Coach Franklin recently released the first depth-chart of the season and it is stacked with talent. Fans can expect to see five seniors starting and a total of 15 players who are sophomores or redshirt freshmen in nearly every position. The Nittany Lion defense looks to be one our most powerful weapons this year. Some notable names to look for on the field are senior defensive tackle and captain, Anthony Zettle (Ogemaw, Mich.) and junior defensive tackle Austin Johnson (Galloway, N.J.), who are pairing up to take down whatever comes their way. Likewise, powerhouses like redshirt senior defensive end Carl Nassib (West Chester, Pa.) and redshirt sophomore defensive end Garrett Sickels (Red Bank, N.J.) are anxious to start the season with a bang. Fan favorite, senior strong safety Jordan Lucas (New Rochelle, N.Y.) will also be on the field for kickoff.
Throughout the preseason, all coaches and staff have made it apparent that they have the utmost confidence in our defensive line this season. Frequently referred to as Coach Spencer’s “Wild Dogs,” the defensive line in particular spent hours honing their tackling abilities and increasing their time in the weight room in order to present the ultimate threat to our opposition this season.
Taking a look at the Nittany Lions’ offense, junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) will once again assume his role as a leader on offense. Looking to make a particular impact this season is junior running back, Akeel Lynch (Toronto, Canada). Lynch recently said during an interview that he has been putting in extra time outside of practice in order to work on his speed and skills. After stepping in and making some big plays in 2014, Lynch looks to be one of our most valuable players on offense in 2015. True freshman running back Saquon Barkley (Coplay, Pa.) caught the eye of the coaches and his teammates this preseason, and fans can expect to see Barkley get some field time this season thanks to his lightning-fast speed and quick thinking skills.
In addition to our stellar running backs, household names such as redshirt sophomore receiver DaeSean Hamilton (Fredericksburg, Va.) and true freshmen receivers Juwan Johnson (Glassboro, N.J.) and Brandon Polk (Ashburn, Va.) are looking to make moves on the turf this year. Hamilton had a particularly successful preseason. Not only has he gained muscle and strength since last year, but he mentioned that he spent extra time studying film and plays when not in practice this summer.
Although the Nittany Lions have every reason to be calm, cool, and collected heading into this weekend’s competition, Temple does present some formidable opposition. Twenty-one of its players have started in a number of games, and Temple boasts 10 starters returning on defense. Likewise, Temple’s offense holds 7 returning starters, including their quarterback, junior P.J. Walker (Elizabeth, N.J.).
Fans have a lot to look forward to this weekend and this season. Not only does this Saturday represent the start of what promises to be a magical season, but Penn State recently released the date for the “Stripe Out Game,” which will be held on September 19 for the primetime game against Rutgers. The hope is that fans will wear either navy or white, depending on their location in the stadium, to create an alternating pattern of navy and white. Fans can see which color they should wear by checking out PennStateStripeOut.com.
As Joe Paterno once said, “Believe, deep down in your heart, that you are destined to do great things.” Let’s all take that to heart this week as we support our team in their first game of the season. After all, We Are Penn State.