Returning Starters: 2*
*Senior guard Miles Dieffenbach reportedly tore his ACL in practice this week.
Key Departures: G John Urschel, T Garry Gilliam, C Ty Howle, T Adam Gress, T Eric Shrive
T Donovan Smith (RS Junior)
G Anthony Alosi (RS Junior)
C Angelo Mangiro (RS Junior)
G Brendan Mahon (RS Freshman)
T Andrew Nelson (RS Freshman)
Highlights from 2013:
Penn State ranked tied for 52nd in the country last year in sacks allowed. Over the 12 game span, the Nittany Lions allowed 22 sacks. The senior-laden unit made the transition for then freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg much easier. Lack of depth and experience, especially on the interior, will be a soft spot for the Nittany Lions moving throughout the off-season.
As aforementioned, Hackenberg will more than likely be under more duress this year than last year, but having a year under his belt will help the offense to blend better. An experienced backfield, including seniors Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak and redshirt sophomore Akeel Lynch, will help out in chip-blocking schemes to serve as another lineman in passing situations.
Only time will tell to see how this unit will develop under first-year offensive line coach Herb Hand.
Some will argue a left tackle is the most important position to have in football and Penn State has that covered. Redshirt junior Donovan Smith started all but one game last year at left tackle.
Smith will be a candidate for Preseason All-Big Ten honors this year.
There are more personnel questions than answers this year. Aside from Smith, not one member of the Nittany Lions offensive line unit has made a collegiate start.
The left side of the line was solidified--until Dieffenbach went down and is likely to miss the entire season.
A starting quarterback wasn't announced until the day of the Syracuse game last year. Let's hope a specific unit meshes well before the season begins.
What to look for in the Blue/White game:
Head coach James Franklin has already addressed the depth concerns leading up to the Spring game. Franklin added that some players will have to switch jerseys during the game just to give everyone an opportunity and look for some sort of connection up front. If that is the case, the in-game experience of playing multiple consecutive downs can hopefully speed up the process and give some of the linemen their first looks at in-game experience in the blue and white.
If you're looking for a player to look for, keep an eye on redshirt sophomore Wendy Laurent. Laurent is a very versatile interior lineman and will more than likely get snaps at guard and center.
Hopefully some questions will start to be answered and some individuals can emerge as early favorites to start after the Blue/White game.