Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Unknowns Weigh on Nittany Lions Camp

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Unknowns Weigh on Nittany Lions Camp

Article excerpt

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will hit the practice field for the first time tonight, and coach James Franklin's second year comes with unknowns.

Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg, a projected first-round NFL pick, is looking to bounce back from a shaky 12-touchdown, 15- interception sophomore season. His once young receiving corps has a year of experience now, but for these players, it all starts and ends up front.

Here are five key story lines to watch at camp:

Left tackle development

NFL rookie Donovan Smith will be replaced by either junior college transfer Paris Palmer, freshman Chance Sorrell or right tackle Andrew Nelson.

Palmer continues to fill out his 6-foot-7, 297-pound frame, hopefully hitting 305 pounds in time for the Sept. 5 season opener at Temple.

"He can be a guy that helps us, whether it'll be right tackle, left tackle, we don't know yet," center Angelo Mangiro said. "He came in very raw, around 280 something. . He looks a lot better. He's starting to look like a Big Ten tackle."

If Palmer struggles, offensive line coach Herb Hand could shift Nelson. He started 13 games in 2014 and filled in at left tackle when Smith was injured.

Backup RBs

Five scholarship players behind junior Akeel Lynch have no starting experience. The redshirt freshmen trio, Mark Allen, Nick Scott and Johnathan Thomas, will be pushed by freshmen Andre Robinson and Saquon Barkley.

"We don't do the whole seniority thing," Franklin said. "You look a lot at programs, and we'll probably be more like this in the future, but you look at quarterbacks, you can see there's a model. You look at the running backs, you can see there's a model. I don't know if we're necessarily in that situation right now."

Kicking game

Special teams needs an overhaul after last season, starting with a kicker. Walk-on Joey Julius stood out in the spring. The 5-foot- 10, 261-pounder goes by the nickname "Big Toe" and the former high school soccer player should lead the competition. …

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