Penn State released its Week 1 depth chart Monday. Take a guess which starting job is still listed as up in the air.
The Nittany Lions are keeping their quarterback situation under wraps headed into Saturday’s opener against Syracuse. Bill O’Brien might reveal whether its Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson starting under center during his press conference Tuesday, but the Penn State coach might just let it linger all the way until kickoff.
During last season, O’Brien made a brief, early portion of a mid-week practice open to media. But for this first week at least, practice will be closed entirely, further maintaining some of the mystery.
For now, the team’s official depth chart lists “Tyler Ferguson OR Christian Hackenberg” at quarterback. At this point, Hackenberg is the slight favorite to get the nod, but both are expected to see the field against the Orange.
O’Brien said last week that it wasn’t a matter of “indecisiveness” on his part and hinted that his players already know how the situation will play out.
Other than quarterback, Penn State listed two other starting jobs as up in the air, both because of injury concerns. The Lions list right tackle as “Garry Gilliam OR Adam Gress” and free safety as “Malcolm Willis OR Ryan Keiser.”
Gress missed multiple practices during camp with a sore knee while Willis donned a red no-contact jersey for a time. Neither situation is believed to be serious and O’Brien still referred to Gress as his starter late last week.
Altogether, the depth chart has no radical changes since the last one was released in June. Aside from Hackenberg, Andrew Nelson (left tackle) and Brandon Bell (linebacker) are the only scholarship true freshmen who arrived on campus in June to be listed.
Three other names that weren’t on the June list are walk-ons Adam Cole, Von Walker and Chris Gulla.
Cole is a redshirt freshman listed at outside linebacker whom O’Brien said could contribute on special teams. Walker is a true freshman who finds himself in the mix for the return game, perhaps early on. Gulla will back up Sam Ficken at kicker.
Bill Belton is listed as the top kick returner, but the initial depth chart has his partner as either fellow tailback Akeel Lynch or Walker. Eugene Lewis is also listed as a potential kick returner.
Jesse Della Valle will continue to return punts, with Belton and Walker as the top options behind him.
Five more earn scholarships
With the season about to start, Penn State announced that five players have earned scholarships for the 2013-14 school year.
Guard Bryan Davie, defensive end Carl Nassib, cornerback Devin Pryor, defensive tackle Tyrone Smith and running back Deron Thompson all received a one-year grant.
Penn State is technically allowed to field a full 85-scholarship team this season before cutting down to 65 for 2014 because of NCAA sanctions.
Former target in the spotlight
Penn State’s quarterback situation may have looked entirely different had Jake Waters picked the Lions back in December.
But the highly regarded junior college recruit chose to stay closer to his Iowa home and went to Kansas State instead. On Monday, the Wildcats announced Waters had won their starting job, succeeding Heisman finalist Collin Klein under center.