Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 3/21/12

Camp Opens: March 26
Spring Game: April 21

The dawn of a new era is underway in State College, Pennsylvania. Following a tumultuous and tragic ending to the 2011 season there is no doubt that getting back to business under a new regime is something everyone at Penn State is ready to get rolling with. While there are some new faces on the coaching staff, including new head coach Bill O’Brien, there will be some familiar questions for the team on the field heading in to the spring practice schedule.

Stability Factor (1 = chaos; 5 = rock solid): 3

Having a new coaching staff in line is always a question mark for any program, and Penn State is a program that has not seen so many changes since Rip Engle was named head coach in 1950. So it has been a while since Penn State players have dealt with more than one coaching change in an off-season. Since the coaching staff has been put in place though the focus has remained on the future and the players seem to be responding well for now. Will the chemistry and relationships develop further in the spring? Will the coaches recognize what they have and, more importantly, what they do not? For now, we’ll keep the grade in the middle, because it could surprise us or end up a disaster. We just do not know at this point.

Under the Microscope: Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden, Paul Jones (Quarterbacks)

 

Just as it was a year ago, and a year before that, the quarterback position will be under some heavy scrutiny leading up to the 2012 season. Supposing all three players stay with the program, the question will be whether or not younger players like Rob Bolden (junior) and Paul Jones (redshirt sophomore) will be able to grasp the offensive philosophy of Bill O’Brien and adapt to new quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher. Matt McGloin emerged as the team’s regular quarterback as the 2011 season dragged on, although it was not until Tom Bradley was named interim head coach that it became officially set. Will he keep the starting job or is the pressure on?

Locked and Loaded: Silas Redd, Running Back

Silas Redd continues to develop and work to take on a heavier load, and in 2012 Redd could make a run at the Big Ten’s rushing title, which would be impressive with Wisconsin bringing back Montee Ball and Rex Burkhead at Nebraska finishing second in the Big Ten in rushing last fall.

Jockeying for Position: Secondary

Penn State is being hit hard by graduation in the defensive backfield in 2012, losing Drew Astorino, D’Anton Lynn and Chaz Powell. With three starting jobs figuring to be up for grabs, and a number of young players on the roster, it is expected that this could be a problem area for Penn State. Stephfon Morris should be locked in to a starting job and sophomore Adrian Amos is a strong candidate for the other cornerback position. The safety position could see Stephen Obeng-Agyapong finally get a chance to start, with Malcolm Willis likely to grab the other available spot.

Name to Know: Zach Zwinak, Fullback

Zack Zwinak was a highly rated fullback out of Maryland a couple years back for Penn State, and entering 2012 with sophomore eligibility it is possible we see him start to become more of a factor in the running game, when Silas Redd needs a play or two off, or on short yardage downs. Mike Zordich will likely remain the first alternative to Redd out of the backfield but Zwinak has some good potential. Let’s see if the kid can make a case for some more significant playing time to O’Brien and his staff.

Spring will be a success if...: Key defensive players stay healthy

This goes without saying. Every team needs to stay healthy in the spring. Last season defensive end Pete Massaro was injured in the spring for a second time, ending his season before it ever got started. Penn State has seen defensive players injured in spring more commonly in recent years so naturally the emphasis will be on making sure the players are working and practicing hard but also ensure maximum safety where possible.

The other thing, of course, will be establishing a sense of flow among the coaches and players. This is a unique situation for everyone involved and in order to do anything well in the fall it is absolutely necessary that everyone start getting on the same page now.

 

Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast and managing editor of Nittany Lion's Den. Follow Kevin on TwitterFacebook and Google+.

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