September 3, 2011; State College, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Amos Adrian (4) intercepts a pass during the game against the Indiana State Sycamores at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Indiana State 41-7. Mandatory Credit: Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

Several Penn State Underclassmen Look to Make Early Impact


The Penn State week one depth chart was released on Monday and there was a surplus of young players who have emerged under Bill O’Brien. Between graduation and transfers, there was plenty of room for shifting, and some of the unexpected players took advantage of the opportunity.

No fewer than 14 freshmen/sophomores showed up on the two-deep, with even more making appearances as third stringers who will likely factor into rotations. Among them were RS Fr. Angelo Mangiro, who is listed as the backup Center AND backup left guard. Joining him on the offensive line is starting left tackle, RS Fr. Donovan Smith and third string left guard, RS Fr. Angelo Mangiro. Also listed is true freshman Wendy Laurent, the 3rd string center. Out of them, I’d only be surprised if we see Laurent on Saturday. He has a redshirt at his disposal and it’s rare to see true freshmen get reps on the O-Line. However, Laurent is a big kid (6’2″ 278 lbs) and his listing isn’t a courtesy move.

True freshman QB Steven Bench caught everyone’s attention this summer and has moved into a tie with PJ Jones for the backup QB role. I don’t expect Bench to necessarily play this weekend, but I want to see the kid on the field. Problem is, it doesn’t make sense to burn his redshirt for mop-up time.

Sophomore Bill Belton is the starting running  back and is joined by true freshman Akeel Lynch, who is splitting third string. I fully expect to see Lynch touch the ball on Saturday.

Wide Receiver and tight end are full of youthful players who will make debuts this weekend. Sophomore tight end Kyle Carter is getting the nod at one tight end spot, while freshmen Jesse James and Brent Wilkerson are listed as 2nd and 3rd stringers, respectively. Bill O’Brien has previously admitted that James would see time this season. I expect Wilkerson to, as well.

All four freshmen wide receivers (Trevor Williams, Eugene Lewis, Malik Golden, Jonathan Warner) are listed in the three-deep along with RS Fr. Matt Zanellato and sophomore Allen Robinson, who looks to start against the Bobcats. Of the 11 wide receivers listed, only four have less than three years of eligibility left.

On defense, true freshman DT Austin Johnson has worked his way to third string at one of the tackle positions, which may be enough to get him into Larry Johnson’s rotation. Redshirt freshmen Deion Barnes and Anthony Zettel both look to be factors at defensive end.

At linebacker, both RS Fr. Ben Kline (OLB) and true freshman Nyeem Wartman (MLB) are battling for backup roles. I think we’ll see them both this weekend, though not on the field together. There is plenty of experience there to help ease these kids into their future sp0ts.

No surprise here, but defensive back is loaded with inexperience. Adrian Amos is hardly a rookie, but the true sophomore will be asked to hold down an island this season. He’s joined by true freshmen DaQuan Davis and Jordan Lucas, second and third teamers, at the cornerback spots. Lucas may or may not see action this weekend, but I think you’ll see Davis sooner, rather than later.

When the Nittany Lions take the field this Saturday, they’ll look different. And not just because of the names on the jerseys. Fans will be getting their first look at the future of Penn State football when the Ohio Bobcats come to town.

For all of the latest on the Penn State Nittany Lions, follow VBR Lead Editor Tim Tolley on Twitter.

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  • Willie Green

    Unless Bench actually surpasses Jones for the #2 spot, he should be held in reserve for his RS. Senior walk-on Sunshine McGregor has paid his dues and has earned his time for mop-up duty. If injury to McGloin or Jones reshuffles priorities, then Bench provide excellent depth to step-in and take over the offense.

    • http://twitter.com/TimTolleyFS Tim Tolley

      I totally agree and expect it to go down just as you’ve described.

  • catalacjack

    I think Bench should get some serious time on the field. If Hack comes in next year and is as good as everyone thinks he is then Bench can RS next year. But there is rumor that Hack may look elsewhere. If that happens then we will need Bench with some serious on field time under his shoes. I would really like to see McGregor get one start this season.