Nine Nittany Lions Named Preseason All-Big Ten By Phil Steele
Nine Nittany Lions found themselves on Phil Steele’s College Football Preview across four preseason All-Big Ten teams. Anthony Zettel, named to the All-Big Ten first team, also landed a spot on Steele’s All-American first team.
Joining Zettel on the All-Big Ten first team are wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton and cornerback Jordan Lucas. Defensive tackle Austin Johnson and linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White earned second-team spots, while Christian Hackenberg, Akeel Lynch, and tight end Kyle Carter were named to the third team. Center Angelo Mangiro rounded out Penn State’s presence on the fourth team.
Steele, a popular football analyst and sportswriter, makes his list as a projection of how he sees players performing during the season, so it’s not a “who’s hot now” sort of deal.
Zettel set a lofty goal for himself early in the spring when he said he wanted to be an All-American. The athletic defensive tackle was named a fourth-team All-American by Athlon Sports last year after logging 17 tackles-for-loss and eight sacks. He was the only player in the country to be one of the nation’s leaders in sacks and interceptions. He recorded three interceptions, including an early second half pick-six against Ohio State that nearly brought down Beaver Stadium.
Hamilton set multiple freshman records during a standout year following a redshirt season, quickly emerging as a talented and clutch receiver in an impressive receiving corps. He earned a second-team conference selection after catching 82 passes, the second-most in a single season in school history behind only Allen Robinson. On the other side of the ball, Lucas will return skill and experience to Penn State’s secondary. His seven stops and late sack in the Pinstripe Bowl helped will the Lions to victory.
Johnson also had an emergent 2014 season posting 49 stops — the most on the defensive line — and recovered two fumbles, enough for an all-conference honorable nod. Wartman-White tallied 11 stops at Yankee Stadium and made his name as a ferocious linebacker unafraid to make a big hit. Carter, meanwhile, enjoyed a successful season somewhat overshadowed by other tight ends. But his game-winning catch in the Pinstripe Bowl, his third reception of the evening, will carry momentum into the coming 2015 campaign.
Hackenberg and Lynch are poised to become one of the most dangerous quarterback-running back duos in the conference. In many ways, Hackenberg struggled last season, unable to find time behind a young offensive line. Lynch, who spent most of the year backing up Bill Belton, provided quick bursts during the rare moments there was an available crease up front. But this year, with a more seasoned front five, some playing time under his belt, and the confidence of late-season improvements, the two could combine to form a dangerous offensive threat.
Mangiro, who was forced to play numerous offensive line positions throughout the year, may be the biggest surprise on the list. But throughout a season that saw his unit struggle mightily and assume its fair share of criticism, he became the de facto leader and spokesperson of the offensive line. Now, he’ll have his chance to lead at center, paving the way for Hackenberg and Lynch.
We’ll soon see how it plays out.