Editor’s Note: This is the eighth post in a series previewing Penn State football, part of Onward State and StateCollege.com’s countdown of insight and analysis about head coach James Franklin and his team heading into the Blue-White Game on April 12. Read the previous stories here.
With the Blue-White game only 2 days away, Penn State football is almost here, even if it’s only spring ball. We will wrap up our Blue-White Game Position Preview with a look at the Nittany Lion offensive line for the upcoming season.
Key Losses: Center Ty Howle (graduation), guard John Urschel (graduation), tackle Garry Gilliam (graduation), tackle Adam Gress (graduation).
Key Returners: Guard Miles Dieffenbach (injured, most likely out for season), tackle Donovan Smith.
Incoming Players: Redshirt freshman tackle Brendan Mahon, redshirt freshman tackle Andrew Nelson, freshman tackle Noah Beh, freshman tackle Chasz Wright, freshman tackle Brendan Brosnan, freshman tackle Charlie Shuman.
Depth Chart: The offensive line will have a lot of question marks going into the Blue-White game. Every position (besides Donovan Smith’s blindside spot) will be up for competition. The biggest competition of the spring will most likely be the battle between redshirt junior Angelo Mangiro and redshirt sophomore Wendy Laurent for both the center and right/left guard positions. Redshirt junior Anthony Alosi should be a major contributor as well, but an assault charge stemming from a January incident leaves his status on the team up in the air. Brendan Mahon could also start at guard if he loses out to Nelson or vice versa. There could potentially be some interchanging on the line to accommodate the loss of Dieffenbach and the overall lack of depth and experience.
Player To Watch: Redshirt junior tackle Donovan Smith. He is going to be the anchor for Christian Hackenberg this season, as he is not only the most experienced player on the offensive line, but is also easily the most talented. Listed at a massive 6-5, 322 pounds, Smith can hang with the best in the country, and could have a great season.
Prediction: The offensive line will dictate a lot for Penn State’s offensive potential this upcoming season. If the line comes together and meshes as a unit, running lanes will be opened, Hackenberg will have time to make plays in the pocket, and points will be scored. However, if the unit cannot play consistently, there could be trouble. Hackenberg will get hit, and hit hard, and the stable of running backs will have nowhere to run. New offensive line coach Herb Hand has quite the task ahead of him, but if this unit comes together, they could be the key to Penn State’s success on the offensive side of the ball.