Five backups who could step up

Linebacker Mike Hull contributed as a freshman and should see increased playing time. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Penn State's roster might not be brimming with depth, but it still has a handful of talented backups who could contribute this season.

Defensive end Deion Barnes is one of those kinds of players but was already included on an earlier list of breakout underclassmen so Nittany Nation looked closer at the roster to see whom those other solid backups this season might be.

Fans might not buy their jerseys and they might not see a majority of snaps, but members of this group might be called to step up throughout the season:

1. Matt Zanellato. The 6-foot-3, 198-pound redshirt freshman is a hard-working possession wideout. As a high school junior, he didn't receive much recruiting attention at run-first Fairfax (Va.), but he did just about everything possible to get noticed the next year. His family hired personal trainer Greg Petrosian, who once worked with Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, and he transferred to pass-happy Lake Braddock (Va.), where he finished with 94 receptions for 1,756 yards. That work ethic and determination hasn't let up. He showed he meant business in the Blue-White Game by hauling in a deep pass in triple coverage, and he could slowly move his way up the depth chart. He's not a speedster, but his hands are solid enough to allow him to contribute early.

2. Angelo Mangiro. Bill O'Brien said Mangiro has the ability to play both guard positions and should see some time this season. Mangiro was the Nittany Lions' top prospect in the Class of 2011 as the nation's No. 54 overall player, and he's no bust. He's incredibly athletic for a lineman. Next year could be his time to shine, but fans should see a few glimpses of that this season. Watch him closely on those pitch plays when he can pull out and showcase some speed.

3. Jesse Della Valle. The Pittsburgh product's name isn't often mentioned, but the cornerback will be pressed into some service this season. With Mike Wallace's injury -- along with the departures of Derrick Thomas and Curtis Drake -- Della Valle becomes the most experienced backup at CB. Da'Quan Davis might grab some more playing time down the road but, for at least the first few weeks, fans should keep an eye on Della Valle.

4. Curtis Dukes. This bruising tailback has been flying under the radar recently. O'Brien has mentioned how impressive Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch have looked, but there's been no word on Dukes. He missed the spring because of academic issues, but he's simply too talented not to use at some point. At 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, it's a struggle to bring the New York native down. He averaged 5.8 yards a carry last season -- a higher average than Silas Redd (5.1). Imagine Michael Zordich blocking for Dukes in goal-line situations; that can't be something opposing defenses would look forward to.

5. Mike Hull. With a duo like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, it's easy to overlook Hull -- especially before Khairi Fortt transferred to Cal. Still, Hull is no slouch. He'll see the field in some situations as the No. 4 backer and will definitely see an increase from last year, when he saw about 18 snaps a game. He has good instincts, and, with three years of eligibility remaining, he's in line to be a starter sooner than later.