- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
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 writes: How will Brad Bars' injury impact depth for the Lions this season? Was he poised for significant playing time?
Josh Moyer: He had high expectations back in February. I last talked to a smiling Bars during Thon weekend, when he volunteered to show host families around the football building. He said this at the time: "I feel like this is the season I'm going to take my game to another level. My expectations have risen a lot. ... I expect to be a key player on the team this year."
We didn't see much of Bars last season but, with the graduation of Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley, Bars would've slid up into that No. 4 DE spot. He was still playing behind C.J. Olaniyan, Deion Barnes and likely Anthony Zettel, but I feel as if he would've take on a similar role this season as Zettel did in 2012, especially when Massaro couldn't go because of injury. Bars played in eight games and had two tackles last year, while Zettel played in every game and finished with 15 stops and four sacks. So, I feel as if Bars' absence would've been pretty comparable to last season if Zettel was lost to injury. If anything, Bars would've been a bit more important.
The health of the remaining defensive ends is paramount now because, if one more guy goes down, then all of a sudden third-string DE Evan Schwan (or, perhaps, someone like freshman DE Garrett Sickels) is the player who'll be giving the starters a breather when it's needed. Defensive tackle is more of a position of concern and Bars' injury certainly isn't a plus for PSU, but the Nittany Lions should be just fine as long as the top three ends can stay healthy.
David Wilson writes: What run-ons do you think have a chance of starting in their careers? Who should we be watching?
Josh Moyer: Let's get the obvious out of the way. The run-on most likely to start is clearly kicker Chris Gulla. I've talked quite a bit about him so, if you're curious about him, you can read all about Gulla right here.
As far as the other run-ons, I'll name a few in no particular order. Out of the offensive linemen, I really like Andrew Terlingo, whom PSU offered a walk-on invitation last summer. He needs to improve his strength, but he has good technique and has a head-start on his pass-protection.
Tom Pancoast is also an intriguing prospect at safety because of his 6-foot-4 size, so I definitely think he has a good shot in the future. And Sean Corcoran could be the starting long-snapper this season, although he doesn't have the size to play -- even as a backup -- on the regular offensive line.
Brandon Smith and Michael Wiand appear to be two of the better run-on freshman linebackers, with Smith turning down Ivy League offers and PSU recruiting Wiand for quite some time. I doubt a starting job is in the future at Linebacker U, but they should be worth watching. Another player worth watching: QB Jack Seymour, who turned down several MAC offers to enroll in PSU. He's an exciting player who flew under the radar because he was a great QB on a bad team. He should evolve into a solid backup.
Robert Passaro writes: The B1G just released its future schedules, which I was initially thrilled about, with it going to nine conference games. But as a season ticket-holder, I was hoping to improve the selection of games, but take a look. In 2014, trip to Ireland aside, four of the seven home games are Akron, UMass, Temple and Maryland. The next three years do not look inspiring to season ticket-holders. What do you think?
Josh Moyer: Well, Robert, I think you're absolutely right -- but I also want to say that PSU is headed in the right direction. For one, at least the B1G teams are no longer scheduling FCS opponents, so fans won't have to sit through anymore PSU-Youngstown State games. Granted, Eastern Michigan and UMass aren't much better -- and, let's be honest, those games will be incredibly boring -- but the schedule's getting there.
The Pittsburgh rivalry is being renewed, West Virginia is interested in scheduling PSU, and the Ireland contest was just announced. There's not much you can do about the poor B1G games, but I feel as if those nonconference matchups should get better as long as Bill O'Brien remains the coach.
I've said this before, but I think scheduling some of these nonconference cupcakes during the sanctions is actually a positive. It gives PSU some easy wins and let's face it, even if there were no sanctions, the BCS rewards you more for a win over a cupcake than a one-point, triple-OT loss to Alabama. Easy nonconference games help you get to better bowls and looks nicer when it comes to the overall record. I'm with you, though. Bring back the Fighting Irish and the Crimson Tide.
The Big Ten bloggers polled PSU fans last month about what matchups they'd like to see and, besides Pitt, there were a lot of mentions for Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame, Alabama and USC. I think it'd be great if one of those five teams could appear on PSU's schedule every season. Definitely beats Eastern Michigan.