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Friday, May 10, 2013
NittanyNation mailbag: Peppers, futures

By Josh Moyer

Welcome to NittanyNation's mailbag! We asked you to tweet or email your questions, and we've selected three to answer in-depth this week.

Jim Murphy (@JimMurphy13) writes: Jabrill Peppers could have left PSU off his list and only made a top three. That leads me to believe we have a real shot with him. I know Michigan is the front-runner but, with a visit coming up and a decision soon, don't you think PSU can land him?

Josh Moyer: I don't. He's kind of like the reverse of Daquan Worley. Worley was a heavy PSU lean, had PSU and RU as his top two, but figured he might as well check out Georgia Tech since his decision was approaching. The Yellow Jackets had a chance to really impress him but still didn't make an impact in the end, just two weeks before his commitment.

Obviously, there's a slightly different dynamic with Peppers -- but I think it's for the same reason. He wants to make sure his top team (Michigan) is the right one. He's not 100 percent sold yet, so maybe this visit helps some. Does PSU have a chance here? Sure it does. It's not a very big one and, like I said, I can't see him as a PSU commit -- but I'm sure this staff is going to do everything it can to reel him in. At this point, PSU doesn't have to outshine the three other schools that Peppers is considering. Penn State just needs to beat out Michigan. It's as simple and as difficult as that.

I think it says something that PSU is even able to get this guy on campus this late in his recruitment, though. I'm sure Rutgers is kind of scratching its collective head on this.

Donovan Smith
Donovan Smith and the current PSU O-linemen are solid, but depth issues could complicate things in the near future.
William Amesbury (@WAmesbury16) writes: With Penn State taking 3 OL in the last class and possibly only one this class, will we have solid depth to complement the skill guys?

Josh Moyer: I was asked in last week's chat about what position might be a future concern, since DB was shallow last year and linebacker depth is a problem this year. And I think the answer going forward might be the offensive line. Obviously, with a future limit of 65 scholarships, maintaining depth is a lot like playing Whack-A-Mole. Once you fill one position, another problem pops up.

And I think OL could be the next to pop up. There'll still be 10 scholarship offensive linemen on the 2014 roster if we count the incoming signees and the 2014 commit-to-be, and that doesn't sound too bad. But when you consider that PSU heavily used nine offensive linemen in its rotation last season, that means something has to give. PSU will probably end up having to scale back on the ability to field nine solid guys like that.

Tanner Hartman is more of a project, Garry Gilliam is transitioning from tight end, and Wendy Laurent is only up to 268 pounds. That doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room with seven other players. On the plus side, Penn State's 2014 starting lineup should still be pretty solid with guys like Miles Dieffenbach, Donovan Smith and Angelo Mangiro. The concern, really, is just depth. This season should be just fine, but I think next season is when PSU will have to pay close attention to this group.

Timothy Bamford writes in an email: I was surprised by your blanket 6-6 prediction. When I go down the schedule this year, I see 9-3 and I'm not being a homer. ... I'll stand firmly by 5-0 start and 4-3 finish. Thoughts?

Josh Moyer: I feel like 9-3 would definitely be overachieving. I said I thought expectations should be at 6-6 because there's still a lot of question marks here and, as I've said before, I think there'll be a drop-off in QB production this season that will have a ripple effect on the team.

The non-conference schedule isn't full of a bunch of locks. UCF finished 10-4 last season, PSU isn't a double-digit favorite against Syracuse, and Kent State is actually a program on the rise. (And the Golden Flashes play LSU the week before PSU so they'll be more accustomed than usual to that level of play.) I think PSU fans should be happy with 4-1 start, and then I think teams such as Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin will pose big problems for the Nittany Lions.

I just think 6-6 is where expectations should be. I think the quarterback situation, coupled with departures of key LBs and new DTs, will lead to some growing pains. At this point, I think PSU likely finishes 6-6 or 7-5. I think they'll be better in 2014, but this is kind of a transition year. They'll see what works when playing with fewer scholarship players and either Tyler Ferguson or Christian Hackenberg will have an extra year of seasoning.