Justin K. Aller
Jeff: Donovan Smith The need for a dominant left tackle cannot be understated. With questions at the quarterback position heading into 2013, feeling safe in the pocket is going to be paramount before any of the quarterbacks can become effective. Donovan Smith can be that tackle of the future, and he showed flashes of it in 2012. Youth played a part in whatever mistakes he may have made, but with time and more reps come expertise. Having a security blanket like Smith at left tackle will allow "Benchgusonberg" to concentrate more on making the proper throw, and then everyone wins.
Ben: Bill O'Brien No player's irreplaceable in BO'B's offense. He's ready for just about anything. Robinson goes down - more tight ends this week. Kyle Carter goes down - more backs and receivers next week. Left tackle goes down - then we use different protections, with TE's and RB's helping out, or the line slides, or he'll cross-block the tackle and guard to give a better angle. Silas Redd transfers, then Bill Belton and Derek Day get injured? Yeah - no problem. We'll make Zack Zwinak into John Riggins. I suppose you need a really smart QB to run all of that crap out there, but Matt freaking Cassel went 11-5 and was traded for two 1st round draft picks when Brady got injured. And I just watched Matt McGloin beat his career completion percentage by +10 points. So give me B'OB as the lone replaceable on offense.
Jared: Allen Robinson Robinson made an enormous leap in his sophomore year, and proved to be one of the best receivers ever to suit up in the blue and white. Thanks to his size and body control, Robinson is one of those special receivers that can just have the ball thrown up in their general direction and be expected to make a big play when all else fails. This special talent will be crucial in 2013 as Penn State breaks in a new and extremely green quarterback. Whether it be Ferguson, Bench, Hackenberg or another quarterback (hey, stranger things have happened), the new guy will likely struggle at times and need a others to make a big play when the offense just isn't clicking. Fortunately, he will be able to find that security blanket n Robinson.
Cari: Bill O'Brien I was racking my brain to think of who would be irreplaceable...but I couldn't truly come up with a player. So, for a person, I'll say Bill O'Brien. I know, I know, it's against the rules. And, if he for some reason isn't here, we have a lot more to worry about than our offense. But as he's the offensive coordinator, calls the plays and completely transformed our offense, I'm concerned what a different scheme might bring in--because I, like so many of us, absolutely loved the offense we ran this last year.
Dan: Allen Robinson Allen Robinson: I know that in this offense, anyone could really become a star, but I don't see another receiver that could make the jump that Allen Robinson made in the 2012 season. And now that he has established himself as one of the best receivers in the Big Ten (and maybe, now in his junior year, the nation) he'll be needed to come up big with a new quarterback entering the system, whoever that might be.
Bill: Zach Zwinak I agree that no player in O'Brien's offense is truly "irreplaceable," but if I need to pick one for 2013, I'd take Zach Zwinak. Just think: this team is going to have a QB who is either a) a true freshman, b) a JuCo transfer or c) a true sophomore with minimal game experience. I expect to see the team run a ton next year, and whoever is the starting RB (I'm praying to every single God in the universe that the guy's name doesn't rhyme with "Still Felton.") is going to run the ball a ton to take some pressure off of Hack/Fergie/Bench. I think that guy's gonna be Zwinak. And yeah, I know that #TeamAkeelLynch is going to pop up at one time or another, but having a redshirt freshman RB with an inexperienced QB probably isn't the smartest idea on Earth.
Adam: Donovan Smith I'm with Jeff on Donovan Smith. Obviously O'Brien loves the slogan, "Next man up." We saw that repeatedly at work this year, particularly with the skill positions. But "next man up" only works if everyone is given the right amount of time to perform their necessary assignment. And that time can only be created by a quality offensive line, which inevitably is led by an elite left tackle. Our quarterbacks need time to read the defense and finish their drops. The receiver need time to free themselves from press coverage or find holes in the zone. The running backs need space to gain yards. Donovan Smith will be the leader of this line for the next several years, and line depth of any kind is going to be at a premium with the sanctions. He simply has to perform.
Nick: Zach Zwinak While the smart money is always on the offensive line, particularly with the QB position up in the air, I have to say Zwinak. He's the guy that's going to wear down defenses. Belton and Lynch will be great change of pace guys and Lynch might be the next superstar back, but he's yet to play a down. In the B1G, you need to be able to throw rock, especially late in the game when you can make the defense quit tackling.