The spring is typically a period where the Penn State coaching staff makes some potential changes and experiments a bit with some players and positions. This spring has been no different for the Nittany Lions. Take a look at six position shifts and the reasoning behind them.
There are in no particular order. Also, note we left out Nyeem Wartman's moved from OLB to MLB because we plan to address that in a future Six Pack.
Chris Gulla from P to K
The redshirt sophomore (shown above) split punting duties with sophomore Daniel Pasquariello last season and actually set a freshman record for Penn State's punting average (48.8 yards) in the win over Akron. Despite this, Gulla is moving to placekicker, where "he's more comfortable" as Pasquariello and redshirt freshman Robby Liebel compete for punting duties this spring. This allows the staff to focus Gulla's work strictly on kicking as the Lions face the tall order of replacing dependable Sam Ficken. This is a crowded field, with redshirt freshman Joey “Big Toe” Julius drawing positive reviews in the spring. But Gulla is the one man fighting for the job who had actual game experience (albeit at another position).
Change is in the air for Jordan Lucas.
Jordan Lucas from CB to S
Lucas moves back to the position he focused on in high school. He is expected to man the strong safety position opposite sophomore Marcus Allen. The 6-foot, 200-pounds senior is not only moving his more "natural position," but is also thought to be a move to strengthen the secondary by getting more speed into the mix with players like senior Trevor Williams, sophomores Christian Campbell and Grant Haley, and redshirt freshman Daquan Worley. "[Jordan]'s been great about the move and seems excited about it so far," according to one observer.
Haffner will be looking to jack up return men.
Jack Haffner from RB to LB / Adam Geiger from RB to S
While these two moves may seem relatively minor and just a natural shift for some backup depth, they represent an important indicator to the mind-set of the coaches. Both redshirt junior Haffner and junior Geiger were moved from their offensive roles to the defensive side of the ball in order to have their reps focused on refining their tackling. Both are expected to play roles on special teams and "getting them tackle work on every possible rep is big."
Moving from tackle to guard can be tough sledding.
Chaz Wright from OT to OG
The move of Wright from tackle to guard was a surprise to some given Penn State's need for tackles. But with Noah Beh seeing work with the tackles this spring, the guard position was in need of some depth of its own. The 6-7, 328-pound redshirt freshman has seen the bulk of his spring work with the second team, primarily backing up Brian Gaia on the right side. Wright is "getting acclimated" to the inside job and continues to focus on his technique to manage is "gigantic size." Wright is a very strong player but not especially athletic, so despite his size he may actually be a better fit inside.
Blocking is no longer a passing fancy for Brent Wilkerson and Co.
TEs to H-Bs
While not a specific player position change, the shift in calling the tight ends H-backs goes to another adjustment in approach for the coaching staff. Under Bill O'Brien the tight ends we're a foundation point for the passing attack and were basically asked to catch balls. Under Franklin their role has shifted to both making receptions and serving as fundamental blockers in offense. This latter responsibility has been a major focus of the tight ends this spring and expectations are high on the players becoming consistent blockers. PSU has not had a particularly strong blocking tight end since Matt Lehman was hurt early in the 2013 season.
Safety seems to suit Amani Oruwariye.
Amani Oruwariye from CB to S
After some debate as to where the defensive back would end up, Oruwariye is at the position he saw a lot of time at in high school. The redshirt freshman saw work with the cornerbacks last season, but has shifted to safety this spring in an attempt to "get guys where they are most comfortable and effective." Oruwariye received strong reviews on the scout team last season and expected to provide some "impressive depth" to the safety unit behind Allen and Lucas. At 6-1, 198 pounds, he has the size to be effective at safety.