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Roundtable: Who are You Most Excited to Watch During Saturday's Blue-White Game?

The Blue-White Game is only four days away. We discuss the players we're most excited to watch when the Nittany Lions take the field on Saturday.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

We're four days away from the best day of the spring: Blue-White Saturday. At 4:00 p.m., the Nittany Lions will take the field for their annual spring practice in Beaver Stadium, and we will get our first chance to get a (small) glimpse at the 2015 Penn State football team.

There's been a fair amount of turnover between the 2014 and 2015 squads. Since this is our first look at this year's team, we decided to spend several moments discussing the players we're most excited to watch this weekend. Is it an established starter? A freshman? Someone we've never seen before? Well, here's what we had to say:

Jared: Garrett Sickels, Torrence Brown

The success of the defense should very well likely hinge on the performance of the defensive end position. If Penn State is able to find reliable replacements for C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes who can consistently find their way into the opponents’ backfield, the Nittany Lions defense should remain one of the very best in college football. If they struggle, expect to see a step back from a surprisingly dominant 2014 defense.

While there is plenty of potential sprinkled throughout the roster, this is why I am most excited to take a close look at the young defensive ends on Saturday. More specifically, I am looking to see if Garrett Sickels and Torrence Brown appear to be next in line in a long list of dominant defensive ends to wear the blue and white. Sickels received plenty of quality minutes during his redshirt freshman season. He was serviceable, but did not quite jump off the screen. Given an offseason to further adjust to the college game, it might be about time for the highly-recruited edge rusher from New Jersey to make a huge leap. Brown redshirted in 2014 and could be ready to make an immediate impact. The former high school running back possesses off-the-charts athleticism and should develop into an absolute terror at defensive end. Make sure to keep an eye on these two on Saturday, as both could be poised for breakout seasons and make names for themselves far beyond State College.

bscaff: Johnathan Thomas, Nick Scott

Well, I'd really like to see a little more out of our (running) backs. I don't want to get into the whole, 'compare this kid to that kid' thing - you know how I feel about that. But we've been very fortunate to have some good, solid backs over the years. You know Ohio State's got one of them now, number 15...what's that? [Zeke Elliott] Well, he's a heckuva back. He's a good, tough runner. Blocks well. Power between the tackles, has some speed...Ohio State doesn't do much with the screen game to their backs, but he's a heckuva good young back...Reminds me of this kid we recruited a while back [DJ Dozier] - nooo, WHAT? [DJ Dozier?] No, no, DJ was DJ, I remember when he first got here, he was a little too heavy. His mom made a meat lasagne when I visited, and she must have been feeding him a bunch of it, because he was just trying to carry too much weight early on. He thought, 'well, it's college, I gotta beef up' or something. But the difference between an good back and a great back is what he can do to the safety...You know who told me that was Lombardi. He was a fullback at St. Francis Prep. That's Jersey but he was from Brooklyn...But he [Dozier] worked hard, didn't cut corners, and he got his weight under control. We really needed him that year [1983]. Warner was in the pros and we - I really woulda liked to give him more time, but he was the best kid at that position..."Redshirts" were brand new back then, you know. Most kids just aren't ready. People think the opposite now - 'well, this kid or that kid's ready to go' and the passing camps and the rest of that stuff. But I tell you what, that doesn't tell me anything about how they'll do in the classroom. 'So and so says I can play now' - well you gotta pass your boards first. Now DJ, he worked hard, studied, did well on his boards. But, that's not always the case. And if all you wanna do is play football, then this isn't the place for you. What we need to do is make freshmen ineligible. Not every coach - some coaches, I think, feel the pressure 'I gotta win now'. You gotta take it out of the schools' hands...but I'd like to see a little more out of our backs.

Devon: Paris Palmer

Paris Palmer. With Donovan Smith leaving, the LT job is Palmer's to lose, and how the JuCo monster performs could well determine how far the Penn State offense can go in 2015. There's no reason to think Palmer can't be great--he's got the size, and his JuCo performance and prospectus prompted a hard-fought recruiting battle, but Saturday will be our first chance to see whether Palmer's a paper tiger. A year ago, Smith underwhelmed as the entire unit hamstrung John Donovan's offense--the promise of a year more experience for young and new offensive linemen has been more than enough to offset the losses of Smith and Miles Dieffenbach. But that's because Penn State added two presumptive veteran starters--or at least rotation players--in Palmer and Stanford transfer Kevin Reihner. A lineup anchored by a #1 junior college offensive line transfer who lives up to that pedigree could keep Christian Hackenberg upright and open up holes for Akeel Lynch and his merry men of underclassmen. But if Herb Hand is forced to piece together another patchwork group, it could be another long season for the Penn State O.

Cari: Punters, Koa Farmer and the backup QBs

Who's the punter again? (No, seriously, because I don't know if Gulla or Pasquariello should be the punter...) There typically isn't punting in the blue/white game, or not much, so we'll limit my effusiveness over this most Kirk Ferentz of position groups.

On defense, I'm interested to see how they incorporate Koa Farmer--will he be in the defensive backfield, as is rumored as he's been practicing, or will he line up with the linebackers, as he was recruited and is still listed on the roster? He's fast enough to be a hybrid nickel/Star position, and I'm looking forward to see how much of a ball hawk he is, and whether he'll challenge for playing time early.

On offense, I was originally interested to see DeAndre Thompkins or Johnathan Thomas--but then I realized that we won't see much of Hack, and holy hell we actually have what might be two capable backups behind him! So, since Christian Hackenberg will likely only be in the game for two or three series, tops, I'm really interested to see what Trace McSorely and Tommy Stevens bring to the table. We haven't seen either one of them on the field, even though McSorely has been in the program since the summer; he obviously impressed the coaches enough in limited time to pass Michael O'Connor on the depth chart and force him to transfer, so I'd expect him to look sufficiently capable. Stevens, supposedly, has surprised Franklin and Co in coming in much more ready than most incoming freshmen quarterbacks do, so I'm interested to see if there is a wide gap between them, or if Stevens has closed it at all in spring practice.

Matt: Like 10 different guys

The toughest part about answering this is finding someone who is going to play enough to merit getting excited. Sure, we're all pumped to see Christian Hackenberg throw a 15 yard out to the sideline from the far hash on a rope, or Anthony Zettel do Anthony Zettel things. But I would be shocked if either of those guys play much more than 2-3 series each.

So who will play a lot? The guys that haven't played a lot. I'm really excited to see Trace McSorley, even more so given the reports about an arm that's much better than you'd expect, and his overall athleticism. Garrett Sickels has a tremendous opportunity to take control of one defensive end spot this spring, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he has progressed. There is a stable of young running backs in Mark Allen, Nick Scott, and Jonathan Thomas. While Thomas likely won't play much as he continues to get 100% healthy, Allen and Scott have a chance to make a statement before freshman Saquon Barkley and Andre Robinson arrive on campus in a couple of months. There are questions at linebacker with the departure of Mike Hull, and with Nyeem Wartman limited this spring, Jason Cabinda, Troy Reeder, and Gary Wooten have been table to take more reps. All three of those guys will be key this fall. Plus, it will be nice to see Ben Kline just back on the field. He's a great kid, who has dealt with more than his fair share of tough luck injury. Oh, and Joe Julius, because everyone loves a large kicker.

Nick Page: Torrence Brown

There's been a lot of talk about him as the wildcard of the defensive end group, so I'm excited to see him, as we have yet to see him in live action. I pretty much know what we're going to get out of Nassib, Sickels and the rest of the defensive line, but I know very little about Brown. He's the main non-obvious guy that'll have my eye on.

Polak: De'Andre Thompkins, Troy Reeder

This is too easy. De'Andre Thompkins.

We got to see a sneak peak of his talents during last year's game, but I expect to see even more of him this year. Franklin has been raving about him all offseason long, talking about his speed and how he has the potential to be a true game changer on the offensive side of the ball. I'm expecting to see him line up in the backfield, in the slot, out wide and everywhere else that a football player can line up. Honestly, I wouldn't mind if every single play involves him touching the ball in some capacity.

On defense, I'm excited to watch Troy Reeder play. He didn't take part in the game last year since he didn't enroll early, but he still has "future Linebacker U star" written all over him. He has the speed, the instincts and the smarts to become the latest in the long line of LBU greats. I'm curious whether he plays on the inside or the outside, and where he plays on Saturday will likely give away what the staff's plans are for him this season. There are a lot of guys to be excited for, but these two stand out for me, if for no other reason than they are a great glimpse into Penn State's future.

Nick B: Adam Breneman

I'm looking forward to Hack taking a few more snaps before he, you know, transfers. On a more serious note, I really want to see Adam Breneman back on the field again. Hopefully he's got all the injuries out of his system and can become part of the dynamic tight end attack this season with Gesicki and Carter.

Dan: Amani Oruwariye and Daquan Worley.

I'm really interested in all of the young guys in the secondary, but these two in particular interest me. We've seen Marcus Allen and he's very exciting, and Jordan Lucas was a good corner making a late position switch, so his situation has the buzz of the Adrian Amos move to safety. Trevor Williams is inconsistent but an overall positive, albeit somewhat of a known commodity, and we've seen some playing time from Grant Haley and Christian Campbell. But beyond that, there are question marks. Oruwariye and Worley are particularly interesting to me as they both have a year of experience in the program without having actually seen the field on game day. What have they done with their redshirt year? Obviously Oruwariye has shown something that led the coaching staff to move him to safety. And Worley has worked back and developed from a knee injury he suffered during his senior year at Coatesville. How young guys like Oruwariye and Worley contribute will be what grabs my attention.

Evan: Chris Godwin

Godwin was so exciting to watch this past year, and past DaeSean Hamilton, (apologies to Geno Lewis) I didn't see anyone really remain a consistent option in the receiving game. His speed, combined with Christian Hackenberg's huge arm should make for a constant exciting deep threat as long as the Offensive line can be improved from what it was last year. The Pinstripe Bowl really showed what that combination can be capable of when everything is clicking on all ends. I'm really curious to see what kind of roles the Receivers take next year with all the moving pieces. Have to imagine that Hamilton will continue to be the super-stud, while Geno and Godwin will be the deep options, and Blacknall slides in as more of the possession guy, along with Mike Gesicki and Adam Breneman getting the tight end reps over the middle. I think that Godwin could be the guy to take the big step this year, and I look forward to seeing how he plays in the Blue-White game.

Bill: The Running Backs (other than Akeel Lynch), Jordan Lucas

It's basically a given that Akeel Lynch will be Penn State's No. 1 running back heading into 2015, and if his last two years of football are any indication, he should do a fine job in the role. However, barring Lynch turning into Melvin Gordon, James Franklin will likely use some kind of a rotation at running back. The other four guys on the depth chart -- Mark Allen, Brandon Johnson, Nick Scott, Johnathan Thomas -- are all competing for the main backup gig, and this is really the first chance to see what any of them can do on the field. Not only do they have to worry about competing against one another for the lion's share of the carries, but they also have to separate themselves from the pack so far that when Saquon Barkley and Andre Robinson step onto campus, they don't have to worry about them carving into their carries, at least not right away. I expect one of those four to have a big day and generate some buzz for themselves among the fans.

I'm also really intrigued by Jordan Lucas at safety, as a lot of people probably are. Usually in a spring game you don't see established guys get that much run, but I wouldn't be too shocked to see Lucas get a little more time than the rest of the usual starters. Learning a new position is tough for anyone, even someone as good as Lucas, and this is a good chance for him to get some reps in something close to a game environment (well, at least the game environment at Rutgers, minus the trays of sharp provolone and gabagool on the sidelines). Maybe most starters only get 3-5 series, but Lucas is out there for the first half, and I doubt we see him slide down to cornerback at all because Bob Shoop doesn't want to show some of the wrinkles in his defense that involve the senior. This could also impact Marcus Allen's playing time a bit, as Franklin may want him to build up a rapport with his new partner at safety.