ShareThis Page

Penn State notebook: QB competition won't heat up any time soon

| Monday, March 18, 2013, 11:36 p.m.
Bill O'Brien talks with quarterback Steven Bench during the game against Temple on Sept. 22, 2012, at Beaver Stadium in University Park.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Bill O'Brien talks with quarterback Steven Bench during the game against Temple on Sept. 22, 2012, at Beaver Stadium in University Park.

UNIVERSITY PARK — Spring seemed as far away Monday as the Aug. 31 opener against Syracuse, and the snow that blanketed Penn State's campus forced the football team inside as it started preparing for the 2013 season.

Sophomores Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson zinged passes in Holuba Hall during Penn State's first spring practice, as each attempts to become the answer to the biggest question facing the Nittany Lions.

Who will replace record-setting quarterback Matt McGloin will be decided in the heat of August, coach Bill O'Brien reiterated, not the bluster of March. And there is a chance neither quarterback will be tabbed to run O'Brien's complex offense, even though they will split time with the first-team offense this spring.

O'Brien said prized freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg will get an opportunity to compete for the starting job during preseason practice. O'Brien all but grimaced when asked if it would be ideal to redshirt Hackenberg, something that is done with most freshman.

“You bring these guys in, and unless they're injured, you're going to put them into the mix and let them compete, and you're going to play your best players,” O'Brien said.

Thin spots

Penn State has depth issues at several positions, including tailback, linebacker and defensive line.

Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and freshman Akeel Lynch are the only scholarship players practicing exclusively at tailback. A linebacking corps that lost starters Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges and reserve Mike Yancich to graduation is also without Ben Kline (shoulder) this spring.

O'Brien is high on freshman Nyeem Wartman, who received a medical redshirt after injuring his knee in Penn State's second game of the season. Wartman has the inside track to join Canon-McMillan graduate Mike Hull as Penn State's starting outside linebackers, with Glenn Carson manning inside linebacker.

O'Brien also is looking forward to seeing how defensive tackles such as Kyle Baublitz, Austin Johnson, Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia try to fill the void left by the graduation of Jordan Hill and James Terry.

O'Brien has kept an eye on Dowrey and Gaia since former center Matt Stankiewitch praised the two last season.

“I remember him saying Gaia and Dowery were strong guys that can hold the point of attack, and that was good coming from an All-Big Ten center,” O'Brien said.

Injury update

Tight end Kyle Carter (wrist) and strong safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (shoulder) will take part in spring practice but will be held out of contact drills.

Tight end Adam Breneman, a highly coveted recruit who enrolled in January, has been cleared to practice but O'Brien said the freshman will be monitored closely.

Breneman missed his senior season at Cedar Cliff after tearing his ACL last June.

Staying put

Miles Dieffenbach started at left guard last season, and he is staying there even though an updated roster released last Friday listed the Fox Chapel graduate as a center.

O'Brien said there was simply a misprint on the roster.

Ty Howle opens spring practice as the No. 1 center, with Angelo Mangiro and Wendy Laurent also vying to replace Stankiewitch. Mangiro has been hampered by a hamstring injury, O'Brien said.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.