress, but it's the redshirt freshman Smith who's listed at left tackle. If O'Brien's found a guy to lock down the blind side for four years, there's a reason to celebrate.
- Between them, it's still Dieffenbach-Stankiewitch-Urschel at LG, C, at RG, respectively, though Dieffenbach gets the "OR" with Mark Arcidiacono (who appears to have recently changed his first name to "Marc".
- Curtis Dukes is not listed on the four-deep; he'd sat out the spring to focus on academics. Instead, it's Bill Belton behind Silas Redd at tailback, and Derek Day and Zach Zwinak behind him.
- Mike Zordich is the only fullback on the depth chart. Sorry, P.J. Byers.
- Justin Brown is the only confirmed starter at wide receiver, with Devon Smith listed at first in the slot, despite his recent marijuana arrest. Shawney Kersey is listed as not only fighting for the spot opposite Brown with Allen Robinson, but also as depth at both WR positions. It's Alex Kenney, who's made the transition from defense, backing up Smith.
- The depth chart differentiates between the "Y" and the "F" tight end; the former is home to the 277-pound Garry Gilliam and 265-pound Jesse James--in that order--while the latter is where you'll find the 241-pound Kyle Carter and 248-pound Kevin Haplea. Interesting to see two freshman (one true, one redshirt) in the top 4 at such an important position in this offense.
- No, Bill O'Brien wasn't messing with us. Matt McGloin the #1 QB, with Paul Jones, Rob Bolden, and Shane McGregor, in that order, behind him.
- With the loss of Curtis Drake from the team, Adrian Amos has returned to the cornerback position. But while Stephon Morris seems to have one spot locked up, Amos gets one of the only two dreaded "OR"s of the depth chart. It'll be either him or Derrick Thomas across from Morris. Behind Morris, by the way, is Jesse Della Valle, a walk-on who looked great in the spring game. Nowhere to be seen is Mike Wallace.
- That pushes redshirt senior walk-on Jake Fagnano (formerly known as "Jacob") into the starting spot at strong safety, pushing out Stephen Obeng-Agyapong for the nod. At free safety, it's Malcolm Willis ahead of another walk-on, Tim Buckley, who's just a redshirt freshman.
- The other "OR" comes at the middle linebacker position, where Glenn Carson is trying to fight off Khairi Fortt, who has apparently impressed Ted Roof despite missing the majority of spring practice with an injury. Whoever wins that job will be playing between, I'll say it, the best group of OLBs in the country--Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges.
- Redshirt freshman Ben Kline makes his depth chart debut, slotting in behind Mauti. After Fortt, it's redshirt sophomore Mike Hull, who's listed at the terrifyingly small 6-0, 213. Didn't he practice at safety for a while?
- Along the defensive line, your presumptive starters are Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley at defensive end and DaQuan Jones and Jordan Hill at defensive tackle. No surprises there. But Larry Johnson must be salivating at the depth--both backup DE spots are up for grabs--one being fought over by C.J. Olaniyan and Brad Bars, the other a battle between Deion Barnes and Anthony Zettel.
- It's not like it matters, though. We all know how LJ loves a deep rotation. He's got to hope that depth at DE makes up for the lack of it at DT--behind Hill and Jones, it's just Kyle Baublitz and James Terry.
- No, your eyes aren't fooling you. Baublitz and Zettel swapped positions since the Blue/White game.
- Anthony Fera is back to starting at both kicker and punter. Given how some of the other punters fared during the spring game, that's a very good thing.
- Listed at KR are Adrian Amos, Bill Belton, and Devon Smith. Justin Brown and Belton are the punt returners. No idea yet if they'll be on the field at the same time.
"There will be a lot of position battles to determine starters during training camp," O’Brien stated. "Quarterback and a handful of other positions are the only ones that I feel are set at this point."
Well, there you have it.
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