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Three Reasons for Concern: 2013 Defense

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Over the next few days, we'll be chronicling reasons for delight and dismay in the coming season. Today, Devon worries too much about the defense.

Eric Francis

Depth at Linebacker

I know we're Linebacker U. I know, we've still got Mike Hull--and I'm excited to see him start as you guys are--and there's a three-year starter in the middle named Glenn Carson who, if nothing else, will solidify the position. But beyond that? Nyeem Wartman could burst onto the scene and kick off a career that sees him as the first four-year starter since what, Brandon Short? But he's also a freshman coming off a knee injury that limited him to a game and a half and one tackle last year. And remember that he's not just the next man up, he's replacing Gerald Hodges. Ben Kline, by dint of the fact that he stayed healthy, is the most experienced linebacker on the roster not named Hull or Carson, and he's a sophomore who wasn't really part of the rotation last year. And god forbid anyone gets hurt, because there are only five scholarship linebackers on the team. And the fifth, Gary Wooten, was a late signee and hasn't played a competitive down of football since 2010. Everybody, cross your fingers and pray to the Penn State Linebacker Hating God.

The Coaching Change

It took Ted Roof about a month to realize what he had in last year's Penn State defense, and we went as a fanbase from collective cursing his name to, well, not exactly exalting the guy, but definitely respecting what he had cobbled together with a frequently outmanned squad. But Roof's struggles in the first two weeks contributed to the losses against Ohio and UVA, and as it turned out, neither of those teams were particularly good. John Butler obviously benefits from having spent last year with the team, but there are so many new faces slotting into important spots that it's going to be very hard for him to have an immediate grasp on his team's strengths and weaknesses. Add in the fact that he's a first time defensive coordinator, and that he'll be going up against a solid Syracuse squad in his first game at the helm, and the first few games could see another uncomfortable feeling out process.

The Corners

With Adrian Amos moving to strong safety and slotting in next to to Malcolm Willis, Penn State will likely have as good a group of safeties as they've had in recent memory, especially with the depth Stephen Obeng-Agyapong can contribute. But as of now, both wide-receiver converts--Malik Golden and Trevor Williams--are listed at safety (even though it looked like Williams was playing corner in the Blue/White Game), which limits the depth at cornerback. So are Jordan Lucas and Jake Kiley. While Penn State will probably move some of those guys around, I'm still allowed to panic in the interim, right?

With Amos changing positions and Stephon Morris' graduation, that leaves DaQuan Davis, who was okay in limited exposure last year as the Lions' #1 corner, and even though the Big Ten isn't a passing league, that's worrisome. And the only other scholarship players listed as a CB are early enrollees Anthony and Jordan Smith, and while the latter has apparently impressed during the spring, he's still, you know, a true freshman who, months ago, was lining up against kids who will never play another down of competitive football. The fact that the staff felt comfortable moving Amos to safety says something about what they think of these kids, but right now, Penn State has almost no depth and even less experience at cornerback.