For those going to the game, there is a new kick time this year (noon), strict rules on what is allowed in the stadium (no bags) and no player autograph session (something will be held during the summer).
If you are interested in what will go down on the field, here is our take on what to watch from the defense.
Senior defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, who is being asked to be more of a leader with the departure of several veterans up front, was extremely limited during the spring due to what he described as minor back problems. He won't play Saturday. He described sitting out much of the spring as a “precaution.” For the purposes of this game, his absence will give fans a chance to get a good look at three new faces and an upperclassmen who has been under the radar to date. Of the redshirt freshmen, Austin Johnson (No. 99) has turned the most heads with his combination of size (6-foot-4, 302) and athletic ability. Derek Dowrey (No. 53) is built like a tank (6-3, 309), and Brian Gaia (No. 72) is working on adding size (6-3, 279) and getting the technical side of things down. Meanwhile, redshirt junior Kyle Baublitz (No. 72) has grown into the position (6-5, 292) after making the move from end last year. He received many of the first-team reps that would have otherwise gone to Jones.
Returning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes won't be able to hit the QBs, so that takes some of the fun away from this position. But there is some other cool stuff to monitor. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Zettel proved to be a play-maker while working at tackle and end last year, and stands to see more time as a full-time end in 2013. So do redshirt juniors C.J. Olaniyan and Brad Bars. One of the three will emerge as the starter opposite Barnes. The new guy to follow here is redshirt freshman Evan Schwan (No. 94). He's a 6-6, 238-pounder who was set back by a shoulder injury last season.
You already know about Mike LB Glenn Carson. Come to think of it, you know a lot about Sam LB Mike Hull, too. This game will be a chance for athletic redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman to show his stuff and for fans to get a look at some of the virtual unknowns who will be counted on to provide depth. Wartman (No. 5) saw limited action last season but was granted a medical redshirt due to a September knee injury. He has all the tools to be another great one at Linebacker U, but just has to hammer down the fundamentals. He is playing the Will position. The other player to watch is redshirt freshman Gary Wooten (No. 8), the late scholarship addition to the Class of 2013 from Miami. Two run-ons to keep tabs on are redshirt freshman Charles Idemudia (No. 30), who is as fast as Gerald Hodges (having posted a 4.68 40) and squats 425 (tied for second best among PSU linebackers under Craig Fitzgerald), and Titus Morris (No. 54), who holds the team linebackers' records for vertical leap (32.5) and broad jump (10.09), and has also squatted 425. We're pegging one of the run-on 'backers as a potential defensive MVP. Redshirt sophomore Ben Kline, a scholarship player, won't see action while recovering from a shoulder injury.
Malcolm Willis will likely see limited action and fellow veteran Stephen Obeng-Agyapong was held out of hitting all spring while recovering from shoulder surgery. You'll probably see 2012 starting corner Adrian Amos logging some early reps at safety. Zero in on backup Malik Golden (No. 6), a redshirt freshman who moved over from receiver and is said to be adjusting well. We've also heard positive things about former run-on Ryan Keiser at this position.
The staff wisely moved Amos around during the spring so underclassmen could get more reps at corner. The two who did the best job, from what we've heard, were sophomores Jordan Lucas (No. 9) and Trevor Williams (No. 21). Williams moved over from wideout but is said to be a natural at DB. We'll go out on a limb here and say one of them will be defensive MVP, based on a pick six. Fellow sophomore Da'Quan Davis has also gotten first-team reps this spring, though we've not heard a lot about him. Also, this will be your first chance to check out early enrollees Jordan Smith (No. 12) and Anthony Smith (No. 24).
Defensive MVP Prediction
CB Trevor Williams
Most Improved Defender Prediction
DT Kyle Baublitz