Penn State Football: 5 Offensive Linemen Who Will Make or Break 2014 Season

Tim Tolley@@TimTolley_BRContributor IMarch 25, 2014

Penn State Football: 5 Offensive Linemen Who Will Make or Break 2014 Season

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Nittany Lions are blessed with talent at depth at a few positions, including running back, defensive end and tight end.

    An injury or a down year from any one player at any of those positions will hardly be noticed as there are capable backups chomping at the bit for a chance to contribute and contribute well.

    The offensive line does not have that luxury.

    Gone from the 2013 squad is All-Big Ten guard John Urschel, starters Ty Howle, Adam Gress and Garry Gilliam (who split time) and backup utility man, Eric Shrive.

    The list of linemen Penn State returns for 2014 who have significant experience isn't very long: Donovan Smith and Miles Dieffenbach.

    Fortunately, Smith has a chance to be the best tackle in the conference and Dieffenbach is a versatile interior guy with good punch.

    Penn State will need big years from some newcomers and healthy years from its proven vets.

    Which linemen could have the biggest impact on the success of the 2014 squad?

     

    View the complete Penn State roster at GoPSUSports.com.

RT Andrew Nelson

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    6'5", 297 pounds

    Projection: Starting RT

     

    Redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson (pictured bottom right), has gained about 50 pounds since his senior year in high school and is the expected starter at right tackle, opposite of Donovan Smith.

    Big things are expected of Nelson, and the pressure is on because there simply isn't a true tackle backing up the tackles who can be expected to succeed while playing multiple snaps.

    Nelson will need to be both healthy and effective for the line to have any chance of being a successful unit.

C Wendy Laurent

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    6'2", 284 pounds

    Projection: Backup or starting center

     

    Laurent saw limited snaps last season as a redshirt freshman but will be called on for more this season.

    He's currently taking snaps behind Angelo Mangiro at center, but Mangiro is more versatile and could be more useful at guard.

    If Laurent can prove he's a capable starter at center, it will give the coaches a little more depth and talent across the line.

    If he doesn't win the job at center, he may get some snaps at guard in practice.

G, T Miles Dieffenbach

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    6'3", 295 pounds

    Projection: Starting RG, backup everywhere else

     

    As the only interior lineman with significant experience, Dieffenbach is moving from the left side to the right for balance between himself and Smith.

    He'll likely serve as the backup at both tackle positions as well, even though he doesn't possess ideal size for the position.

    "Dieff" will be needed as a player and a leader as the senior of the unit.

     

     

     

G Brendan Mahon

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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    6'4", 305 pounds

    Projection: Starting or backup at guard

     

    Mahon was a high school All-American and spent his redshirt freshman year "rebuilding" his body.

    He looks better now and is competing for the starting left guard spot.

    He has the highest potential of any interior lineman on the team and if he can realize some of that soon, he could help make the middle of the offense formidable. 

    If not, Mangiro may be forced to play guard, pushing Laurent into action at center.

OT Chasz Wright

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    6'7", 268 pounds

    Projection: Backup tackle

     

    Wright, a JUCO transfer who recently arrived on campus, has a chance to see significant playing time this year.

    He needs to add weight and adjust to big-time college football, but he has the length and could be a valuable asset this fall.

    If Wright can prove he's capable, he might back up both tackles and be in the rotation early on, letting Dieffenbach focus on playing guard.

    If not, the Nittany Lions won't have a true backup at either tackle position.

    No pressure, Chasz.