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Four Nittany Lions Named to Preseason All-Big Ten Team

The Sporting News released their annual preseason All-Big Ten team, and Penn State is one of two schools to have four players honored.

Penn State is represented on the list by Deion Barnes, Kyle Carter, Allen Robinson and John Urschel, tying it with some school from Ohio that has had serious disciplinary issues in the past few days.

Barnes is the only defensive player from Happy Valley to be honored. That may be a surprise, as Adrian Amos and Glenn Carson are certainly worthy of consideration, but regardless, Barnes on this team is a no-brainer. He’s only a sophomore, is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year, a Freshman All-American last season, a member of various preseason watch lists and is a serious contender for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Coming off of a season where he led the Nittany Lions in tackles for loss (10) and sacks (6), and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (3), Barnes was just about a lock for this team. If he improves on those number just a little — and conventional wisdom says he will since he is more experienced — he’ll certainly be on the postseason All-Big Ten team.

Carter, like Barnes, was a Freshman All-American last year and should improve on his very impressive numbers from the 2012 campaign. His 36 catches for 453 yards was second on the team, despite playing in only nine games. Also, like Barnes, conventional wisdom would say that he should get better with experience. Since tight end isn’t exactly a loaded position for the Big Ten, Carter has a great chance at being on this list at the end of the upcoming season.

The two things that may hurt Carter’s chances are Penn State’s quarterback play and the fact that he may not get many looks in red zone passing situations when he’ll be flanked by the 6-foot-7 Jesse James and the 6-foot-6 Matt Lehman (Carter is 6-foot-3), but he’s so good that those things may not matter.

Speaking of which, Robinson is on this team too and is arguably Penn State’s least surprising selection here as he was first in the Big Ten in receiving yards (1,013), receptions (77) and touchdown receptions (11). He is on the preseason Biletnikoff Watch List, set a few Penn State records and racked up several postseason honors last season.

Like Carter, he may be hurt by Penn State’s uncertainty at quarterback, but it may not matter. Robinson is Penn State’s best player and the best wide receiver in the conference. Out of all of the Nittany Lions named to the team, Robinson has the highest expectations to be on the postseason All-Big Ten team.

Lastly, Professor Urschel was the lone member of a loaded Penn State offensive line to be named to the team. You can easily make the case that Donovan Smith can also be on this team, but nobody can complain about Urschel.

One of the premier student-athletes in the country, Urschel is a member of both the Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy watch lists. He’ll be blocking for one of the Big Ten’s best backfields, so it’s not crazy to see him making it to the postseason team.

As for snubs, you can certainly argue for several guys. Amos, Smith, and Carson could all be on this team. James has a chance to have a monster season in Bill O’Brien’s offense in a similar role to Rob Gronkowski for the New England Patriots, but he didn’t have the 2012 season to warrant inclusion on this team right now.

The person who people could be most up in arms about is running back Zach Zwinak not making the team. While he was named to the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award watch lists, he was skipped over here for Northwestern’s Venric Mark and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. Zwinak’s problem is he lines up at the most loaded position in the Big Ten (seven Big Ten running backs were named to the Doak Walker Award watch list), so even if he runs for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns again, both numbers would probably still be worse than multiple Big Ten running backs.

Regardless, it’s remarkable that Penn State is tied for the most members of this team. Not bad for a team under crippling sanctions, eh?

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