Penn State Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season

Tim TolleyContributor IJune 30, 2014

Penn State Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    It's no secret that the Nittany Lions have depth issues, forcing players into action earlier than they probably should be.

    Last year, Christian Hackenberg started from day one, and he was joined by fellow freshmen Adam Breneman, Richy Anderson and Brandon Bell as newcomers taking significant snaps for the Nittany Lions.

    2014 will provide depth issues of its own and a new crop of freshman will get early snaps. Here's a look at which players have the best shot at not only seeing action but also potentially earning a starting job among their new teammates.

     

     

WR/KR/PR DeAndre Thompkins

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Thompkins is the fastest player on the team, and he plays positions where Penn State will be looking for someone to step up. 

    Wide receiver is a wide open competition, and the Nittany Lions haven't had a dynamic returner like him in several years. 

    He's a little undersized, and the staff will need to get creative to get him involved early. However, if he develops as a receiver, he could be too explosive to keep out of the starting lineup.

LB Troy Reeder

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    courtesy of 247Sports

    The recent injury to Ben Kline created more depth issues at linebacker, a position already thin coming out of spring camp. 

    The favorites to play early are Mike Hull, Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell. However, Reeder has the size and speed to compete with them from the time he steps on campus. 

    Nobody would be surprised if Reeder supplants Bell or Wartman on the outside as a starter by the time the Big Ten season gets going.

OT Chasz Wright

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    courtesy of 247Sports

    The offensive line issues aren't as bad on the interior as they are on the outside, and Chasz Wright has prototypical offensive tackle size. 

    Andrew Nelson and Donovan Smith are penciled in as the starters at tackle. Behind them is a group of guards and unproven walk-ons. If Nelson struggles or if the injury bug hits, Wright could be the first guy off the bench in relief. 

WRs Troy Apke, Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin

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    Chris Godwin
    Chris Godwincourtesy of 247Sports

    It's tough to pick out one of this group of stud freshman wide receivers because each one is talented in his own way. 

    Blacknall is a big target with good speed, and he will be a threat in the red zone. Apke has deceptive speed, and Godwin is more of a prototypical wideout. 

    It's almost certain that at least one of these guys will get a couple of starts in 2014, but picking one over the others is a fool's bet.

QB Michael O'Connor

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    O'Connor is the one player on this list that Nittany Nation hopes to not see in the starting lineup this season. 

    Currently battling for the backup quarterback job, O'Connor would probably be the guy to step in if Hackenberg misses any extensive time. 

    While he's talented and capable of playing at the next level, he probably won't be able to fill Hackenberg's shoes as a true freshman.