For those going to the game, there is a new kick time this year (noon), strict rules on what is allowed in the stadium (no bags) and no player autograph session (something will be held during the summer).
If you are interested in what will go down on the field, here is our take on what to watch from the offense.
Expect sophomore Steven Bench and juco transfer Tyler Ferguson to split first-team reps, just as they have done all spring. On the record and off, people within the program have called this battle a dead heat. Both players have reportedly done well with the short passing game -- a key to O'Brien's offense -- but have work to do on the medium-to-long-range throws. More importantly, both are said to be absorbing the offense well, with Bench holding an edge there because he was in the system last year. If Bench has an edge, it is that he seems more comfortable throwing on the run. Nothing will be settled Saturday. In fact, we don't expect anything to be settled until the preseason, when true freshman Christian Hackenberg enters the fray.
Don't expect to see a lot of returning workhorse Zach Zwinak. The staff knows what it has in the bruising redshirt junior. With Bill Belton either limited or sidelined completely with a toe injury, all eyes will be on redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch. Wearing No. 22, the 6-foot, 214-pounder wowed teammates and onlookers by running with speed and power during the spring. How much speed? Lynch holds the team record (since Craig Fitzgerald took over the strength program) for fastest 40-yard dash by a running back at 4.48 seconds. Also be prepared to see a lot of run-ons getting their chance to shine in Beaver Stadium, as the staff is unlikely to pile up too many carries for any of the projected regulars. We'll say first-team fullback Pat Zerbe, who is actually faster than 2012 starter Michael Zordich, has an outside shot of winning offensive MVP honor.
Returning Big Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson is another key player who is unlikely to see extensive action. Also, fifth-year senior Brandon Moseby-Felder is nursing a minor injury and probably won't play at all. But no worries, there will be plenty to watch here. The game will feature the much-anticipated public debut of redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis (No. 7), who is one of the most gifted athletes on the team. Geno, as most call him, had the ability to play last season but the staff opted to hold him out to ease his transition from high school passer to college pass-catcher. We would not be at all surprised if he emerged as the offensive MVP of this game, since he has the ability to make spectacular grabs. Another youngster to keep an eye on is early enrolle Richy Anderson (no. 19), who is the second-team slot (or Z) receiver behind speedy veteran Alex Kenney. The son of former Lion Richie Anderson, Rochy has the ability to do some impressive things after the catch.
Penn State has the best tight end corps in the nation. So even with All-Big Ten pick Kyle Carter and standout early enrollee Adam Breneman on the no-hit list while recovering from injuries, this will be a fun area to watch. First of all, we expect Carter and Breneman to see action but just not be exposed to hits. Then you have senior Matt Lehman and sophomore Jesse James, the latter of whom may well have the most NFL potential (rivaling OT Donovan Smith) on the team. At nearly 260 pounds, James has run a 4.6 40. Wow. But you've seen all of those guys. The man to watch is redshirt freshman Brent Wilkerson, who will be wearing No. 11. Teammates have spent the spring talking him up for his athleticism and good hands. He ran a 4.8 over the winter.
OK, so some of the offensive linemen were reluctant to say there was a definitive starting five heading toward the end of spring ball. We think they were just being politically correct. Expect it to look something like this: RT Adam Gress, RG John Urschel, C Ty Howle, LG Miles Dieffenbach, LT Smith. Veteran Eric Shrive has been seeing first-team reps at both tackle spots and redshirt sophomore Angelo Mangiro is getting similar looks at the guard positions. That appears to be the primary seven-man rotation. Of that group, zero in on Howle, who is taking over for All-Big Ten center Matt Stankiewitch. Outside of whoever ends up starting at quarterback, he is the most important new first-teamer on the offense. Howle is not the most athletic guy but is extremely strong and extremely smart. The most interesting youngster to watch is redshirt freshman center Wendy Laurent (No. 55). He runs with the second team. But, with Mangiro able to play either guard spot or center, Laurent is not a slam dunk to step in should Howle sustain an injury come fall.
Our Guess as Offensive MVP
WR Geno Lewis
Our Guess as Most Improved Offensive Player
RB Akeel Lynch