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NCAA Football Penn State Nittany Lions

5 Players Who Will Make Or Break Penn State Football’s 2014 Season

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5 Players Who Will Make Or Break Penn State Football's 2014 Season

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Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Two full seasons remain until Penn State can play its way back into a bowl game, but you can confidently bet this team is still fired up to compete in a nasty East Division. With new head coach James Franklin stepping in, expectations are high. Here are five players who will either make or break this season, which is the start of a new chapter in Penn State football.

5. Christian Hackenberg (QB)

christian hackenberg penn state
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

5. Christian Hackenberg (QB)

christian hackenberg penn state
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Hackenberg had an impressive freshman season in 2013, and the expectations are still on the rise for this 2014 season. While I do believe the hype is deserved for this kid, he's still young and trying to adapt to a coaching change so early in his career. This will be an interesting season for Hackenberg.

4. Donovan Smith (OT)

donovan smith penn state
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

4. Donovan Smith (OT)

donovan smith penn state
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With so many questions on the offensive line because of injuries and even criminal charges, there's going to be a great opportunity for Donovan Smith to step up and provide some security on the line. Because depth is bound to be an issue, look for Smith to become something of a work horse this season. Penn State will need it.

3. Geno Lewis (WR)

geno lewis penn state
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

3. Geno Lewis (WR)

geno lewis penn state
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

While we know it's going to be virtually impossible for a single player to replace a guy like Allen Robinson from a season ago, there has to be someone who can step up and play the role of the reliable receiver. I'm looking at Geno Lewis. Behind him, there are plenty more questions than answers.

2. Mike Hull (MLB)

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

2. Mike Hull (MLB)

mike hull penn state
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Hull will be making the switch from outside linebacker to middle linebacker this season, and while this is going to be a fairly experienced defense for Nittany Lions, Hull will naturally be stepping into more of a leadership role.

1. Anthony Zettel (DT)

anthony zettel penn state
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

1. Anthony Zettel (DT)

anthony zettel penn state
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Zettel is another guy moving on the defensive side. Last season he was a defensive end -- this season he's moving inside. I think it suits him well. The focus for Zettel now becomes stopping the run and plugging holes. If Penn State is going to be exposed this season, it'll be on the ground. Zettel now becomes a huge part of making sure that doesn't happen.