Penn State Nittany Lions: Sean Stanley

As part of an ongoing series, NittanyNation will preview a different position leading up to the season opener against Syracuse on Aug. 31. Up today: Defensive ends.

[+] EnlargeDeion Barnes
Bradley Leeb/USA TODAY SportsPenn State's Deion Barnes is primed for a big season.
Projected starters: Deion Barnes (2012 stats: 26 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, six sacks, three forced fumbles) and C.J. Olaniyan (2012 stats: 15 tackles, one sack, one start).

Key losses: Sean Stanley (2012 stats: 35 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks) and Pete Massaro (2012 stats: eight tackles, one tackle for loss, five starts).

Next in line: Anthony Zettel will see increased time this season as the top backup in the rotation. He's slightly bigger than Olaniyan (6-4, 258 compared to 6-3, 244) and he finished third on the team in sacks last fall with four.

DE Brad Bars is lost for the season, so that means defensive coordinator John Butler will have to turn to some more inexperienced players to back up those three. Evan Schwan is at the top of the list after redshirting last season, and true freshman Garrett Sickels could also compete for immediate playing time. Sickels was the top defensive recruit of the 2013 class and is already more physically imposing than Schwan.

What to expect: These defensive ends should have no problems with the pass rush. DL coach Larry Johnson has routinely put together lines that finish in the Top 25 in sacks, and both ends are quick, athletic players. Barnes was named Big Ten freshman of the year, and Olaniyan will bat down his fair share of passes this season.

PSU finished 15th in the nation in sacks (34) in 2012, and that number should be pretty similar this season. Barnes should even increase his numbers a bit. That being said, the pass rush is clearly the ends' forte here. Barnes worked on developing his run-stopping skills this offseason because he admitted that was one part of his game that needs to get better.

Last season, the ends struggled at times with keeping runs to the outside bottled up. Still, PSU's run defense wasn't a consistent issue last year -- and it shouldn't be a big one for the ends this year. Run defense just doesn't appear to be as big of a strength as the pass rush.

Recruiting trail: Penn State brought in two defensive ends -- Sickels and Curtis Cothran -- in the 2013 class, so it's not expected to take any in this 2014 class. The 2015 class, however, is another story.

Darius Fullwood (Olney, Md./Good Counsel) impressed the staff during a June camp and already has a PSU offer next to his name. O'Brien spoke to the defensive end on June 8 and already told him the staff could foresee him playing early at PSU. He's No. 225 on the ESPN Junior 300, and he'll be one player the staff keeps a close eye on.

Best-case scenario: Barnes posts Aaron Maybin-like numbers and gains national recognition after a strong rookie debut, while Olaniyan proves he's slightly better than the Massaro-Stanley combination from a year ago.

Worst-case scenario: Injuries plague the line, and Schwan or Sickels are forced to see more action than they usually would. The rush defense becomes the biggest issue of the front seven, and that throws the entire defense off kilter.

Top position question: How good can Barnes be? Well, after just one season, it's pretty clear Barnes has a future in the NFL. He's one of the top overall players on this team, and it's scary to think he has three seasons left.

His parents said, prior to last season, he aimed for 13 sacks. "And when he didn't get that, he was disappointed," his mother said. And reaching double-digit sacks this season is a possibility.

But let's get right to the heart of the question. Barnes has the ability to go down as one of PSU's best pass-rushers of the 2000s. And, if he does reach 10 sacks this season, the record-breaking chatter will undoubtedly start. Courtney Brown holds the school record with 33 sacks; Barnes will need to average nine sacks over the next three seasons -- if he doesn't declare early for the NFL draft -- to tie that record. It's possible.

After all, by Barnes' count, he should've had 10 sacks last year anyway. Regardless of the numbers he winds up with, he's arguably the top pass-rusher in the conference already. And he'll only get better.

Mailbag: DE Bars, run-ons & scheduling 

July, 19, 2013
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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."
Penn State released an updated depth chart today and, although quarterback remains a question mark, some positions certainly became clearer.

Here's a closer look at some of the notable changes:

1. Lots of movement in the secondary.

Adrian Amos
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesA starting cornerback last season, Adrian Amos currently tops the depth chart at safety.
Adrian Amos is the top DB for the Nittany Lions, and he shined at cornerback last season. The versatile player practiced a lot at safety this offseason, though, and the depth chart now lists him as a starting safety alongside ... well, apparently, the other starter still isn't a lock.

Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, who started last season, is listed as Amos' backup. The other starter isn't yet decided, as Bill O'Brien put the "OR" next to Malcolm Willis' name, meaning a competition is still under way between him and walk-on-turned-scholarship athlete Ryan Keiser.

At cornerback, which saw Amos and the graduated Stephon Morris as the 2012 starters, there are two new names to watch. Sophomore Jordan Lucas grabbed one starting spot, while wideout-turned-corner Trevor Williams is listed at the other. Da'Quan Davis is Lucas' backup.

2. TE-turned-OT Garry Gilliam is now up to 305 pounds.

That's a huge turnaround in less than a year. He played the role of blocking TE last year and started the season at 262 pounds. So, in about 10 months, he's gained 43 pounds. That says quite a bit about PSU's strength and conditioning program. He's currently listed as Dononvan Smith's backup at left tackle.

3. Kyle Baublitz will start alongside DaQuan Jones at DT.

Redshirt freshman Austin Johnson received a lot of praise over the spring, and he seemed poised to grab the starting spot. But the more-experienced Baublitz is instead part of the first-string lineup.

Baublitz played in six games last year, and the most recent roster puts him at 286 pounds -- 32 pounds lighter than Jones and 11 pounds lighter than Johnson. He had two tackles and one sack last year.

4. The long-snapper is ... MLB Glenn Carson?

At least for now, it is. Sean Corcoran is an incoming run-on who's expected to compete for the starting snapping jobs, so Carson's name there could be short-lived.

5. Bill Belton remains the No. 2 RB, while Brandon Moseby-Felder will still start opposite WR Allen Robinson.

Neither was a big surprise, but there were questions surrounding both players. Akeel Lynch is the no. 3 RB, while Eugene Lewis-Matt Zanellato are the receiving backups. (Lewis should still see a considerable amount of time on the field, obviously.)

Moseby-Felder nursed a leg injury last season, which slowed him down in the early going, and he could be a nice surprise this season. Early enrollee Richy Anderson might have garnered his share of pats on the back, too, but he's listed as a fourth-stringer. A redshirt could be in his future.

6. Charles Idemudia is the non-scholarship LB to watch.

Yes, the starting lineup is still Mike Hull-Carson-Nyeem Wartman ... but that was never really in doubt. With just five scholarship linebackers on the roster -- six once Brandon Bell gets on campus -- a walk-on was poised to see some time.

PSU's players threw around a couple names, such as Adam Cole and Matthew Baney, but Idemudia is the only non-scholarship LB listed on the depth chart.

7. Kick/punt returners listed.

PSU tried a few different players on special teams last season. But as of now Belton and Alex Kenney are listed as the top-two kick returners, with Jesse Della Valle as the top punt returner. Those three had the most kick/punt returns last season, so it's not a huge shock to see those names again. One interesting change, though? Anderson is the No. 2 PR.

Notebook: A-Rob aiming for improvement

February, 17, 2013
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Allen RobinsonRich Barnes/US PresswireJunior wide receiver Allen Robinson, who set PSU's single-season record for receptions last season, is working to improve his size and strength.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Allen Robinson smiled and cocked his head to the left when asked how he plans to improve, how he hopes to follow up his record-breaking 2012 season.

It's not that he needed to search for words or that he didn't know the answer. The junior wideout just didn't know where to begin.

"I just want to improve all my weaknesses I had in my game last year," he said matter-of-factly.

After setting a school record with 77 receptions, Robinson's weaknesses might not be so evident. His route-running and leaping ability set him apart and made him one of the most dangerous wideouts in the Big Ten.

He finished his first year as a starter with 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns, more than twice as many as Penn State's No. 2 target. But, on Saturday afternoon, he rattled off a list of improvements almost as long as his list of accolades.

First off, he said, he needs to increase his weight and improve his diet. He finished 2012 hovering around 198 pounds, so he felt tired and sore as the season wore on. He's now eating three meals a day --- instead of the usual two if he wakes up later -- and put himself on a 2,500-calorie diet.

"I'm at about 208 right now," he said. "So I just want to be more of a durable receiver, able to get across the middle and take those hits and be a better blocker in the run game."

He's also watching more film, trying to pinpoint cracks in his technique. He wants to throw more footballs with Steven Bench and the stable of young quarterbacks. And he's hitting the weight room -- early and often.

(Read full post)

Penn State Class of 2009 review 

January, 24, 2013
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Experts, fans and pundits will analyze every angle of the 2013 recruiting class in the coming weeks, but there will be no certainties there. There never are in recruiting.

For every elite prospect who falls short, there's an Allen Robinson -- an under-the-radar, two-star prospect who exceeds all expectations. The only true way to gauge the success of a recruiting class is in hindsight, by simply waiting.

So, as part of a RecruitingNation-wide series, NittanyNation took a closer look at PSU's Class of 2009. Some fifth-year seniors will have one more chance to show what they have on the field next fall. But, at this point, it's pretty safe to judge whether the class was a bust or not.


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Next man up: Replacing Stanley, Massaro

December, 30, 2012
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Heading into next season, NittanyNation takes a closer look at holes left by departing Penn State players and the candidates who might fill them.

DEFENSIVE END
  • Who: The defensive line was a strength for Penn State, and Sean Stanley was the Nittany Lions' best end at stopping the run. He played in 46 career games -- starting 19 times -- and there was no controversy heading into 2012 over who would be starting there. Pete Massaro had limited action because of a slew of injuries but remained an above-average backup who played in nine games. He added quality depth to the ends.
  • By the numbers: Penn State boasted the nation's No. 23 rushing defense, and Stanley was second on the line with 35 tackles. He had 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and contributed toward three turnovers. Massaro had just eight tackles, broke up a pass and finished with one stop in the backfield.
  • Job description: If there was one weakness here, it was containing runs to the outside. The next defensive end must improve upon that, although none will be as seasoned as Stanley. At 6-foot-1 and 243 pounds, the next starter will undoubtedly be bigger and might even bat down a few more passes. PSU's starting defensive line didn't disrupt the throwing lanes too much and broke up just two passes the whole season. Massaro will be much easier to replace.
  • Top candidates: Rising redshirt sophomore Anthony Zettel and rising redshirt junior C.J. Olaniyan saw more time than Massaro, and both will be counted on even more in 2013. One will likely take over for Stanley, and the other will be the primary backup. Olaniyan is a very athletic end who can stop the run; Zettel is a strong, quick lineman who played basketball in high school.
  • One to watch: Zettel. At 6-5, he would be the tallest starter on the line, and he showed flashes of potential throughout the season. In a span of 14 plays against Navy, Zettel came away with six tackles and two sacks. He showed the ability to take over a game and finished third on the team with four sacks.

Position review: Complete overview 

December, 5, 2012
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Penn StateAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarPenn State rebounded from an 0-2 start to finish 8-4 in 2012.

During the last two weeks, NittanyNation has reviewed each of Penn State's positions -- complete with summaries, grades, highlights and weaknesses.

For the final review, NittanyNation gives a quick-hitting overview of each position, along with each unit's unsung hero:

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Position review: Defensive line 

December, 1, 2012
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Every day for two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at each position and how Penn State fared over the course of the season.

Today: Defensive line

[+] EnlargeJordan Hill
MCT/ZUMA Press/Icon SMIJordan Hill started slow but finished with a flourish as a senior for Penn State in 2012.
The front seven has always been a strength of Penn State, and that continued in 2012. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill started slow, taking some time to adjust to double-teams, but finished strong and earned praise from other conference coaches, such as Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. He was the star of this line and one of the best in the conference.

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Penn State 10: Week 13 rankings 

November, 26, 2012
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Zach ZwinakAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarZach Zwinak had a career-high 36 carries for 179 yards against Wisconsin.
This is Week 13 of NittanyNation's power rankings, a top-10 list of Penn State players who surpassed expectations and proved most valuable in a given week.

After an overtime win against Wisconsin, several new players were added to the rankings. Some defensive contributors moved up slightly, and a few made big leaps on the list. Whose performance left the biggest impression, and whose contributions were the most surprising? This week's top 10:

1. DT Jordan Hill

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Instant Analysis: PSU 24, Wisconsin 21 OT

November, 24, 2012
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Montee Ball set the NCAA record for total touchdowns Saturday, but the Badgers were unable to improve their conference record as Penn State rallied late for the 24-21 overtime win.

Sam Ficken connected on a 37-yard field goal to open up overtime. Wisconsin responded by fumbling and nearly tossing an interception before Kyle French missed a field-goal attempt wide left from 45 yards.

Wisconsin took the early lead in the game by scoring two quick touchdowns -- including Ball's record 79th touchdown -- but Ted Roof's defense adjusted and allowed just seven points the rest of the way. Matt McGloin, who had only 47 passing yards at halftime, rebounded in the second half and paced the offense.

With the win, Penn State's season ends at 8-4 (6-2 Big Ten) while Wisconsin drops to 7-5 (4-4).

It was over when: French missed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide left in overtime. Glenn Carson nearly picked off a pass on third down, and Sean Stanley pushed Wisconsin back after forcing a fumble.

Game ball goes to: Zach Zwinak. He set career highs in carries (36) and rushing yards (179) and was the constant that Penn State's offense needed. He was never tackled for a loss and even outrushed Ball by 68 yards.

Stat of the game: 27 -- the number of yards Ball rushed for in the second half. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the first half but only mustered 1.9 yards a carry in the second half. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill helped clog up the middle to limit Ball's production.

Turning point: Early in the final quarter with PSU trailing 14-13, Bill O'Brien found himself on Wisconsin's 41-yard line. He opted to go for it, and McGloin connected with Jesse James on a crossing route that ended up as a 41-yard touchdown. That gave PSU its first lead.

Unsung hero: Hill. He's not yet 100 percent, but he might have had his best game of his career Saturday. He finished with 12 tackles and a pair of sacks. He was a big reasons PSU was able to shut down Ball in the second half.

Penn State 10: Week 12 power rankings 

November, 19, 2012
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Welcome to Week 12 of NittanyNation's power rankings, a top-10 list of Penn State players who are surpassing expectations, and those to keep an eye on.

After a convincing win against Indiana, several offensive contributors returned to the list. Some new players also stepped up, and a few made big leaps on the list.

Whose performance left the biggest impression, and whose contributions were the most surprising? This week's top 10:

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Penn State 10: Week 10 power rankings 

November, 5, 2012
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Welcome to Week 10 of NittanyNation's power rankings, a top-10 list of Penn State players who are surpassing expectations, and who to keep an eye on.

After a win on the road at Purdue, several offensive contributors returned to the list. Some new players also stepped up, and a few made big leaps on the list.

Whose performance left the biggest impression, and whose contributions were the most surprising? This week's top 10:

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Penn State 10: Week 9 power rankings 

October, 29, 2012
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Welcome to Week 9 of NittanyNation's power rankings, a top-10 list of Penn State players who are surpassing expectations, and who to keep an eye on.

After a rough loss against Ohio State, quite a few offensive contributors fell off the list. But some new players stepped up, and a few made big leaps on the list.

Whose performance left the biggest impression, and whose contributions were the most surprising? This week's top 10:

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Grading the Lions: Midseason report card 

October, 14, 2012
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Bill O'Brien spent the bye week evaluating his talent at midseason, so NittanyNation felt inspired to do the same.

Here's the Nittany Lions' midseason report card:

Quarterbacks: A

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Penn State 10: Week 5 power rankings 

October, 1, 2012
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Penn StateRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesA number of PSU offensive linemen played well against Illinois.

Welcome to Week 5 of NittanyNation's power rankings, a top-10 list of Penn State players who are surpassing expectations, and who to keep an eye on.

After its best week yet, Penn State seems poised to make an impact on the Leaders Division. Some new players stepped up, some leaders played solidly and a few made big leaps on the list.

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