Last year exceeded so many expectations, including my own after the opening day loss versus Ohio. There's a reason that 2012 was added to the wall at Beaver Stadium, and it's a good reason--that team, those seniors, won't easily be replaced.
But, as BOB said in his presser at the B1G media days, the team has adopted a "Next Man Up" philosophy, and, therefore, so will we. Because, of course, we're Penn Staters and we deify our coaches and do everything they say #nextlevel #oneteam.
As Jared alluded to in his post yesterday, I've got my own take on who the five guys to watch (on the field, you guys, come on) will be this coming football season:
Kyle Carter--A returning freshman All-American, the snub of Carter on all watch lists was virtually inconceivable to me. Though he got injured late in the season and sat out much of the spring, O'Brien is expecting him to be able to participate through most, if not all, of summer camp. Carter busted out last year, playing in nine games and notching 36 receptions for 453 yards (that's 12.58 ypr,), and he should provide a nice security blanket for whomever starts at quarterback. Where I'm really interested to see Carter grow, though, is touchdowns--he only had two all season, playing more as an open field option rather than a goal-type big body (that job seemed to have gone to Matt Lehman or Jesse James).
Jesse James--As half of the BSD staff predicted last month, the outlaw is poised to have a breakout year in 2013. As a true freshman in 2012, he complemented Carter well, playing in 11 games, pulling in 15 receptions for 276 yards (a staggering 18.4 ypr) and 5 TDs. That's right--a full third of his catches went for scores. And with both the coaching staff and practice witnesses raving about him, James might be the season's biggest surprise on an offense that looks to build in nearly every position after last year's surprise success.
DaQuan Jones--No position group on the Penn State football team epitomizes the "Next Man Up" philosophy more than Larry Johnson Sr's defensive line. With the departure of first team All-B1G DT Jordan Hill to the Seattle Seahawks, the next man on the line for 2013 will be DaQuan Jones, a senior who's been in LJ's heavy rotation for the past three years. He'll likely be asked to do a lot more this year (last year, he only had .5 sacks but did have 6 TFLs and on PBU), both on and off the field as the sole returning senior on the line. The staff seems to have shuffled him around among the interior, but if you know LJ (and I think by now we do), he'll have a very productive senior season and will likely be camping in the pros himself a year from now.
Adrian Amos--Probably the most dynamic player on this team. I don't really think more needs to be said, so I'll just leave this here:
Glenn Carson--I wouldn't be me if I didn't put a linebacker on this list. While expectations are high for Mike Hull, and Nyeem Wartman will likely surprise many with his athleticism and knowledge of the game, I'm looking to Carson to lead this defense both on and off the field. Stepping into the shoes of Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges won't be easy, but this third-year starter has learned a lot from both of them, and will have a chance to prove that in 2013. He's been incredibly solid in the run game over his PSU career, and is rarely out of position and a sure tackler--shades of Josh Hull, but with a wrestler's mentality. And in Happy Valley right now, that can only be a good thing.
Honorable Mention: John Urshel. Because I love him, but offensive lineman, while their job is inarguably the most important of the offense, just aren't that fun to watch (sorry HBeach).
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