Pre season football practice begins Monday for the 2012 Nittany Lions and there will be some familiar faces missing.
All of the natural born world has heard about PSU's star tailback Silas Redd transferring to USC, which in turn affects the Nittany Lions depth immensely at the running back spot. Other Nittany Lions have also decided to depart totaling eight in all, that will also affect the depth at certain positions. Let's take a look at who has left, who is still rumored to leave, and what the 2012 Nittany Lions roster might look like going into pre season practice come monday.
Running Back Transfers: Silas Redd (USC); Projected starter: Bill Belton (5-10 196). Sophomore Bill Belton has now stepped into the starting running back role with the departure of Redd. Belton is making the full-time switch to running back after playing the slot and was the main force in the "Wild Lion" wildcat type offense last season. The loss of Redd serves as a big blow to the Nittany Lion offense as coach Bill O'Brien stated many times that Redd was going to be the focal point. Without Redd to pound the rock, the passing game is going to become that much more important. The question is if Matt McGloin can be the man to shoulder the load of the PSU offense, which if history has any indication of the answer to that question, it could be a rough year at State College. O'Brien's scheme is sure to give McGloin opportunities, but will he take advantage?
Incoming freshman RB Akeel Lynch, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year last season in New York is reported to be choosing between Iowa and Penn State. Iowa has had some issues of their own lately, most recently with them dismissing running back De'Andre Johnson and also with some injuries to their backfield. This means Lynch would have the chance to play right away at Iowa as well and it could sway him towards the Hawkeyes. The loss of Lynch would be another hit to the already depleted Nittany Lion backfield.
Kicker/Punter Transfers: Anthony Fera (Texas); Projected starter: PK Sam Ficken (6-3 180), P Alex Butterworth (5-10 198). Fera is a huge loss for Penn State, hitting 14 out of 17 field goals last season. Fera also averaged 42.0 yards per punt last season and was named Big 10 Special Teams Player of the Week three times in 2011. Ficken and Butterworth haven't had that much playing time up to this point so it will be interesting to see how they react. Anybody who knows football knows that in close games it's important to have a solid kicker and with the loss of Fera the Nittany Lions might be going for it a lot more on fourth down in 2012.
Linebacker Transfers: Khairi Fortt (Cal); Projected starters: OLB Gerald Hodges (6-2, 233), MLB Glenn Carson (6-3, 238), OLB Michael Mauti (6-2, 233). Fortt is a very talented player and most media analysts and fans believe the loss of Fortt in not that big of a deal. I disagree to an extent. Fortt (33 tackles, 6.5 TFL) showed promise last season and besides Hodges was the most athletic out of all the Nittany Lion linebackers. I always liked Fortt, but he did under achieve a bit. The Lion's linebacker corp will be fine, but I think they would be better with Fortt.
TE Kevin Haplea (FSU), DL Jamil Pollard (Rutgers), OL Ryan Nowicki (Illinois), QB Rob Bolden (LSU), and S Tim Buckley (NC State) are the remaining Nittany Lions that have parted ways with the program. With the exception of Bolden none of these guys have seen significant playing time at PSU. Nowicki saw no time last season and Pollard was an incoming freshman. Haplea was going to play behind two or three guys at his spot and Buckley was strictly a back up defensive back. I don't think anybody was surprised with the transfer of Bolden as he tried to transfer after his freshman year, but was blocked by Paterno. Bolden was highly regarded coming out of high school, but never panned out and it was evident that he had slipped to the third quarterback on the depth chart.
Rumor mill The Nittany Lions top wide receiver Justin Brown (6-3, 209) is actively being pursued by the Oklahoma Sooners and looks to still be weighing his options. The loss of Brown would be huge and would mean that PSU would lose their two most talented and productive offensive weapons from last season. Brown had 35 catches for 517 yards. Brown's 35 grabs were 10 more than the whole of the players underneath him on the depth chart.