Fall camp for Penn State football's 2013 team began bright and early this morning, and there are definite questions headed into the last weeks before the season begins. First, the nitty gritty; this first week of camp overlaps with the last week of summer session classes, which puts a hamper on practice. The team will have one practice a day this week, before two-a-days begin once classes end.
And since we're Penn State, I'll add this in: Matt Lehman and Brandon Moseby-Felder are on schedule to graduate at the end of summer session, which brings the total number of graduates on the 2013 to eight (Ty Howle, Glenn Carson, Adam Gress, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Malcolm Willis, and masters degree recipient John Urschel are the other six). #culture
The actual second season of Bill O'Brien's tenure will undoubtedly have its own set of questions, but here are the three things I'm focusing on going into camp:
The biggest one is definitely quarterback, with a big fat "OR" still sitting on the depth chart between Tyler Ferguson and Christian Hackenburg. But there's other battles a-brewing, some of which aren't even reflected on the official depth chart.
In addition to QB, I'm interested in some defensive showdowns. The first question I have is who will fill the other DE spot alongside Deion Barnes, now that Brad Bars is out of the picture? Currently, it's CJ Olaniyan, but Anthony Zettel is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The cornerback position is also wide open with Adrian Amos' switch to safety, and perhaps most surprisingly, Da'Quan Davis is currently on the second team--though he's the returning CB with the most experience (Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams are both listed ahead of him). The final position battle that intrigues me is Defensive Tackle, and who will take the place of current Seattle Seahawk Jordan Hill. DaQuan Jones has his place locked down, but headed into spring camp, Kyle Baublitz looks to be the guy to beat--but behind him at the three-technique is Phil Steele's golden boy Austin Johnson, a RS FR that's been turning heads. As LJ likes to rotate his line more than any other position on the field, it's likely that whomever starts won't be in for long--and having two guys that are starter quality for one position is not, of course, a bad thing.
Fall camp is, of course, the most important tool in preparing the team for the grind of the season. There will be players battling for starting positions, new team members looking to learn the playbook fast and well and make a splash in the eyes of the coach, and, since they're holed up together in the same dorm hallways and have very little time away from each other, camp can be an incredible bonding experience for the entire team.
The one bad thing is the potential for season-ending injuries that can come with intense practices. While we likely won't have to deal with injuries to coaching staff this year, the scholarship reductions leave the Nittany Lions thin at almost every position--and serious injuries could derail hopes of a divisional championship this year. There's been no definitive word yet if O'Brien is looking to limit the number of full-contact practices in camp, much like the PAC 12 has announced, though that seems likely.
Last year's team leadership was apparent well before camp started. This year? Not so much.
Who will step into that leadership void left by the Michaels and other seniors from last year? Seniors Carson, Urschel and Willis are likely candidates, as they were the trio that accompanied BOB to the B1G Media Days. This year, though, leadership might come from underclassmen, with Amos and other members of the Supa Six potentially leading the charge. Whoever fills the leadership void will have to solidify that place in camp, and as last year showed, could be called on multiple times throughout the season to hold the team together in the face of whatever adversity they face, both on and off the field.
So, what say you all? What are you looking for in fall camp?
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