Penn State Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker

Tim Tolley@@TimTolley_BRContributor IMarch 31, 2014

Penn State Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The Nittany Lions are about halfway through their spring camp and some of the uncertainties are starting to clear up. 

    While some positions like quarterback, defensive end and left tackle were never really up for grabs, several other positions, including wide receiver, running back and the interior of both lines, have held fiery competitions so far this spring.

    Here's a look at those battles thus far and an idea of what to expect once spring practice concludes on April 12.

Running Back

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Bill Belton is stronger, Akeel Lynch is bigger and Zach Zwinak is seeing some time at fullback.

    With such a diverse group, there may never be a true leader among the three. 

    Because Penn State will be breaking in new wide receivers, look for the coaching staff to lean on all three of these guys through the season, with varying roles. 

    Zwinak came out of high school as a fullback and would be a dynamic weapon in that role if he could get on the field at the same time as Belton or Lynch. 

    If he can become a capable blocker, defenses will have to respect him as a ball-carrier, a pass-catcher and as a true lead-blocking fullback, making personnel changes difficult.

Wide Receiver

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    Bill Kostroun

    This group will likely take better shape over the summer when Chris Godwin, Saeed Blacknall and Troy Apke arrive on campus.

    Right now, Geno Lewis and Matt Zanelatto are getting the first shot while Richy Anderson and De'Andre Thompkins are seeing plenty of action. 

    Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton may be the wild card of the group, recently having his wrist brace removed.

    Thompkins is the fastest player on the team and is getting plenty of looks in the slot. If he can prove his worth, Anderson could push Lewis and Zanelatto on the outside.

Offensive Line

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    Gene J. Puskar

    The offensive line has been a mix of this and that all spring, and with Rivals reporting that senior guard Miles Dieffenbach has a torn ACL, that experiment will continue into the summer.

    Andrew Nelson is missing snaps with a knee issue, and the "first team" line on Saturday looked like this:

    LT Donovan Smith

    LG Derek Dowrey

    C  Wendy Laurent

    RG Brian Gaia

    RT Albert Hall

    That's two former defensive tackles at the guard spots and a walk-on at right tackle.

    Of course, Anthony Alosi, Angelo Mangiro and Chasz Wright will be in the mix, but right now, this could be the biggest weakness on the team. 


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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Linebacker is another position that will be impacted by the incoming freshman, but right now it looks like Mike Hull, Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman are the favorites to leave spring as starters.

    The biggest shocker here is that Hull may be the man in the middle.

    Apparently the new staff isn't as concerned with bulk up the middle, and it prefers a sideline-to-sideline type athlete in that spot. 

    It may seem a bit unorthodox, but allowing Bell and Wartman to cut the field in half could benefit both of them while Hull's experience and instincts should translate well into the middle.