One week. That’s all that is left between the oh so long off season, and the start of fall camp for the 2013 Penn State Nittany Lions. As we will do throughout the season, the VBR staff and I will share our thoughts on game predictions, and other big events. Leading up to the start of camp, we will tackle some of the major questions facing Penn State. Today, it’s the biggest question mark, other than quarterback, that PSU must address.
Lead Editor Matt de Bear (@PSUMatt2005)
For me, it’s really quite simple: linebacker depth. I am not sure how that is necessarily answered, but it’s going to be the biggest challenge PSU has to address this fall and throughout the season. The starting 3 (or 4 if you choose to include Ben Kline) appears pretty solid. Behind them, however, there is nothing but unanswered questions. I am intrigued by the long term prospects for Gary Wooten, and true freshman Brandon Bell has a bright future as well. But it remains to be seen how ready either is regular duty at this point. Bill O’Brien hinted at Adrian Amos and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong seeing time at linebacker, and if injuries hit the regulars, expect to see some more creativity.
Staff Writer Eric Sion (@ericbsion)
Since I couldn’t decide on one, I have two big questions facing Penn State this fall (other than the quarterback situation). First is the linebacker unit. We all know what Glenn Carson and Mike Hull have done and what they’re capable of doing in 2013. But that third starter, which looks like it’ll be Nyeem Wartman, has me a little concerned. He has almost zero experience at this level and there isn’t much depth behind him. So the margin for error for these linebackers is obviously very slim. My other question is about replacing Jordan Hill at defensive tackle. Kyle Baublitz is projected to replace Hill and those are some big shoes to fill. Hopefully Baublitz, DaQuan Jones and the other defensive tackles that Larry Johnson has at his disposal can ease the loss of Hill.
Staff Writer Barry Leonard Jr. (@barryleonardjr)
I feel that the defense as a whole is a weakness right now. The defensive line, anchored by Deion Barnes and DaQuan Jones, will be good. However, with the injury to brad Bars, depth could be a concern if any more injuries occur. It’s no secret that the Lions are thin at linebacker with the loss of Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. The starting trio of Glenn Carson, Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman should be solid, but depth could certainly be an issue beyond those three. Beyond being thin at some key positions, the other problem I see with the defense this year is the players at new positions. Former wide receivers Malik Golden and Trevor Williams have both transitioned to the secondary. Additionally, Bill O’Brien hinted at Big Ten Media Day that Adrian Amos and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong could both see playing time at linebacker. Overall, I do think the Lions will be fine on defense as the season progresses, there just may be some growing pains during the early part of the season.
Staff Writer Corey Hunter (@realhuntdog23)
The biggest question mark has to be the lack, or perceived lack, of depth at the linebacker position. A seemingly off-the-cuff comment by Coach O’Brien at the B1G media days addressing the health of his team at linebacker got me to thinking, how much confidence does Coach O’Brien, Coach Butler, and Coach Vanderlinden have in the depth at linebacker? After senior Glenn Carson, who will be returning at the middle linebacker spot, and redshirt junior Mike Hull, who will anchor one of the outside backer positions, PSU has very little in the way of experience. It’s expected that redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman will step up and take the other outside linebacker spot. If that indeed is the case, that leaves redshirt sophomore Ben Kline, redshirt freshman Gary Wooten, and true freshman Brandon Bell as the only other scholarship linebackers on the roster. On Wednesday afternoon, Coach O’Brien discussed the possibility of moving safeties Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Adrian Amos to a hybrid linebacker position in certain defensive sets. This will be something for PSU fans to keep their eye on this fall, especially if one of the starting linebackers goes down with an injury. Having Obeng-Agyapong move up and play at weak side linebacker in a hybrid nickel package would, in effect, allow the Nittany Lions to play with 5 defensive backs on the field to help in pass coverage underneath while leaving four down lineman typically seen in Penn State’s base sets. While the health and depth of the Lions linebacking corps will be one of the biggest question marks this fall, the possibility of moving two of their more athletic safeties into those positions will be worth watching.