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Bill O'Brien takes over tough situation at Penn State

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A lot of players see spring practice as a necessary evil. At Penn State, though, players likely can't wait to get on the field.

Happy Valley has undergone a transformation in the past five months, ever since sexual molestation allegations against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky were made public in November.

[ Related: Bill O'Brien eager to start practice at Penn State ]

At the time, Penn State was 8-1 and atop the Big Ten Leaders Division. But it all went downhill from there. A senior-dominated team won just once the rest of the way, including losing by 16 in a bowl game to Houston, and longtime coach Joe Paterno was fired in early November as part of the Sandusky fallout. Paterno died in January at age 85.

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TB Silas Redd likely can't wait to hit the field for spring practice at Penn State.
(US Presswire)
Penn State at-a-glance
Coach: Bill O'Brien (1st season)
Last season: 9-4, 6-2 Big Ten
Spring practice dates: March 26-April 21
Returning starters
(minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (4): QB Rob Bolden, WR Justin Brown, TB Silas Redd, C Matt Stankiewitch
Defense (4): LB Glenn Carson, T Jordan Hill, LB Gerald Hodges, E Sean Stanley
Special teams (1): K/P Anthony Fera

The new coach is Bill O'Brien, a former assistant at Duke, Georgia Tech and Maryland who was offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots when he was hired by Penn State. Like Paterno, O'Brien, 42, is a Brown alumnus.

O'Brien takes over a team with holes everywhere. Penn State returns just eight fulltime starters – four on each side of the ball. The biggest concerns are the offensive line, which lost four starters, and the secondary, where all four starters are gone.

Penn State's offense was all about the run last season; the Nittany Lions had 18 rushing TDs and just 10 via the air. Two quarterbacks started games last season, and both are back. But neither Rob Bolden nor Matt McGloin has shown all that much in two seasons of action. Bolden is athletic and has some running ability, but he also has seven TD passes and 14 picks in the past two seasons. McGloin has 22 touchdown passes but also 14 interceptions, and his mobility is limited.

TB Silas Redd should be the focal point of the offense and he has all-league potential. But will he be able to realize that potential? There will a rebuilt line blocking for him and a passing attack that is not going to engender any respect until the quarterbacks actually show they can pass consistently.

The defensive front seven should be OK though there should be some concern about the pass rush. LB Gerald Hodges should be one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten.

In the secondary, some inexperienced players need to show this spring that they can handle increased workloads. Depth could be an issue in the defensive backfield.

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