Polling the players: Spring surprises

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Every spring, a few players step up and offer the first glimpses of an upcoming breakout season. Often, the media can only guess and project since they're not at every practice, weightlifting session and team meeting.

The players, however, are there and can see who might be the next Deion Barnes or Allen Robinson. So, NittanyNation polled several players inside the Lasch Football Building on Wednesday and also took information from Wednesday teleconferences.

The question: Who's made the biggest impact this spring or who's been the biggest surprise? Here's what Penn State's veterans had to say:

Linebacker Glenn Carson: "I'm really impressed with Jesse James. He's had a great winter. That kid's just an animal. I'm really excited to watch him play this year. I think he's a freak athlete. I think he can do amazing things. And if you haven't been impressed by him yet, I think you're going to be even more impressed by him next year."

Offensive guard John Urschel: "Ty Howle is a great center and a great football player. I'd say he's one of the most underrated football players on our team. You don't hear about him enough. I don't think you guys talk about him enough. I don't think we're going to have any problems with him playing at center."

[+] EnlargeGaia
Davide De Pas for ESPN.comCould defensive lineman Brian Gaia break out for the Nittany Lions in 2013?
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones: "I really think Austin Johnson, Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia. They're young, but they're showing a lot of ability. They're going to be great down the road. I'm happy seeing their competitiveness in spring ball."

Safety Malcolm Willis: "It's a number of guys. If I had to pick one, it'd probably be John Urschel. He comes in every day early and gets his workout in early. And pound for pound, he's probably one of the strongest guys on the team. Mike Hull, he's another guy who works his butt off. Adrian Amos. Zach Zwinak -- I work out with him in the weight room every day, and the amount of weight he can put up, it's crazy. Those are a couple of the guys who have really impressed me so far."

Offensive tackle Adam Gress: "I'd have to say a lot of the defensive linemen are coming along. All of the younger guys are really working hard, and the guys I was playing against on the scout team last year, now those guys are players. They're people we compete with. So that group's made a lot of progress. ... Austin Johnson's definitely made a lot of progress."

Linebacker Mike Hull: "Nyeem [Wartman] has looked good so far. He's doing a great job filling in. I think he's going to be a great player for us. We just need to all come together as a unit. He's looking good so far, so we just have to see how he progresses."

Defensive end Deion Barnes: "I think it would be Kyle Baublitz. I think he's doing a great job right now. Whoever's been talking to him has done a great job because he's come out of his shell. I've never seen him like this before."

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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