“We have some depth, especially on the defensive line.” James Franklin said on Saturday following practice.
Depth hasn’t been a word spoken too often around the Lasch Football Building this spring as the Nittany Lions fill holes in the starting rotation across the board.
Some of those issues come from scholarship restrictions finally taking their toll on the program, while other issues are just the nature of spring practice. Players will always come and go, and filling empty slots is always priority No.1 heading into the next season.
But on the defensive front Penn State is already feeling pretty good about itself.
And it should.
Deion Barnes will anchor the defensive line at the end position, hoping to put together a junior season much like his Big Ten Freshman of The Year campaign. C.J Olaniyan will hold down the other defensive end position after closing out 2013 strong, with Carl Nassib, Brad Bars, and Garrett Sickels all waiting in the wings.
On the interior of the line, Penn State will have to replace NFL hopeful DaQuan Jones, but Franklin seems hopeful that junior Tarow Barney and some younger players will be putting in big minutes for him this fall.
“The move that we made to move some guys from defensive line to offensive line affected us a little bit,” Franklin said. “But we did that because we have a lot of confidence in Tarow Barney and Antoine White, the freshman who just came in for us. We have confidence in them and they’re going to have to play a lot of minutes for us.”
“So the fact that they’re doing a good job allows us to move guys around to offense and we’ve still got pretty good depth there. We’ve got about two and a half to three deep at defensive tackle.”
Aside from Barney and White, junior Anthony Zettel will play a major role at tackle with Austin Johnson and Parker Cothren in the mix as well.
Of the moves that Franklin has made, Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia moving to the offensive side of the ball has been a critical one as the Nittany Lions are still extremely thin at the offensive line position. The loss of Miles Dieffenbach to a knee injury has only exacerbated the situation as Penn State moves into the summer.
The Nittany Lions bring back some experience on the offensive front, chiefly Donovan Smith at left tackle, but there are plenty of new faces taking up roles down the line from him.
Unfortunately for Penn State fans, the Blue White game may not be the best way to tell how the line is coming along. Franklin plans on the line wearing a grey jersey for the event and having two offensive lines playing in the game. But since depth is such an issue at that position, don’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Bob Shoop stays away from bringing eightman blitzes and high contact defensive fronts to the table next Saturday. The Blue White game’s generally vanilla run of play can only give fans and onlookers a glimpse at what issues may or may not exist this fall.
But if things go as they have been the past three weeks of spring practice, fans won’t have to worry that the defensive line is one of those issues.