It's not as much fun as the day the first depth chart comes out, but this new roster listing still has plenty of talking points. If you haven't seen it for yourself yet, go check it out and re-familiarize yourself with everyone's number, now that we all have to have those all memorized again.
First, let's run through the numbers for the incoming freshman class.
-#26 Saquon Barkley (RB)
-#52 Ryan Bates (G/C)
-#91 Nick Boumerhi (PK)
-#43 Manny Bowen (LB)
-#83 Nick Bowers (TE/H)
-#97 Ryan Buchholz (DT)
-#92 Kamonte Carter (DE)
-#46 Colin Castagna (DE)
-#85 Irvin Charles (WR)
-#87 Dan Chisnea (WR) (No, I don't know why he and Kyle Carter are both offensive players wearing #87)
-#33 Jake Cooper (LB)
-#97 Nick Cox (SN)
-#17 Jacob Erdmann (QB)
-#30 Kevin Givens (DE)
-#57 Steven Gonzalez (G/C)
-#18 Jonathan Holland (TE/H)
-#76 Sterling Jenkins (T)
-#84 Juwan Johnson (WR)
-#31 Daiquan Kelly (LB)
-#14 Jarvis Miller (S)
-#48 Shareef Miller (DE)
-#23 Ayron Monroe (S)
-#16 John Petrishen (S)
-#10 Brandon Polk (WR)
-#29 John Reid (CB)
-#6 Andre Robinson (RB)
-#82 Tyler Shoop (WR)
-#4 Tommy Stevens (QB)
-#17 Garrett Taylor (CB)
-#54 Robert Windsor (DE)
Again, this isn't as much fun as a depth chart, but it sure has some interesting pieces to it. Let's look more closely at some very interesting pieces of this roster.
The Offensive Line
As will be a common theme throughout the roster thanks to the fact that it is still rebuilding in the wake of #sanctions, there is not a lot of room between the projected starters on the offensive line, and the incoming freshmen, particularly on the interior.
Assuming that the opening day lineup goes (from left to right), Paris Palmer, Brian Gaia, Angelo Mangiro, Brendan Mahon, Andrew Nelson, or some variation of those five, the only guys on the roster who the staff would likely put into the game without hesitation over the freshmen are Wendy Laurent, Kevin Reihner, Derek Dowrey and Chasz Wright. Sure, you can look at that and say there are four guys for three interior backup roles, but offensive linemen typically do not make it through a full season without some kind of ailment at some point. If any of these guys have to miss time due to injury, it will be interesting to see how willing the staff is to put one of the freshmen into the game.
Gonzalez already has the size to play, at 6'4" and 324 pounds, and Bates already has very advanced run blocking skills. It will also be interesting to see if Bates finds his way into the center depth or guard depth, come depth chart day. Franklin initially said on National Signing Day that he would be working primarily at center, but with another center in the 2016 recruiting class (Connor McGovern), that spot may not be as much of a need as previously believed.
Defensive Line Re-Shuffling
Throughout their recruitment, it was widely believed that the staff ultimately had plans to move Kamonte Carter to defensive tackle. Well, it appears that said switch has not been made yet, as Carter will begin his Penn State career as a defensive end. Conversely, Ryan Buchholz had the look of someone who would be able to stick at defensive end thanks to his pass rushing capabilities. However, he is listed at defensive tackle in this edition of the roster.
This is noteworthy for a few reasons. One, clearly the staff likes the idea of the 6'6" Buchholz being able to use his length to help clog up the middle of the field. It will be interesting to see how much weight he adds to play on the interior, and it will eventually give clues as to what the staff actually plans on doing with him in the long run. In the present, however, Buchholz finds himself right in the middle of things at a very open position after the two entrenched starters (Zettel and Johnson). In fact, the only other defensive tackles on the roster are Tarow Barney, Parker Cothren, Joe Holmes and Antoine White. Barney is a physical specimen and a workout warrior, and White got a ton of praise last year. But it's not too difficult to see Buchholz getting legitimate amounts of playing time with the current roster set-up.
Part of that lack of defensive tackle depth, is also thanks to the fact that Robert Windsor, who was classified as a defensive tackle during his recruitment, is listed as defensive end. There have been lots of reports about Windsor's positive weight gain, and he's currently standing at 286 pounds. Whether the plan is to move Windsor back at some point is yet to be seen.
The Wide Receivers
Penn State brought in three more highly touted receivers with the 2015 class, in four star recruits Juwan Johnson, Irvin Charles and Brandon Polk. Charles and Johnson have been impressive thus far, and it's not too hard to see why. Both are standing at 6'4" and 213 pounds, which means they are tied for being the biggest receiver on the roster. The next closest is Saeed Blacknall at 6'3", 211 pounds. Those two will both likely see the field this season.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Brandon Polk is still on the small side, at 5'9" and 163 pounds. He is all but guaranteed to receive a redshirt this season to focus on building up good weight so he doesn't get killed in the Big Ten. He will follow a similar path to 2014 recruit, DeAndre Thompkins, who is up to a solid 185 pounds to go with his 5'11" frame for the upcoming season.
- Saquon Barkley is already at 215 pounds and hasn't lost any speed. The redshirt freshmen from last year's class (Johnathan Thomas, Mark Allen, Nick Scott) will try to hold him off as best they can, but Barkley seems like a man on a mission. He is going to come hard after that number two spot behind Akeel Lynch, but with how much the staff likes rotating running backs, he'll see the field this season whether he wins that role or not.
- Nick Bowers wasn't the most highly recruited players in the 2015 class, but he could end up being one of the best. Already at 6'4", 255 pounds, he is the heaviest tight end on the roster, and trails only Mike Gesicki in height. He is the best equipped of the group to be a true blocking tight end, but his playmaking skills are too impressive to simply pigeonhole him as a blocker. I don't know how much he'll play this season, but being able to watch and learn from Adam Breneman will be great for Bowers, and will give him a good look at how he will likely fit into the offense in the future.
- Anthony Zettel, in his quest to prove that he is more than simply a dominating college defensive tackle, is up to 284 pounds. Take notice, NFL. The next Penn State defensive tackle star is here and waiting.
- Four of the offense's most important players, Christian Hackenberg, Adam Breneman, DaeSean Hamilton and Andrew Nelson, all slimmed down a bit over the offseason. Surely, each of them is looking to be a little faster and more agile for the upcoming season (and don't worry, Andrew Nelson is still 290 pounds).
- Junior College transfer Paris Palmer is up to 297 pounds, and still looks as fit and athletic as ever.
- Most importantly, the current frontrunner for the starting kicker role, Joey Julius, decided that there's no sense in holding anything back, and has bulked up from 244 pounds to 261 pounds. That makes him heavier than 92 other members of the team, and the same weight as defensive end Curtis Cothren. You're fighting the good fight, Joey. Keep making us proud.
I know I didn't talk about everything there is to talk about with the roster. So weigh in below, what else surprised you about the new roster?