Penn State Football: 4 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expanded in 2014
It's all about adjusting in 2014—both for first-year head coach James Franklin and some of the younger players on Penn State's roster.
Even with a young nucleus, Penn State still needs to replace key contributors and leadership all over the field. To do this, certain players will be asked to step up.
The Nittany Lions have needs to fill on both sides of the ball. Whether that's with a newcomer or a past contributor who will be asked to do more, 2014 will see several individuals emerge that weren't considered household names a year ago.
Here are four players who should see their roles expanded in 2014.
One of Penn State's big recruits from 2011, center Angelo Mangiro could play a key role in 2014.
At the tail end of last season, then-head coach Bill O'Brien stated that Mangiro would compete with Wendy Laurent for the starting center job that upcoming spring, per Lions247. Even though O'Brien isn't the coach anymore, Mangiro's chances of winning the job probably haven't been altered.
He certainly has the size to play against the Big Ten's best interior linemen. Mangiro recently measured in at 309 pounds, five pounds heavier than he was in 2013.
To go from a rotational player to one of the biggest pieces on the offensive line is a big step. If Mangiro plays well during the spring, look for him to finally become a starter in August.
One of the bigger wide receivers on the roster, Matt Zanellato will look to factor into the offense in 2014.
A redshirt junior, he's only caught six passes during his Penn State career. Those numbers aren't helped by the fact that Zanellato's been stuck behind some talented players. The 2014 campaign could be the season he finally steps out of the shadows.
While his potential production has yet to be determined, Zanellato has already begun to stand out in other ways.
Zanellato has reportedly stepped up as a leader this offseason during workouts and spring practice. He won't impact the stat sheet immensely, but he will be looked upon to help mentor the younger receivers.
His leadership on and off the field could translate into trust from both James Franklin and quarterback Christian Hackenberg. That trust could lead to the ball being thrown Zanellato's way more often.
With both safety positions very much up for grabs, look for redshirt sophomore Malik Golden to rise to the occasion in the next few months.
Golden is only in his second year on the defensive side of the ball. After redshirting in 2012, he was moved from wide receiver to safety. Despite the transition, Golden has the potential to be an impactful player for the Nittany Lions.
Both Ryan Keiser and Jesse Della Valle return in 2014, but they do so with one year of eligibility remaining. If Golden is able to impress the new coaching staff, he'll push for some serious playing time. He'll almost certainly be starting in 2015, so getting him acclimated right now wouldn't hurt.
Even with Adrian Amos' expected move back to safety, Golden could still find himself starting in Penn State's secondary.
This one is fairly obvious, given that Penn State needs to replace star wideout Allen Robinson. Wide receiver Geno Lewis looks poised to become Christian Hackenberg's top target on the outside.
Robinson accounted for roughly 46 percent of all receiving yards last year, and that production is going to have to be made up elsewhere. While the tight end group is strong, the wideouts lack substantial experience outside of Lewis.
The redshirt sophomore only had 18 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns last year, but he played in every game and even made four starts. Robinson was just too good, and Lewis' opportunities were limited.
Lewis is a speedy receiver with big-play ability—of his three touchdowns in 2013, two were grabs of at least 54 yards.
He wasn't a player who rode the pine last season, but Lewis will still see his involvement in the offense increase drastically.