Some positions still up for grabs

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
2:45
PM ET
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien appears to have most of his starting lineup set for Sept. 1 — with a few exceptions.

O'Brien said Thursday that minor injuries have hampered players at safety and offensive tackle. No punter or kick returner has been named. And six or seven wideouts are jockeying for playing time.

Nittany Nation takes a closer look at each of those positions to see how they stack up:

Wide receivers: O'Brien labeled Allen Robinson a starter here. The other two starters will likely be speedster Alex Kenney and the most experienced of the bunch, redshirt junior Shawney Kersey. Eugene Lewis might grab some playing time later in the season, but those three should see time at the season opener. There's no telling right now who might finish first in receptions.

Punter: O'Brien said he needs to see more consistency here. Junior Alex Butterworth and redshirt freshman Matt Marcincin have shown flashes -- but those flashes have been tempered by ugly plays immediately afterward. Butterworth is more known for his hang time than his distance, and he has seen playing time in each of the last two seasons. O'Brien made no mention of Sam Ficken here, so this has to be Butterworth's job to lose.

Kick returner: With Justin Brown and Devon Smith no longer with Penn State, here's an interesting position. Bill Belton was penciled in the spring as the backup returner, but now that he's the starting tailback, O'Brien is probably not sold on having him also return kickoffs and punts. Adrian Amos is an option here, but O'Brien wouldn't delve into who has been back there. Kenney could be a dark horse. "You'll see on Sept. 1," O'Brien said.

Safety: Jake Fagnano was listed as a starter in the spring -- and recenty told ESPN he expects to start in the opener -- but his hamstring injury has led to some competition for his job. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Jordan Lucas appear to be two guys who have filled in for Fagnano so far and, if he's not ready to go, one of those two will be.

Left tackle: Donovan Smith might be one of the best surprises on Penn State this season -- if he can stay healthy. O'Brien said Smith was also nursing a hamstring injury and hoped he could return to practice Thursday or Friday. Mike Farrell and Adam Gress, the starting right tackle, have been filling in for him in the meantime but likely won't challenge Smith for his job unless he can't go Sept. 1.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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