Just 75 days after a disappointing loss to the Florida Gators in the Outback Bowl, the Penn State Nittany Lions will open their spring practice on March 16, and expectations will once again be high in Happy Valley.
Eleven seniors are no longer with the team, including Penn State's all-time leading rusher Evan Royster and future NFL draft pick Stefen Wisniewski. Fortunately, the 2011 team has players that are ready, willing and able to fill the holes created by these departures.
Most notably, assuming Royster's record-setting productivity will be Silas Redd, the team's second-leading rusher as a freshman in 2010. In addition to Redd, senior Stephfon Green and junior Brandon Beachum will make Penn State's backfield one of the best in the conference.
Not all position groups are as established as the running backs; the offensive line will have questions of its own, but the most obvious question heading into spring practice isn't who will be on the offensive line, it's who the offensive line be protecting. For the second year in a row, Penn State enters spring practice without a known commodity at quarterback. All four quarterbacks from the 2010 roster will be competing in spring practice, though it is unknown how many will be around in the fall.
Elsewhere, the linebacker unit will have to replace seniors Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu, which should prove a much easier task than replacing Evan Royster. Mike Mauti has already been named middle linebacker of the future (for two years), while the other cast of characters in the team's namesake position has fans everywhere excited. Nate Stupar, Gerald Hodges, Khairi Fortt, Glenn Carson, and Canonsburg's own Mike Hull should all see time on the field in 2011.
The biggest defensive questions heading into 2011 will be in the secondary, where injuries and subpar play plagued the 2010 unit. A dangerously thin depth chart has some worried for 2011.
Spring practice will last for one full month, with the yearly Blue/White Game taking place on Saturday, April 16.