A way-too-early position preview series; included are scholarship and verbally committed Class of 2013 players, while run-on players have been left out of the previews.
Warm Bodies: C.J. Olaniyan (RS Jun.), Brad Bars (RS Jun.), Deion Barnes (RS Soph.), Anthony Zettel (RS Soph.), Evan Schwan (RS Fresh.), Garrett Sickels (Fresh.), Curtis Cothran (Fresh.), Parker Cothren (Fresh.)
Outlook: Unlike the defensive tackle spot, there are enough bodies here for Larry Johnson to have a deep rotation of pass rushers. Should some of these guys bulk up enough to move inside, it wouldn't be a surprise to see at least one position change, especially from the younger guys. But for now, these nine Nittany Lions project on the outside of the defensive line.
Barnes emerged on the scene last year, ending with a Big Ten Freshman of the Year award, and will be looking to add onto his 26 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and six sacks (the latter two of which were team leading numbers). He has the perfect size and build for the edge rusher that will help
Ted Roof John Butler's multiply aggressive system work, but with the loss of Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley, offensive blocking schemes will target Barnes. Butler and Johnson will need to turn to other guys to keep the heat off of Barnes.
One such guy will be Zettel, who saw action in all 12 games in 2012 and tallied 15 tackles and four sacks. With Massaro and Stanley gone, Zettel should see a lot more time against first team offenses, so keeping those numbers up, and adding productivity, will be tough. If he can continue to get to the quarterback, though, teams won't be able to key in on Barnes, and the edge rushers will be able to be very disruptive in 2013.
Bars (eight games) and Olaniyan (ten games) will add quality experience and depth to Johnson's rotation, along with Kerner, who missed last season with a back injury. Schwan's presence adds depth, while the three true freshmen will flirt with redshirts all year, and barring injuries, will likely end up using said redshirts. If any of them are going to see action, though, keep an eye on Sickels, a 6'4" pass rush extraordinaire from New Jersey.
Projected 2013 Depth Chart:
Names to Watch: All of these guys will be back in 2014 (unless Barnes has another monster season and makes a Maybin-esque decision to get that paper), so adding a defensive end in the Class of 2014 isn't a pressing matter. Unless one or two of these guys makes a position change, that is. In case one is taken, here are some names to watch: Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge HS (Woodbridge, VA)), Jalyn Holmes (Lake Taylor HS (Norfolk, VA)), Lorenzo Carter (Norcross HS (Norcross, GA)).
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