football Edit

What will the Penn State football depth chart look like at Iowa?

A month of football is in the books, and Penn State's depth chart certainly looks a bit different in some areas than we might have anticipated back in August.

September taught us plenty, however. First and foremost, the Nittany Lions have enough pieces across the board to win on the road and at home. And, we've seen position battles be won, a position change work, and plenty more.

All of it leads us into this week's projected depth chart ahead of a top-five showdown with Iowa, which is below.

Penn State running back John Lovett has been a bigger part of the Nittany Lions' game plan in recent weeks. BWI photo/Steve Manuel
Penn State running back John Lovett has been a bigger part of the Nittany Lions' game plan in recent weeks. BWI photo/Steve Manuel

Quarterback

Starter: No. 14 Sean Clifford

Backup: No. 2 Ta’Quan Roberson

The Lowdown: Back during the summer, there were still some lingering questions about whether or not Clifford was the guy, even though there shouldn't have been. So far, he's directed a high-flying attack while playing like one of the nation's top-15 passers. Roberson has been fine in mop-up work, but there is a clear gap.

Running Back

Starter: No. 21 Noah Cain

Backup: No. 10 John Lovett OR No. 24 Keyvone Lee

Third-string: No. 28 Devyn Ford

The Lowdown: The tricky part here is whether or not we should be projecting this based on the order they enter the game or the snap count, but we're going with the former. With that caveat out of the way, Lovett has outsnapped Cain in back-to-back weeks and every other backfield mate of his, for that matter, and he played more than Lee against Auburn. Cain is clearly dealing with something -- James Franklin said it's something all players battle through at this point of the season -- but he might still start, as the head coach said he's expecting him to be full-go. Is that mere coach speak to not tip off Iowa? Maybe, but either way, don't be surprised if Lovett earns starter-like reps on the road. Many want Lee to be in that role, and he might be the team's most effective runner and leads it in yards per carry, but it seems obvious that something is holding the staff back from inserting him into the main role. And, if Cain does play as much as he would have been expected to back in, say, August, I'd still expect to see more Lovett than Lee.

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: One thing is crystal clear after five weeks: Penn State has a strong top-three of Dotson, Washington, and Lambert-Smith, and after that, there's a dropoff to Sullivan-Brown, and then even more of one to Eubanks and Wilson. And, in big games, you're only going to see those six, and mostly just the first-team trio.

Penn State tight end Tyler Warren falls into the end zone for a touchdown during the Nittany Lions' win over Villanova. BWI photo/Steve Manuel
Penn State tight end Tyler Warren falls into the end zone for a touchdown during the Nittany Lions' win over Villanova. BWI photo/Steve Manuel

Tight End

Starter: No. 86 Brenton Strange

Backup: No. 84 Theo Johnson

Third-string: No. 44 Tyler Warren

The Lowdown: This group sees a lot of playing time but doesn't have the statistical output that many thought it would just yet. Whether or not that changes at Iowa is anyone's guess, but this is the order. They're sure to play often, and we'll see if Warren gets another direct snap opportunity or if Mike Yurcich tables that "fancy package", as Warren called it, yet.

Offensive Line

Left Tackle

Starter: No. 53 Rasheed Walker

Backup: No. 74 Olu Fashanu

Left Guard

Starter No. 68 Eric Wilson

Backup: 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. 72 Bryce Effner

The Lowdown: Effner is the one to keep an eye on here, as he didn't see a single snap last week after coming in to spell Wilson for a bit previously. Will he travel? We'll be on the lookout for that, but either way, it's a safe bet that Landon Tengwall will be in Iowa City, just as he was in Madison, as one of the select first-year players to travel despite not playing. Finally, the big change here from Week 1 to now sees Wilson starting and Whigan relegated to special teams after they rotated at Wisconsin.

Defensive Line

Defensive End

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

Backup: No. 92 Smith Vilbert

Third-string: 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. 55 Fatorma Mulbah No. 54 Fred Hansard

Defensive Tackle

Starter: No. 54 Derrick Tangelo

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

Third-string: No. 55 Fatorma Mulbah OR No. 54 Fred Hansard

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: Penn State now announces Luketa, Ebiketie, and Tarburton as starters, which is smart and also probably not what many would have expected at the start of the season. But, those three guys complement each other well. The biggest challenge at this point is that there's not much depth behind them. That said, on the interior, Ellies and Izzard have been nice surprises. We've also added Mulbah this week after he played four snaps against Indiana while Hansard mustered none.

Linebacker

Penn State linebacker Curtis Jacobs makes a tackle during the Nittany Lions' win over Indiana. BWI photo/Steve Manuel
Penn State linebacker Curtis Jacobs makes a tackle during the Nittany Lions' win over Indiana. BWI photo/Steve Manuel

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. 42 Jamari Buddin

The Lowdown: We're maybe getting slightly ahead of ourselves here, but the second-team defense last week late against Indiana featured Katshir, Tyler Elsdon, and Buddin at linebacker, so the latter gets the nod here over Jonathan Sutherland, who we had listed as Jacobs' backup.

Secondary

Cornerback

Starter: No. 5 Tariq Castro-Fields

Backup: No. 25 Daequan Hardy OR No. 3 Johnny Dixon

Third-string: No. 4 Kalen King

Safety

Starter: No. 16 Ji’Ayir Brown

Backup: No. 2 Keaton Ellis OR No. 0 Jonathan Sutherland

Safety

Starter: No. 1 Jaquan Brisker

Backup: No. 2 Keaton Ellis OR No. 0 Jonathan Sutherland

Cornerback

Starter: No. 9 Joey Porter Jr.

Backup: No. 25 Daequan Hardy OR 3 Johnny Dixon

Third-string: No. 4 Kalen King

Starting slot corner

25 Daequan Hardy

The Lowdown: Dixon has carved out a nice role for himself, as has Hardy, who grades out as one of the team's better secondary players through five weeks as teams continue to try to pick on him with limited success. Overall, this group stays the same from week-to-week.

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 OR No. 10 John Lovett

The Lowdown: Jake Pinegar is still not part of the game plan, for anyone who's still wondering about that. Also, we've now seen Lovett enough as a kick returner to list him here.

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