When anyone in the off-season talked about actual football related issues with the Penn State football team, the secondary seemed to be one of the biggest areas of concern.
Injuries, lack of depth, players changing positions – these were all concerns as the team headed into camp for the 2012 season.
In fact, many thought the only thing that could keep this year’s defense from being dominating was the secondary.
It’s certainly early but so far, so good, according to coach Bill O’Brien.
“I’ve been very pleased with the secondary,” O’Brien said at his teleconference Thursday. “The secondary has a number of good returning players. Also, there are some young players in there that we think could really help us.”
O’Brien went on to point out Da’Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas – both true freshmen – as young players that can help.
He’s also been happy with the veterans.
“Those are in addition to the ‘steady Eddies’ back there – Stephon Morris, Malcolm Willis and Adrian Amos.”
O’Brien seemed particularly pleased with Amos, stating that he’s had an excellent camp.
“Adrian Amos is a guy we move all around,” the coach said. “He’s a guy that can do a lot of things. We’re happy to have him on the team. He’s one of our better players.”
There’s no question that depth is still in an issue but the one big question mark has appeared to be a solid through the first two weeks of camp.
Linebackers appear strong
Unlike the secondary, there weren’t nearly as many questions with the linebacking corps.
That unit was expected to be a strength and it doesn’t seem that anything has happened to change the anybody’s mind.
Returning pre-season All-American Gerald Hodges leads the way, with Michael Mauti and Glenn Carson also inked in as starters. Mike Hull, Mike Yancich and redshirt freshman Ben Kline will all see time as well.
Hodges as met O’Brien’s expectations so far.
“Gerald is obviously one of the top players on our team,” said the coach. “He had an interception for a TD yesterday in practice; made a heck of a play. He’s being used in a lot of different ways; he’s a guy who has had a really good training camp. Off the field, he’s a guy we will definitely expect to be a leader. We will expect him to do the right things off the field, and the young guys. This is obviously his last year and we expect him to go out there and lead us both on and off the field.”
McGloin and Belton solidify positions
For obvious reasons, quarterback and running back were big focal points as camp started last week. Both positions seem to have worked themselves out at this point.
Matt McGloin, as he was heading into camp, is the starting quarterback.
“McGloin has definitely solidified there,” O’Brien said. “He’s had a good camp. He’s really got a feel for how we operate. He’s getting better every day.”
The former walk-on from West Scranton has had some rough times during his career but he has now been identified as the best quarterback by two entirely different coaching staffs.
As for running back, most fans were distraught when Silas Redd transferred. Obviously, he will be missed.
Bill Belton, though, has clearly separated himself from the rest of the running back corps and has earned the starting position.
“He’s definitely cemented himself as a starter at this point,” O’Brien said. “Other guys will play, but Billy will start the game. He’s had a good camp, he had an 80-yard touchdown run two scrimmages ago, his pass protection has gotten a lot better and he’s catching the ball out of the backfield. Billy’s a good football player.”
Receivers coming along
The transfer of Justin Brown at receiver was another move that many expect to hurt the offense.
O’Brien said there are six or seven receivers that will see playing time and named sophomore Allen Robinson as a starter.
“I think Allen Robinson has had a really, really good camp to this point, and will be a starter.”
O’Brien also said there are four tight ends that will be in the rotation but cautioned against comparing any of them to his former New England players Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
“We’re just asking [the PSU tight ends] to block well, know their route technique and know their assignments. We feel good about the position.”
Marty Valania covers football for nittanylionsden.com. Follow him @EastRecruiting on Twitter.