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April 7, 2014
What we're watching: Blue-White Game
This story appears in our upcoming Blue-White Game edition of Blue White Illustrated magazine.
To order a subscription, click here.
Penn State will be suiting up for its annual Blue-White Game this weekend, finishing off its spring practice session while propelling the program into the critical summer months before the start of the 2014 season in Ireland.
As part of the latest edition of Blue White Illustrated's magazine, the staff took some time to pick out the few things each member will be most looking forward to seeing on Saturday afternoon at sunny* Beaver Stadium.
* Everyone cross fingers, now.
BWI Web Editor - Nate Bauer
THE SCOOP: Penn State has only played one Blue-White Game while working under the NCAA's sanctions against the program, but the stark reality of scholarship limitations has given the annual sideshow a little more urgency. Only 23 combined juniors and seniors will hold scholarships next season. Beyond the 20 true freshmen who arrive at Penn State in June, the 30 scholarship athletes with three or more years of eligibility remaining this spring figure to play a significant role in the program's success in the fall.
How unseen redshirt freshmen like Brendan Mahon, Parker Cothren, Curtis Cothran and Garrett Sickels perform in the game will have no impact on what happens when the season starts in Ireland in August, but their contributions on Saturday could provide the insight to predict what's coming down the pike. Throw in a few key position changes, top-notch press box coffee and maybe even a bratwurst or two, and this year's spring game might hold my attention as well as any before.
BWI Publisher - Phil Grosz
THE SCOOP: With Penn State having only 75 players on its scholarship roster, depth along the offensive line, at linebacker and at several other positions is a major concern. That's why I'll be paying attention in the spring game to several recent position changes aimed at resolving those issues.
Will Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia be able to bolster a thin offensive line after their move from defensive tackle? Is Anthony Alosi capable of challenging redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson for the starting right tackle position? Will Anthony Zettel be able to replace DaQuan Jones, an All-Big Ten performer in 2013 and a possible second-round NFL draft pick, at the three-technique defensive tackle position? Finally, will Adrian Amos' move from the boundary cornerback position to free safety end up being permanent?
These are critical position switches this spring that need to be successful if Penn State is to beat the odds and be truly competitive with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State this fall.
BWI Magazine Editor - Matt Herb
THE SCOOP: What will I be watching? The clock, mostly. No joke. The only way to lose the Blue-White Game is to have one of your key players get hurt, and that's exactly what happened last year. When Zach Zwinak left the 2013 game with a wrist injury - it would eventually require surgery - you could practically see the thought bubble appear over Bill O'Brien's head as he paced the sideline. "What are we doing here?" he seemed to be wondering.
This year's team is thinner than last year's in a couple of key spots and cannot afford to get anyone hurt, especially along the offensive line. So while James Franklin clearly wants to put on an entertaining show in hope of building enthusiasm for the coming season, the best outcome on Saturday will be if everyone is just as healthy by the end of the game as they were when it started.
The players will have forgotten the final score by the time they leave Beaver Stadium. So will you. What really matters is that everyone is ready to play in the games that actually matter.
BWI Assistant Editor - Tim Owen
THE SCOOP: I played a little bit of offensive line back in the day - nearly 10 years and 40 pounds ago. So, naturally, when I watch football, I focus on the line of scrimmage. Nothing will change at this year's Blue-White Game. Especially since the offensive line is the position unit with arguably the biggest question mark lingering above. With the obvious depth chart shortcomings, we'll get to see how creative this coaching staff can be.
James Franklin said he's considering using the same offensive line for both teams. He quipped that it'll help them get in shape, but it will also provide ample opportunity to see what PSU is working with.
Can redshirt freshman Brendan Mahon live up to the reputation he built on the scout team last year? How are Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia handling the transition from defense? They'll be needed. Will Donovan Smith, the lone returning starter, establish his dominance and reinforce his leadership? If those players are healthy, we'll see April 12.
BWI Recruiting Reporter - Ryan Snyder
THE SCOOP: Penn State will use this year's Blue-White Game to host about 40 prospects, and that may turn out to be a conservative estimate. If all goes well for PSU, the actual number could be 60 or more.
Throughout the spring, the staff has been inviting prospects to visit individually to check out practice, tour the facilities and meet with the coaching staff. By spreading out those visits, the coaches have been able to make sure that their top 50 or so prospects truly feel the love and get the kind of one-on-one attention that can be a difference-maker in recruiting.
The Blue-White Game will be the staff's opportunity to bring all of its top prospects back on campus for one final push before things settle down leading up to the spring evaluation period. The majority of Penn State's verbally committed prospects are expected to be on hand, so the game will give those players an opportunity to talk things over with the remaining targets. As we've seen many times, bonding with fellow prospects can also make a difference.
- News and notes from Penn State's recruiting trail as James Franklin and the new Nittany Lion staff rack up verbal commitments this spring.
- Feature profiles on incoming true freshmen Trace McSorley, Mark Allen, Troy Reeder and Chris Godwin.
Spring Football Report:
- New offensive line coach Herb Hand is working to get his unit into shape heading into the summer before the start of the 2014 season, BWI editor Matt Herb details.
- Special features on wideouts coach Josh Gattis, offensive tackle Albert Hall, spring depth concerns evaluated, spring practice reports, James Franklin coach speak, a roster and more!
- Blue White Illustrated's Tim Owen has complete details and features from Penn State's fourth-straight wrestling NCAA national championship in Oklahoma City. From Ed Ruth, David Taylor, Cael Sanderson and the rest of the Nittany Lions, go deep inside another impressive feat for the juggernaut Penn State wrestling program.
These are just some of the stories featured in this special Blue White Illustrated Blue-White Game Preview issue. Don't miss them, along with men's and women's basketball season wrap-ups, Varsity Views, and editor columns throughout.
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