When the Penn State Nittany Lions began the 2012 season by losing to the Ohio Bobcats, already low expectations dipped even lower.
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, few people expected much of the Nittany Lions, and the team had been banned from postseason play anyway.
With nothing but pride and head coach Bill O’Brien to play for, Penn State surprised the nation by turning their season around and finishing 8-4.
The Lions will certainly build off of their surprising 2012 season, but there are holes to fill; the biggest one being quarterback Matt McGloin.
McGloin’s play in 2012 was one of the biggest surprises in all of college football. McGloin threw for more than 3,200 yards and 24 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions. With McGloin now gone, should Penn State fans be worried?
As long as Bill O’Brien is coaching this team, they have nothing to worry about. McGloin didn’t go from scrub to stud out of thin air. O’Brien made that transformation happen.
The quarterback battle is likely between two players: sophomore Steven Bench and JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson. Incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg could factor in as well, but the No. 1 quarterback according to ESPN may redshirt and try to win a title after the sanctions against Penn State are lifted. If Hackenberg elects not to redshirt, he is expected to win the starting job in Happy Valley.
But whoever ends up as the starter under center, have faith that O’Brien will turn him into a solid player in no time.
Helping the new signal-caller out will be an offensive line that returns four of five starters from a year ago. The unit was solid in 2012, and is poised to be even better in 2013. In addition to helping out the quarterback, the O-line will try and open holes for junior running back Zach Zwinak, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season.
The youth on offense is widespread: in addition to returning four lineman and their leading rusher, the Nittany Lions also get their leading receiver back in junior Allen Robinson. Robinson racked up 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns last year and will be a nice target for whoever ends up throwing him the ball.
With a solid recruiting class and a nice corps of returning players, the Nittany Lions have a lot to look forward to in 2013.
Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny