2012 Program Preview - Penn St.

Football. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

I'm going to keep this short.

Penn State has some quality NFL prospects, but it will be an uphill climb for first-year head coach Bill O'Brien.

That is all.

After the jump, the prospects worth noting as well as some games and matchups to pencil into your calendar.

References

Black Shoe Diaries (SB Nation Penn St. community), Off Tackle Empire (SB Nation conference community), SB Nation Pittsburgh, SB Nation team page, official team site, Bill Connelly's preview for SBN, CBS Sports preview

Notable offensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Matt Stankiewitch C RS Sr. 7
Matt McGloin QB RS Sr. UD


Notable defensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Gerald Hodges OLB Sr. 1-2
Jordan Hill DT Sr. 3
Michael Mauti ILB RS Sr. 4 (returning from an ACL injury)
Pete Massaro DE RS Sr. 6
Sean Stanley DE Sr. 7
Stephon Morris CB Sr. UD
Malcolm Willis S RS Jr. UD
Mike Hull OLB RS Soph. 5


Summary

Like most Big Ten teams, it's a defensively-heavy roster from an NFL perspective. The question is who steps up to fill the voids left by so many transfers. It's hard to know what direction this team is going with a new head coach who's spent the last five years in the NFL coaching ranks. Given the depth of the punishment levied by the NCAA, it might be a while before the Nittany Lions are back in form.

Key games

Illinois (away) - Week 5 (Sat., Sep. 29 - TBD)

Penn State opens their Big Ten schedule on the road after what should be a four-win stint to start the season. Make no mistake about it, though -- Illinois is no pushover. Penn State could help change the headlines in their direction with a win here.

Ohio St. (home) - Week 9 (Sat., Oct. 27 - 6:00 p.m. ET, TBD)

Fast forward a month to this huge home tie against the Buckeyes. Sandwiched between an away game versus an unusually soft Iowa team beforehand and two away games at Purdue and Nebraska following, this is a vital game to keeping Penn State afloat during their suspension furlough.

Key matchups

DE Pete Massaro v. Virginia OT Oday Aboushi, Week 2 - Sat., Sep. 8

Massaro was an unnervingly consistent player last year, equally as stout against Alabama as he was against Indiana. If he comes out in 2012 any more disruptive, he could give Aboushi (one of the best tackle prospects in the country) a tough day's work.

Unforeseen WR v. Iowa CBs Micah Hyde & B.J. Lowery, Week 8 - Sat., Oct. 20

There's not a positional grouping in the conference more difficult to project than the Penn State wide receivers. Derek Moye finished his time at State College, Pennsylvania. Devon Smith left the program and recently joined Marshall. Bill Belton is now a RB. Curtis Drake is now a cornerback. Is it impossible to deal with that much turnover and have a unit you can trust? If the answer's not yes, it's damn close.

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