Penn State’s first depth chart of the 2011 season is out and the quarterback position remains one of the biggest questions heading in to the first game of the year. The official depth chart lists the starting quarterback as “Rob Bolden OR Matt McGloin.”
This was to be expected heading in to a non-pressure situation against FCS Indiana State, and the first game of the season now appears to be an opportunity to witness the two candidates for the job in a live demonstration against opponents not wearing different uniforms. Bolden and McGloin are expected to see an equal number of snaps, or close to it, on Saturday and the performance of each should lead to a more definitive decision on who will be the starting quarterback on September 10 when Penn State hosts Alabama in State College.
Joe Paterno, who will address the media on Tuesday, will surely be asked about his logic in not naming a starter behind center at this point but his response will likely be along the lines of saying that both are doing a good job and the coaching staff just is not sure what way they want to go with it yet.
Stephfon Green has apparently returned to the team with a new attitude, but he is not listed on the depth chart at running back, full back or on special teams. Silas Redd is listed as the starter and will be backed up by Brandon Beachum and Curtis Dukes respectively. Joe Suhey is once again the first-string fullback, backed up by Michael Zordich.
The offensive line had a few interesting decisions made. Sophomore John Urschel has won a starting job at right guard, beating out fifth-year senior Johnnie Troutman. Troutman was thought to be one of the veteran leaders on the offensive line and was even thought of as a player with some NFL potential. This does not necessarily change that, but it should be a testament to just how much the staff likes Urschel’s growth. Going from left to right on the offensive line, fifth-year senior Quinn Barham will start at left tackle, senior DeOn’tae Pannell will start at left guard, red-shirt junior Matt Stankewitch gets the nod at center ahead of Ty Howle, Urschel starts at right guard and fifth-year senior Chima Okoli will start at right tackle.
Another fifth-year senior, Andrew Szczerba, will start at the tight end position, which has been a position that has been marred by injury recently. Szczerba missed the 2010 season with back problems but seems to have done his job in winning the starting job this off-season. Sophomore Kevin Haplea is listed on the second-string.
As for the wide receivers, Derek Moye and Justin Brown were expected to be named starters, but Shawney Kersey is the new face in the mix. Devon Smith should also be expected to find some time on the field, although he is listed on the second-team offense behind Brown. Smith’s talents will be utilized on kick and punt returns along with Chaz Powell and Brown.
Reaction: No matter who is playing quarterback, it appears as though the decision by the coaching staff was to provide a good mix of veteran leadership in the trenches. Three fifth-year seniors (four seniors overall) and a red-shirt junior give Penn State an offensive line (and tight end) that will look to gel quickly and provide protection for Bolden or McGloin as well as create room for Redd to work with when he is handed the football. Teams that win in college football generally have a veteran offensive line. Might Penn State have a sleeping giant in the trenches?
The defensive line is full of veterans, with Eric Lattimore (fifth-year senior) starting at left end, junior Jordan Hill (junior) starting at left tackle, Devon Still (senior) starting at right tackle, and Jack Crawford hoping to rebound from an injury plagued 2010 season and spring getting the starting job at right end. Should Crawford continue to lag on the defensive line, Sean Stanley will be ready to go behind him. DaQuan Jones will work his way in to the defensive line rotation as well behind Still. Redshirt freshman is listed as second-string behind Lattimore and could benefit from some extra playing time when granted this season to mature in to the next leading defensive end at Penn State.
The linebackers are a bit different than what we expected back in the spring, but the emergence of sophomore Glenn Carson has been validated with a starting job in the middle of the field. With Carson at middle linebacker (Khairi Fortt listed second-string) Michael Mauti stays on the weak side, a position he is comfortable in, with Nate Stupar backing him up. Gerald Hodges starts on the strong side with Mike Hull backing him up.
The secondary is listed as expected all along. D’Anton Lynn and Chaz Powell are the starting corner backs, Nick Sukay starts at free safety, and Drew Astorino gets the start at hero.
Reaction: The only real surprise here is that Carson is starting in the middle of the field. Pay attention to him in week one as he gets his first test against opposing offenses. How will he react being in the middle of a veteran defense? By all accounts he has certainly proven himself worthy of the starting job at one of the trademark positions at Penn State, but now let’s see what he does in a real game with that responsibility.
Chaz Powell and Devon Smith will return kickoffs, and Smith will be joined by Brown to return punts. Ty Howle will be responsible for long snapping for punts and field goals and extra point attempts, as expected. Evan Lewis, and not Anthony Fera, will be handling the kicking duties for Penn State. Alex Butterworth will resume the punting duties as well, ahead of Fera.
Reaction: Fera’s off-field issues may have played a role in the decision, as well as Fera’s health from last season, but Joe Paterno always noted that Fera had a strong leg but lacked accuracy.
As for the return game, this is where Smith can really leave an impact on Penn State and the Big Ten. If he can find some holes to wiggle through and gets decent protection in front of him Penn State could have their own DeSean Jackson suiting up for them.
Penn State has gone through a number of kick returners recently, so it would be nice to see somebody prove themselves as a legitimate returner with sure-hands. As Stephfon Green works his way back in to the picture at Penn State, don’t be surprised if you see him out on the field, as he did at times in 2010, at least in the beginning of the season. Eventually he should get back in to the running game mix.
View Penn State’s full depth chart here.
Follow Kevin’s Penn State updates and conversation on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.