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Last updated: March 16. 2013 11:49PM - 1379 Views
By - dlevarse@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6396



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Bill O’Brien stayed. Ted Roof did not. Signing day came and went without any lingering drama.


By Penn State’s recent standards, it was a quiet winter in Happy Valley.


As the Nittany Lions open spring practice on Monday — leading up to the Blue-White Game on April 20 — they find themselves in the eye of the storm.


Behind them are the worst days of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Still ahead are the full effects of scholarship reductions imposed by the NCAA.


For now, though, the focus is on recovering from a season unlike any other in college football history. Here are five questions facing the Lions as they get back out on the field.


1. Who will replace Matt McGloin?


Ah, yes. For the fourth straight year, Penn State opens the spring without a clear-cut starter at quarterback


McGloin helped matters in 2012 by establishing himself as the starter by the end of spring ball, allowing him to get a headstart on mastering O’Brien’s offense.


The Lions likely won’t have that luxury this season. Steven Bench and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson are the top contenders at the moment as rising sophomores.


O’Brien reiterated this week that he does not plan on picking a starter in April, as he did last year. For one thing, none of the candidates have the experience of McGloin. For another, prized recruit Christian Hackenberg doesn’t arrive on campus until the summer.


As far as handicapping this race, who better to ask than the man who was involved in more hours of quarterback debate than he cares to remember.


“The best man will win,” McGloin said Thursday. “Whatever guy goes home and reads their playbook instead of watching TV or playing video games is the guy that’s going to come out on top.”


It was, after all, McGloin’s work ethic that quickly won him the job last year, soundly beating out Paul Jones and Rob Bolden.


O’Brien and the coaching staff hope that the new crop of signal-callers has the same level of dedication that McGloin showed by working diligently with his receivers during the offseason.


So far, so good.


“I dropped in on a couple of 7-on-7’s (the players) organized,” McGloin said. “They look good. It’s definitely going to be a tough competition. And there’s another guy (Hackenberg) coming in the summer, so we’ll just wait and see.”


2. Which jobs are up for grabs?


Aside from quarterback, Penn State loses seven other starters from 2012 — two on the offensive line, two on the defensive line, two at linebacker and one in the secondary.


Some spots have some clear favorites. Mike Hull at outside linebacker. Adam Gress at right tackle.


Without Matt Stankiewitch at center, the Lions have some decisions to make on the interior. Miles Dieffenbach, Ty Howle and Angelo Mangiro are all candidates to start at center. Any of the three could also end up at left guard, where Dieffenbach started last season.


Across the ball, Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley are gone. Kyle Baublitz and Anthony Zettel are second-teamers from a year ago who have their shot to step up.


As O’Brien said Friday in an interview with ESPN, Valley View product Nyeem Wartman will work with Hull and Glenn Carson at first-team linebacker this spring.


At cornerback, Da’Quan Davis saw plenty of snaps as a freshman and is looking to replace Stephon Morris.


3. Who will provide the leadership?


Just as important as filling holes in the depth chart created by graduation is filling the void left in the locker room.


Naturally it will be impossible for this group to match the job done by the 2012 senior class, which held the program together while on the brink of collapse.


Even back in December, O’Brien preached that the 2013 squad had to start carving out its own identity. To accomplish that, Penn State has the help of six returning starters entering their senior season. That would be John Urschel and Brandon Moseby-Felder on offense and then Carson, DaQuan Jones, Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong on defense.


Other seniors with experience on the field include Gress, Howle, Eric Shrive, Matt Lehman and Nate Cadogan.


Also helping the cause is the group that broke out in 2012 as underclassmen, returning starters such as Allen Robinson, Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes, Donovan Smith and Kyle Carter.


4. How will the defense adapt to John Butler?


For long-time starters such as Carson and Jones, this will be the third straight year they open with a new defensive coordinator.


The Lions have gone from Tom Bradley to Ted Roof and now John Butler, who was promoted from secondary coach in January after Roof left for a job at Georgia Tech, his alma mater.


Butler said he doesn’t anticipate any major overhauls of last season’s system or terminology, so this transition shouldn’t be as tough for the players.


5. Will the roster stay intact?


Penn State looks to be mostly in the clear as far as transfers go. Since the season ended, the Lions have lost just two scholarship players who had eligibility remaining in running back Curtis Dukes and linebacker Brennan Franklin.


O’Brien was confident this winter that the group he has will stick it out. Penn State players still have until preseason camp opens in August to transfer without penalty.


The biggest hurdle remaining could be at the end of the spring. Players who finish the session further down the depth chart than they would like will have a chance to find a new team to play for in the fall.As far as handicapping this race, who better to ask than the man who was involved in more hours of quarterback debate than he cares to remember.


“The best man will win,” McGloin said Thursday. “Whatever guy goes home and reads their playbook instead of watching TV or playing video games is the guy that’s going to come out on top.”


It was, after all, McGloin’s work ethic that quickly won him the job last year, soundly beating out Paul Jones and Rob Bolden.


O’Brien and the coaching staff hope that the new crop of signal-callers has the same level of dedication that McGloin showed by working diligently with his receivers during the offseason.


So far, so good.


“I dropped in on a couple of 7-on-7’s (the players) organized,” McGloin said. “They look good. It’s definitely going to be a tough competition. And there’s another guy (Hackenberg) coming in the summer, so we’ll just wait and see.”


2. Which jobs are up for grabs?


Aside from quarterback, Penn State loses seven other starters from 2012 — two on the offensive line, two on the defensive line, two at linebacker and one in the secondary.


Some spots have some clear favorites. Mike Hull at outside linebacker. Adam Gress at right tackle.


Without Matt Stankiewitch at center, the Lions have some decisions to make on the interior. Miles Dieffenbach, Ty Howle and Angelo Mangiro are all candidates to start at center. Any of the three could also end up at left guard, where Dieffenbach started last season.


Across the ball, Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley are gone. Kyle Baublitz and Anthony Zettel are second-teamers from a year ago who have their shot to step up.


As O’Brien said Friday in an interview with ESPN, Valley View product Nyeem Wartman will work with Hull and Glenn Carson at first-team linebacker this spring.


At cornerback, Da’Quan Davis saw plenty of snaps as a freshman and is looking to replace Stephon Morris.


3. Who will provide the leadership?


Just as important as filling holes in the depth chart created by graduation is filling the void left in the locker room.


Naturally it will be impossible for this group to match the job done by the 2012 senior class, which held the program together while on the brink of collapse.


Even back in December, O’Brien preached that the 2013 squad had to start carving out its own identity. To accomplish that, Penn State has the help of six returning starters entering their senior season. That would be John Urschel and Brandon Moseby-Felder on offense and then Carson, DaQuan Jones, Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong on defense.


Other seniors with experience on the field include Gress, Howle, Eric Shrive, Matt Lehman and Nate Cadogan.


Also helping the cause is the group that broke out in 2012 as underclassmen, returning starters such as Allen Robinson, Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes, Donovan Smith and Kyle Carter.


4. How will the defense adapt to John Butler?


For long-time starters such as Carson and Jones, this will be the third straight year they open with a new defensive coordinator.


The Lions have gone from Tom Bradley to Ted Roof and now John Butler, who was promoted from secondary coach in January after Roof left for a job at Georgia Tech, his alma mater.


Butler said he doesn’t anticipate any major overhauls of last season’s system or terminology, so this transition shouldn’t be as tough for the players.


5. Will the roster stay intact?


Penn State looks to be mostly in the clear as far as transfers go. Since the season ended, the Lions have lost just two scholarship players who had eligibility remaining in running back Curtis Dukes and linebacker Brennan Franklin.


O’Brien was confident this winter that the group he has will stick it out. Penn State players still have until preseason camp opens in August to transfer without penalty.


The biggest hurdle remaining could be at the end of the spring. Players who finish the session further down the depth chart than they would like will have a chance to find a new team to play for in the fall.


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