At long last, an official depth chart for the 2014 Penn State football team was released today. Most positions were already set, but there are a few interesting positions that jumped out.
- One of the most interesting developments resides under center. Sophomore — and new captain — Christian Hackenberg is the No. 1 guy, but his backup spot was up for grabs. In what could be considered an upset, freshman Trace McSorley won the No. 2 spot over highly-touted freshman Michael O’Connor.
- At tight end, true freshman Mike Gesicki is listed as the fourth option, behind sophomore Brent Wilkerson, who fills the vacant third tight end spot left by the injured Adam Breneman.
- The starting wide receiver spots will be filled by sophomore Geno Lewis (X receiver), and redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton (Z receiver). True freshman wideouts Saeed Blacknall and Chris Godwin fill in as reserves at X and Z respectively, potentially in slot roles. Coach James Franklin emphasized the fact that many of his players will be cross trained at multiple positions, which will be evident in the wide receiving corps come Saturday.
- Blue-chip recruit and resident speedster DeAndre Thompkins is listed fourth at the F receiver spot, behind sophomore Gregg Garrity and junior Matt Zanellato. Franklin noted that Thompkins is a player that he is very high on, but is not expecting to contribute much yet. He said that typically he does not believe in asking too much of a true freshman, and that Thompkins is a player that could receive a redshirt. However, Thompkins will be ready to contribute just as every other player on the roster.
- The running back stable looks identical to last year, with seniors Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak manning the first two spots, followed by redshirt sophomore Akeel Lynch. All three players are different, and all three are expected to give defenses trouble. Not too many surprises on the offensive line, as many freshman are slotted into reserve roles due to lack of depth. Flexibility is once again emphasized, and many players will be counted on to contribute at multiple positions. The only position bearing the “OR” tag is left guard, where either sophomore Derek Dowrey or redshirt freshman Brendan Mahon will get the starting nod.
- The defensive line will be anchored by redshirt junior end Deion Barnes, redshirt junior tackle Anthony Zettel, redshirt sophomore tackle Austin Johnson, and redshirt senior end C.J. Olaniyan. Nothing here comes as a major shock, as players like Zettel and Johnson were expected to contribute a great deal in the trenches.
- Linebacker is in the same boat, as redshirt sophomore Nyeem Wartman, redshirt senior Mike Hull, and true sophomore Brandon Bell all get starting nods as anticipated. Redshirt sophomore Gary Wooten, who competed for a starting job, will be a key reserve at middle linebacker for Bob Shoop’s defensive unit. Sophomore Von Walker, who played running back and returned punts last season, makes the transition to outside linebacker for 2014. He bulked up in the offseason, and it payed dividends for him. He is listed second on the chart behind Bell, and will be expected to be a contributor all over the field, especially with the special teams unit. True freshman Jason Cabinda is another fresh face who could see playing time thanks to the great camp he had, as he is listed second behind Wartman.
- The secondary is anchored by familiar faces in junior Jordan Lucas (cornerback), redshirt senior Ryan Keiser (free safety), and senior Adrian Amos (strong safety). The cornerback position opposite Lucas will be manned by either Trevor Willams or Da’Quan Davis. True freshman Grant Haley, who is listed as the second corner behind Jordan Lucas, could play a nickel role in certain packages. Haley is also expected to see work as a kickoff return specialist.
On special teams:
- Redshirt freshman punter Chris Gulla won the position battle over Dan Pasquariello and will replace the departed Alex Butterworth. Other than that, no major changes have been made. Akeel Lynch and Geno Lewis will be the primary kickoff returners, with Jordan Lucas and Jesse Della Valle tabbed as the punt returners.
The entire depth chart is below. Only four short days ’til kickoff in Dublin!