- Josh Moyer, Penn State/Big Ten reporter
NittanyNation decided to look at each game and come up with Penn State's top five backups. If a player started at least once (sorry, C.J. Olaniyan) or garnered enough playing time to be considered a starter (so long, Zach Zwinak), then he wasn't considered for this list.
We're looking for the players who compete in every game, the players who contribute every week while mostly flying under the radar. Here is NittanyNation's top five:
1. LB Mike Hull
He might just have a situational role, but Hull already has a knack for the big play. He scooped up a fumble against Navy and rumbled 74 yards for a touchdown, and let's not forget his game-sealing deflection against Northwestern. He's a speedy linebacker who often comes in on passing downs, and he has two deflections and two breakups -- as much or more than every member of the secondary. He has 24 tackles and two sacks, and he contributes just as much as some starters.
2. OG Angelo Mangiro
He's been called upon in every game and has given the interior linemen a much-needed breather. He's an athletic road-grader who's seen a lot of snaps, and he could step into the starting rotation tomorrow without much of a struggle. Mangiro hasn't yet garnered a start, but he plays so much he almost seems like the sixth starter on this line. He also plays some special teams, and he's certain to be at least a two-year starter for Penn State.
3. CB Da'Quan Davis
For a true freshman, he's been playing pretty well. He's one of only three true freshmen to play in every game -- including Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams -- and the secondary doesn't experience much of a drop-off when he's on the field. He broke up a touchdown pass in Week 1 and has flashed a lot of potential. If Stephon Morris goes down with another injury, Penn State will turn to Davis to pick up some slack. He'll get stronger as the season progresses.
4. S Jacob Fagnano
Fagnano isn't exactly a big-play magnet, but let's face it: Without Fagnano, this secondary could be even weaker. He battled with Stephen Obeng-Agyapong for the starting job and, although he lost it, he still sees a fair amount of playing time. He has 21 tackles this season to Obeng-Agyapong's 22. Fagnano isn't the most athletically gifted player, but he's played in 32 consecutive contests for the Nittany Lions -- and that experience is highly valued in a shallow defensive backfield.
5. G/C Ty Howle
Howle overcame a torn pectoral muscle, which many thought would derail his entire season, and returned by Week 4. In the last three games, he's rotated a lot between center and guard. He's provided much-needed rest to Matt Stankiewitch and he's impressed a lot of his teammates. When John Urschel was asked who impressed him the most, Howle was the first name that came to mind. Howle will play a critical role in the second half of the season.
Everyone knows about starters like Michael Mauti and Matt McGloin, but what about the players behind the scenes, the backups who sometimes have just as big an impact on the game?