Much of the talk surrounding the 2013 Penn State Nittany Lions has been about the quarterback position. The graduation of 2012 starter Matt McGloin and backup Steven Bench’s decision to transfer this spring leaves the Nittany Lions with true freshman Christian Hackenberg and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson. Despite the inexperience at quarterback, Penn State has several key offensive starters returning who will greatly help the new quarterback.
Penn State started last season with questions at quarterback. Though McGloin was the clear starter, he had yet to impress during his first three seasons in Happy Valley. However, he quickly picked up head coach Bill O’Brien’s NFL-style offense and used the talent around him to lead the Big Ten Conference in yards and touchdowns.While leading the conference in passing is a lot to expect from one of the first-year starters this year, it’s not unrealistic to think the Nittany Lions will still be very successful on offense.
The Nittany Lions return 12 players on offense who all started at least one game last year, including eight who were regular starters. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is the best offensive weapon returning, as he led the conference last season with 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns. Joining Robinson at receiver from last year is Alex Kenney, Brandon Moseby-Felder and Matt Zanellato.
The backfield will also have a lot of experience this year. Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton both return in 2013. Zwinak started the final four games last season and led the team with 1,000 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Belton started five games while dealing with injuries and inconsistent play. He finished with just 263 yards and three touchdowns.With both players in the mix this season, the Nittany Lions should have a solid rushing attack. That’s a big help for any young quarterback.
Though the skill position players get all of the notoriety, the oft-overlooked offensive is the core of any successful team. Luckily for whoever is under center for the Nittany Lions in 2013, there will be experienced guys in front of him. Three starters return in Donovan Smith, John Urschel and Miles Dieffenbach.
With a new signal-caller this year, there are sure to be some growing pains. Fortunately, whoever wins the competition between Hackenberg and Ferguson will be surrounded by experienced teammates who have already proven they have what it takes to be successful.
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