Spring preview: Penn State

Penn State begins spring practice on Monday following Bill O'Brien's stellar 8-4 debut campaign last year.

Let's take a look at some of the issues facing the Nittany Lions as they prepare for their spring game on April 20.

Steven Bench US PRESSWIREWill Steven Bench win the starting QB job at Penn State?

Who is taking over for McGloin?: O'Brien should be praised for helping Matt McGloin turn into a quality BCS-conference starting quarterback last season. He'll have the responsibility of doing the same to sophomore Steven Bench and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson, who are the lone scholarship quarterbacks on the roster until top Class of 2013 recruit Christian Hackenberg arrives this summer. While O'Brien won't shy away from giving the keys to the offense to the true freshman, it's very likely that Bench or Ferguson will be starting in the fall. These 15 practices are huge for both signal-callers as they try to show O'Brien and the offensive staff that they are ready to lead. Nittany Lion fans should be enthused by whoever wins the job, though, considering last season McGloin threw for 3,266 yards with 24 touchdowns against just four interceptions in this offense.

Top targets: The Nittany Lions have plenty of quality and depth at the tight end position, so whoever wins the starting quarterback job will have no shortage of targets. First-team all-Big Ten selection Kyle Carter and early enrollee freshman Adam Breneman will be joined by Jesse James, Matt Lehman and redshirt freshman Brent Wilkerson. Breneman appears to be a full-go after tearing the ACL in his right knee in June and missing his senior season of high school ball. However, Carter will not take contact this spring after injuring his right wrist against Nebraska in November. Along with receiver Allen Robinson, who is coming off of a strong 2012 season, the Nittany Lions have quality options to move the football through the air.

Replacing the defensive leadership: Linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges as well as defensive tackle Jordan Hill and defensive end Sean Stanley were so important to this program, especially last season with NCAA sanctions threatening to destroy the football team. The Nittany Lions would not have been able to enjoy such a strong season without their defensive stalwarts. So replacing them will be very difficult. But Glenn Carson and Mike Hull have some experience and will be counted on at linebacker as well as Nyeem Wartman and Ben Kline, while youth will need to be served on a depleted defensive line. However, PSU returns Deion Barnes, who led the team in sacks and tackles for a loss as a sophomore last season, and C.J. Olaniyan could benefit playing opposite him while DaQuan Jones and Kyle Baublitz will try to step in at tackle. The talent is there, but the depth will be tested.

Other notes

The Nittany Lions must replace their starting center and left tackle with Matt Stankiewitch and Mike Farrell moving on, respectively.

Allen Robinson emerged as Penn State's top receiver last season, but who will emerge as another top option on the outside? Keep an eye on Brandon Moseby-Felder and Eugene Lewis.

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