Power Ranking Penn State's Positional Units for 2014
Like any team, the 2014 Nittany Lions have some bright spots and some...not so bright spots on the roster. Christian Hackenberg and Jesse James are names people will know this fall. As long as the offensive line allows it, of course.
Here's a look at each position on the Nittany Lions' roster from weakest to strongest.
9. Offensive Line
Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon could be starters on the right side and have never taken a snap in a game.
Derek Dowrey is also in the mix for a starting gig at guard and he was a defensive tackle just a few months ago.
The loss of senior Miles Dieffenbach was critical for this unit but there is potential there. It's just hard to imagine such a green unit gelling without some severe hiccups along the way.
Question Marks: Nyeem Wartman, Brandon Bell, Gary Wooten, Troy Reeder
7. Special Teams
Question Marks: Chris Gulla, Dan Pasquariello, De'Andre Thompkins, Troy Apke
It's safe to assume that Ficken has the place-kicking duties locked up and if he can increase his consistency, he has the skills to succeed.
Gulla and Pasquariello will battle for the open punting job and both are capable, though inexperienced.
As far as returners and the units that will surround them, Penn State has several athletic options to fill those positions. Expect to see many of the freshmen get chances on the return teams and even back deep.
Thompkins is a freshman but is going to push his way onto the field with his speed and playmaking ability. He could be the best returner Penn State has had since Chaz Powell or even Derrick Williams.
6. Wide Receivers
Question Marks: Every other receiver; Matt Zanellato, DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin, De'Andre Thompkins, Saeed Blacknall, Troy Apke, Mike Gesicki
Hamilton redshirted last year but has the tools and Zanellato's size and hands will help out, but a few of the freshman are going to be forced into action and they'll need to learn fast. Luckily, talent won't be an issue.
Apke, Gesicki, Godwin, Blacknall and Thompkins are a diverse group who will help to fill every need this season. Gesicki will grow into a tight end but in 2014 he'll be used to create mismatches on the outside. Godwin and Blacknall have the makings of NFL receivers and Thompkins' speed sets him apart from the group.
People who follow recruiting think Apke could be the steal of the bunch with his sneaky speed and hands.
This group will be fun to watch as time goes on but will they be able to adjust to Big Ten football in the matter of a few weeks?
Question Marks: Trevor Williams, Malik Golden, Von Walker, Anthony Smith, Da'Quan Davis, Jordan Smith
Trevor Williams will get the first shot at the corner spot opposite of Lucas, but he struggled at times in 2013. There are several athletic options on the team and more are on the way with the incoming freshman class.
This could be a fluid group all season or at least until the staff finds a foursome they are comfortable with.
4. Running Backs
Question Marks: Akeel Lynch
Akeel Lynch looks like he could end up better than both but he has to improve his pass protections and learn the intricacies of the position.
Question Marks: Michael O'Connor, D.J. Crook
The depth behind him is talented but both O'Connor and Crook are unknown commodities to an extent. Hopefully they'll only be called upon in practice situations.
2. Defensive Line
Question Marks: Austin Johnson, Garrett Sickels, Tarow Barney, Brad Bars
The line will need to be strong to take pressure off of the back seven but they should be up to the task.
1. Tight Ends
Question Marks: Brent Wilkerson
Breneman being 100 percent healed from a knee injury will only make him more dangerous and when Carter is healthy, he's as good as anybody in the conference.
The staff will surely try to use this group to mask the deficiencies and inexperience at receiver. With a little luck, these guys can all have big seasons while the offense flourishes.