The staff currently feels it has a "good problem" on its hands, according to one observer, with multiple athltes shining in practice and "coming to play." Here's a look at a few players who are expected to make an early impact thanks to their preseason performances so far.
Chris Bell: A player who exudes "confidence," Chris Bell has "shown maturity and respect for his role in the program." As one observer explained, "He sees what the program is all about; Lift For Life showed him he has work to do to refine his physical game, but he isn't scared of competiting head on with the veterans."
At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, Bell has shown good technique with his hands on receptions in Drill 6 sets early on. He is improving his route running, but "plays the ball — he's always looking to get to the ball, rather than waiting for the ball to get to him."
Bell has been working on his ability to get off the line and make crisper cuts, an essential component to the timing routes QB Anthony Morelli depends on. He's aggressive, but is "anxious to learn" and has been working a lot to refine his game, particularly with Deon Butler and Derrick Williams, who have been "coaching" him on breaking off the line and making cuts.
Brennan Coakley: Sidelined last season with a knee injury, Coakley could be a "dark horse in the tight end race." At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he has been described as a "man-child" and having "the frame to add significant size."
Having just recently turned 19, Coakley has tuned heads with his intensity and ability to block and pull in balls. "[Patrick] Hall is the likely starter at tight end, but I wouldn't count out Brennan, he could be sweet at the position," one observer shared.
As another observer said, "The DBs better go slow once the pads go on, cause when he catches one and turns upfield he could level them — he's built like a truck." Currently Coakley is working on getting his base wide and low and holding his blocks this preseason.
For some reason, Coakley did not get a bio in the 2006 Penn State media guide. But don't let that fool you into thinking he won't be in the thick of things at tight end this year.
Derrick Williams: OK, not exactly a surprise impact player, but the role of Williams could compound the impact he has on the team early on. The staff has Williams playing a lot of shift motion through the offense. He has seen drills in the backfield in single, split and some I-back sets. He has also seen reps where he has shifted to the slot and outside to the wing.
Williams is also seeing some quarterback reps, though this has been limited in through the first week. "He's a versatile weapon and the offensive coaches are going to use that to their advantage," an observer said.
Williams, 100 percent recovered from his arm break last season, has "breakneck speed" and "is razor sharp on his cuts." He has shown he can "dip a shoulder to fake out a 'backer like [Dan] Connor or do some Solid Gold dance move to get around a safety. The guys are extra alert when he gets the ball."