The depth chart released Monday by new Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien for the Nittany Lions’ season opener against Ohio contains some surprises.
One of the bigger ones is at defensive end where redshirt freshman Deion Barnes, a graduate of Northeast High School, is considered even with senior Pete Massaro of Marple Newtown. Massaro missed some practice time last week because of what he called “a few setbacks” with his surgically repaired left knee.
Some other surprises are at wide receiver, where only one starter – sophomore Allen Robinson – is sure to be on the field for Penn State’s first snap of the season, and at backup quarterback where first-year player Steven Bench is pressing redshirt sophomore Paul Jones for the spot behind Matt McGloin.
Other battles for a starting berth continues at offensive tackle between senior Mike Farrell and junior Adam Gress, and at defensive tackle between junior Da’Quan Jones and senior James Terry.
O’Brien did not name any kickoff or punt returners on his depth chart. The top players from last year’s return game – Chaz Powell (graduated), Devon Smith (dismissed from team) and Justin Brown (transferred) – are all gone.
He did list junior Alex Butterworth as the punter and sophomore Sam Ficken as the placekicker, but named no backups behind them.
Besides Bench, a number of true freshmen have moved into position to play in the season opener.
Trevor Williams is even with junior Shawney Kersey (Woodbury) at one wide receiver position. Eugene Lewis is battling sophomore Matt Zanellato for the backup wideout spot behind Robinson. And linebacker Nyeem Wartman has performed well enough at middle linebacker that he’s listed with senior Michael Yancich at No. 2.
Another freshman, Da’Quan Davis, who has impressed O’Brien in camp, is backing up Stephon Morris at cornerback.
Other positions where players are considered even for a starting berth are at wide receiver with sophomore Alex Kenney and senior Evan Lewis and at safety with Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Jake Fagnano. Fagnano has missed much of pre-season with a hamstring injury.
The entire depth chart can be accessed here: