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Penn State football depth chart: What will it look like for Auburn week?

Penn State is not releasing a depth chart in 2021 for competitive advantage reasons, but the chance to watch two games allows us to put together a positional grid based on what we have seen.

At most positions, things are straightforward, but there has been some shuffling from Week 2 to Week 3 ahead of the Auburn game at a couple of spots, including receiver.

Here's our starter and backup rundown ahead of the 7:30 p.m. Whiteout game contest at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State receiver Cam Sullivan-Brown is one player who has solidified his role on our depth chart. BWI photo
Penn State receiver Cam Sullivan-Brown is one player who has solidified his role on our depth chart. BWI photo

Quarterback

Starter: No. 14 Sean Clifford

Backup: No. 2 Ta’Quan Roberson

The Lowdown: No new news here, of course, though it was nice to see Roberson in action during the blowout win over Ball State. It also reminded us, however, of the gap between Clifford and the rest of the team's quarterback room, even if Roberson did toss a touchdown to tight end Theo Johnson.

Running Back

Starter: No. 21 Noah Cain

Backup: No. 24 Keyvone Lee

Third-string: No. 28 Devyn Ford

The Lowdown: With John Lovett out again last week, the order here hasn't changed. Caziah Holmes is definitely the fourth-string back, but there is a clear divide between the top three and him.

Wide Receiver 

Wide Receiver

Starter: No. 5 Jahan Dotson

Backup: No. 6 Cam Sullivan-Brown

Wide Receiver

Starter: No 13 KeAndre Lambert Smith

Backup: No 16 Cam Sullivan-Brown

Wide Receiver

Starter: No. 3 Parker Washington

Backup: No. 89 Winston Eubanks OR No. 8 Marquis Wilson

The Lowdown: If there was any question after Week 1, there isn't anymore: Cam Sullivan-Brown is the clear No. 2 after he played 22 snaps. No other receiver topped 10 besides the three started and him. Finally, Wilson is back on the list after out snapping Eubanks nine to seven in Week 2.

Tight End

Tight end Theo Johnson caught his first touchdown with the Nittany Lions during Saturday's win over Ball State.
Tight end Theo Johnson caught his first touchdown with the Nittany Lions during Saturday's win over Ball State.

Starter: No. 86 Brenton Strange

Backup: No. 84 Theo Johnson

Third-string: No. 44 Tyler Warren

The Lowdown: Again, no changes to be made here, but Strange and Johnson play a lot of snaps. They are even used as third and fourth receivers at times, but the production hasn't matched the preseason expectations yet.

Offensive Line

Left Tackle

Starter: No. 53 Rasheed Walker

Backup: No. 74 Olu Fashanu

Left Guard

Starter No. 68 Eric Wilson

Backup: No. 55 Anthony Whigan OR No. 72 Bryce Effner

Center

Starter: No. 73 Mike Miranda

Backup: No. 72 Bryce Effner OR No. 70 Juice Scruggs

Right Guard

Starter: No. 70 Juice Scruggs

Backup: No. 75 Des Holmes OR No. 72 Bryce Effner

Right Tackle

Starter: No. 79 Caedan Wallace

Backup: No. 58 Landon Tengwall

The Lowdown: We no longer see the OR between Wilson and Whigan as necessary because it is clear that the former Harvard lineman has won the job at his new school. In fact, at one point, Penn State's interior offensive line was Juice Scruggs being flanked at center by Bryce Effner and Mike Miranda against Ball State, so it's not clear what Whigan's role is moving forward. It's also worth noting that Saleem Wormley was also dropped from the backup guard spots after he didn't make the trip to Wisconsin and didn't play against Ball State.

Defensive Line

Defensive End

Starter: No. 46 Nick Tarburton OR No. 40 Jesse Luketa

Backup: No. 92 Smith Vilbert No.36 Zuriah Fisher

Defensive Tackle

Starter: No. 97 PJ Mustipher

Backup: No. 91 D'Von Ellies OR No. 99 Coziah Izzard

Third-string: No. 56 Amin Vanover

Defensive Tackle

Starter: No. 54 Derrick Tangelo

Backup: No. 91 D'Von Ellies OR No. 99 Coziah Izzard

Third-string: No. 56 Amin Vanover

Defensive End

Starter: No. 17 Arnold Ebiketie

Backup: No. 40 Jesse Luketa

Third-string: No. 92 Smith Vilbert OR No.36 Zuriah Fisher

The Lowdown: There were a couple of shakeups here compared to what we had last week. First, maybe we're getting a little ahead of ourselves, but Luketa seems to be lining up as much if not more than Tarburton at defensive end, even if Tarburton is still the stater for the opening series, and so it felt important to reflect that on paper. Then, inside, we're seeing a lot more of D'Von Ellies and Coziah Izzard than we are of anyone else after the starters, so that part of our depth chart has been updated. Finally, Zuriah Fisher is seeing plenty of rotation snaps, so he now makes the three-deep at end, as well.

Linebacker

Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith played a big role in Week 2. Photo courtesy of PSU Athletics
Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith played a big role in Week 2. Photo courtesy of PSU Athletics

WILL Linebacker

Starter: No. 12 Brandon Smith

Backup: No. 45 Charlie Katshir

Middle Linebacker

Starter: No. 13 Ellis Brooks

Backup: No. 40 Jesse Luketa

SAM Linebacker

Starter: No. 23 Curtis Jacobs

Backup: No. 0 Jonathan Sutherland

The Lowdown: We only made one change here this week, and it was to put Brooks back as the starter now that his targeting suspension is behind him. One thing to watch in the future is whether or not Jamari Buddin has carved out a bigger role for himself. It was during mop-up time, of course, but he looked pretty good on Saturday.

Secondary

Cornerback

Starter: No. 5 Tariq Castro-Fields

Backup: No. 25 Daequan Hardy OR No. 4 Kalen King


Safety

Starter: No. 16 Ji’Ayir Brown

Backup: No. 0 Jonathan Sutherland

Safety

Starter: No. 1 Jaquan Brisker

Backup: No. 0 Jonathan Sutherland

Cornerback

Starter: No. 9 Joey Porter Jr.

Backup: No. 25 Daequan Hardy OR No. 4 Kalen King

The Lowdown: No changes or adjustments need to be made here, but it's worth pointing out that Hardy has been really good through two games. Also, remember that the Lions will be without Tyler Rudolph for the first half of the Auburn game after he was booted for targeting in the second half of the Ball State game.

Special Teams 

Kicker: No. 98 Jordan Stout

Punter: No. 98 Jordan Stout

Kickoff specialist: No. 98 Jordan Stout

Punt returner: No. 5 Jahan Dotson

Kick returners: No. 24 Keyvone Lee and No. 28 Devyn Ford

The Lowdown: The big question mark here is whether or not Jake Pinegar will be used more moving forward after Stout missed another field goal but also made three and all of his extra points against Ball State. So far, that doesn't seem to be likely to happen, but it's a question fans will ask before the Tigers come to town.

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