Spring football position changes

Story posted April 9, 2014 in CommRadio by Matt Bortner

Penn State first year head football coach James Franklin is bringing in an entirely new coaching staff, but that is not the only thing that is changing for the football team this year. 

Some players will find themselves in different positions to try and improve their playing time and better fit into Franklin’s scheme.

Throughout spring practice, Penn State will be doing a lot of scrambling with their offensive line to find the right combination on the depth chart, due to injuries and graduation. The Nittany Lions lose three of their starting offensive linemen from last year’s squad, Garry Gilliam, John Urschel, and Ty Howle. 

In addition it appears that Penn State has lost starting offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach for a significant amount of time with a serious knee injury. 

Center Angelo Mangrio and tackle Andrew Nelson were non-participants in Penn State’s practice on Saturday.  Finally Anthony Alosi’s status is uncertain, because the junior guard is facing assault charges.

To help strengthen their depth Franklin moved defensive tackles Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia to the guard spot. Although no other official position changes have been made on the line this spring, Franklin has left the offensive line spots up for grabs and is not afraid to use his lineman interchangeably. 

Offensive line coach Herb Hand will hope for incoming freshmen, Chance Sorrell, Noah Beh, and Brendan Brosnan to provide depth to the thin line unit.

Sticking to the offensive side of the ball, senior Zach Zwinak took a significant amount of snaps at Saturday’s practice at his original position at Penn State, fullback.  No position change has been noted, but Zwinak also received a handful of snaps at running back in single back formations, a spot where he amassed 989 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

On the other side of the ball, senior Adrian Amos will once again start the season at safety.  Last year head coach Bill O’Brien started Amos at safety, but then moved Amos back to corner midway through the season.  

Amos finished last season with 50 tackles and one interception. Franklin has also moved cornerbacks Trevor Williams and Kasey Gaines to the safety position.  Von Walker, previously a running back will play a hybrid safety/linebacker position. 

Penn State probably shows the most depth on the defensive line this season, particularly at defensive end, with C.J. Olanyian, Deion Barnes, Brad Bars, and Carl Nassib all returning with playing experience. Due to the promise of redshirt freshman Garett Sickels, junior tackle Anthony Zettel has moved to defensive tackle.

Zettel rounded out last season with four sacks, six tackles for loss, and an interception.  In an effort to adapt better to the position change, Zettel has packed on 16 pounds and now weighs in at 274.  He provides some speed at the defensive tackle position.

Penn State fans will get their first chance to get a peek at their new look Nittany Lions on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for the annual Blue-White Game.

Matt Bortner is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.  To contact him, email mrb5572@psu.edu.

Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt)