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Penn State notebook: Howle, Gress fill openings on offensive line

| Thursday, April 11, 2013, 8:18 p.m.

Penn State's quarterback situation is still wide open with a week left in spring practice.

The Nittany Lions appear to be set regarding who will block next fall for their quarterback — Steven Bench, Tyler Ferguson or incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg.

Center Ty Howle and right tackle Adam Gress have filled the openings left by the graduation of Matt Stankiewitch and Mike Farrell. Howle in particular has impressed right guard John Urschel, a returning first-team All-Big Ten pick.

“I can talk about Ty all day,” Urschel said Thursday during a Big Ten conference call. “He's one of the most underrated players on our team. I don't think we're going to miss a beat at that position.”

That is high praise considering Stankiewitch earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season and will get a chance to play in the NFL.

Howle, Gress and Urschel are classmates, and the fifth-year seniors and will line up together in the Blue-White game April 20. They are slated to join left tackle Donovan Smith, a redshirt sophomore, and left guard Miles Dieffenbach, a redshirt junior, in the starting lineup next fall.

Redshirt junior guard/center Angelo Mangiro and fifth-year senior tackle Eric Shrive have also worked with the first-team offense during spring drills and likely will open next season as the top reserves along the offensive line.

Better safe than sorry

It wasn't hard for coach Bill O'Brien to settle on Glenn Carson, Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman as his starting linebackers.

Keeping the three healthy for most or all of the 2013 season may prove to be a different matter.

The second-year coach has limited contact during spring practice due to concerns about depth at positions such as linebacker and the reality that Penn State will play with scholarship restrictions in 2013 because of NCAA sanctions.

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