Blue-White Position Breakdown
The Blue-White Game marks the beginning of spring for many Penn State football fans.
Students across campus wake up from their long hibernation, walk past alumni who have been tailgating for hours and take their spots behind the South-East goalpost to root for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions take on the Nittany Lions. It's a hopeful time, as well as a stressful one. Aspirations are abundant, but there are concerns at every position for this year's team.
A lot rests on the right shoulder of golden boy Christian Hackenberg. But as we saw in the 2013 season, sometimes it's nice to have a backup quarterback that can throw the ball forward instead of cocking his arm back and dropping the ball five yards behind him (Looking at you Tyler Ferguson).
This year, Penn State is very young at the position, but the pedigree of those backing up Hackenberg is encouraging. In the event of catastrophe, four-star freshman Michael O'Connor will likely take over the starting duties and his tape portrays a very similar, if not as proven version of Penn State's current starting QB.
The one thing PSU quarterbacks lack is experience (There will be no QB on the roster older than a sophomore). Well the running back position has experience to spare. The loser of the Zach Zwinak-Bill Belton competition will provide one of the better reserve halfbacks in the Big Ten, while promising sophomore Akeel Lynch and his six yards-a-carry from last season are ready to take over at a moment's notice.
Wide Receiver and Tight Ends
A major worry all winter for Penn State fans has been how the 2014 squad will replace its best player from 2013, Allen Robinson.
The answer? Well, we still don't really have an answer. The talent is certainly there for the team to have a successful receiving corps for 2014, but it will have to be a catches-by-committee system. There won't be one guy that Hackenberg can just wildly throw the ball up to and hope for the best like he did most of last year.
If players like Kyle Carter, DaeSean Hamilton, Adam Breneman and D'Andre Thompkins play at, or over expectations, this position may not be as bad as many are making it out to be.
The offensive line is looking pretty thin for 2014. And if you've seen one of these guys lumbering through campus, you know it may be the first time they've been called that. Graduation for John Urschel and an injury to Miles Dieffenbach have left this position in near shambles.
Throw in a new coach at the position and that catastrophe regarding Hackenberg mentioned above might be more likely than some like to admit.
Defensive Front Seven
Like at receiver, new faces will have to step in for the old ones for the front line to be successful. Defensive end Deion Barnes is expected to be a star pass-rusher once again and Mike Hull will bring experience and leadership behind him.
Other than that, players like C.J. Olaniyan and Ben Kline will have to take that next step in order for this unit to play as well has it has in the past. Because of the competition, pay attention to how head coach James Franklin handles playing time at these positions during this Saturday's game.
Adrian Amos and Jordan Lucas form a pretty formidable cornerback tandem at the back of the Nittany Lion's defense. Throw in Jesse Della Valle and Ryan Keiser at safety and this should be a strength of the team. However, the same thing was said about this unit going into last year and the squad was right in the middle-of-the-pack in terms of passing yards allowed.
Anyone out there know how to punt a football? If you do, head coach James Franklin would like to see you.
There are no scholarship punters anywhere on the Nittany Lions roster. Sean Corcoran will be the long snapper and Sam Ficken will be the kicker. But who will punt the ball?
Maybe James Franklin is THAT confident in his offense that he won't even need a punter. Doubtful, but hopefully it won't come down to that. Franklin still has some time to look around and if your biggest hole is at the punter position, you're doing something right.
Bill O'Brien stressed the importance of keeping back-end players hungry, by sending them out on the special teams unit. It will be interesting to see how James Franklin and crew handle things on kickoffs and punts.
The Blue-White Game is set for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff this Saturday and can be heard on ComRadio.
Brendan May is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt)