At this time a year ago, Notre Dame's 2012 schedule was expected to be one of the most difficult schedules that the Irish had ever faced. That was due in large part to the number of quality quarterbacks that the Irish were supposed to face last season—a list that included Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Stephen Morris, Riley Nelson and Denard Robinson.
As it turned out, Barkley missed the game against the Irish, Jones was inconsistent all season, and Nelson and Robinson were both benched during the season.
The 2013 schedule looks much more manageable in terms of the quarterbacks that they are expected to face, but perhaps the breaks the Irish caught last fall will not be there in 2013.
From No. 12 to No. 1, let's look at the rankings of the 12 quarterbacks who will challenge the Irish defense next season—a defense that finished the regular season as the best in the country in terms of points allowed.
Leadership is influence, and in football, no other position requires leadership more than the quarterback.
But at the college level, the emergence of leadership is a quality that becomes almost necessary in order to experience success and win against the best competition.
Coming off of a 9-4 year in 2012, culminating in a 31-27 Alamo Bowl win in come-from-behind fashion, the Texas Longhorns enter the 2013 season with their highest of hopes since the days of Colt McCoy.
David Ash is the assumed starting quarterback, solidifying his place as the guy after rallying his team to victory after a sluggish start. Entering his junior season, Ash is on the cusp of becoming something special at quarterback.
Interestingly enough, the last two Texas quarterbacks who entered their junior seasons following some uncertainty during their sophomore seasons were none other than Vince Young and McCoy. Accordingly, both responded by putting together a couple of high-profile finishes in 2005 and 2008, respectively.
Ash is far from what Young and McCoy were able to accomplish, but the pieces are lining up for what could be a special season for the Belton product.
The Boys are Back in Town
Returning alongside Ash are five starting offensive linemen that will establish a firm amount of chemistry and comfort. The curveball here is how the group adapts to a more up-tempo style of offense that the Longhorns are looking to install in the spring.
Nevertheless, it will be hard to underestimate just how critical the foundation of the offense will be next season, and the likes of Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins, Dom Espinosa, Mason Walters and Josh Cochran could rival what McCoy had in front of him in 2008.
Although the Horns have tried to establish a power running game, perhaps those efforts are just not in the cards. Texas had some success throwing the ball, and if the front five can take that transition in stride, then the Horns look to have a strong base for what they will look to accomplish on offense.
Ash's junior season appears to be one that can either launch his name into stardom or sink away into mediocrity. But the fact of the matter is that the Longhorns have experienced tremendous success during the campaigns of their junior quarterbacks.
Young took Texas on a national championship run in the 2005 season in tremendous fashion as he unleashed a performance unlike any other in an instant classic against USC.
McCoy rebounded from a less-than-impressive 2007 season (22 TDs, 18 INTs, 65 percent completion) by leading the Horns to a come-from-behind win against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2008 campaign.
By comparison, Ash had a statistically better sophomore year than McCoy by putting up 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 67 percent completion rate.
Obviously there are a handful of intangibles and differences that immediately separate the opinions about Young, McCoy and Ash, but if Ash is to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, then finding something extra for the upcoming season is absolutely critical.
Since Mack Brown began rebuilding his program, the Longhorns have lacked true leadership from the quarterback position, and Ash is expected to be that guy.
We have seen spurts of that influence over his team, but it has to come over the course of an entire season. Does Ash have that leadership buried beneath all of the physical tools he has displayed or does the coaching staff have to extract it?
By this time during their careers, both Young and McCoy already had secured their position as the team's unquestioned leader. For Ash, no longer will it be a question of whether or not he can execute the offense, but rather a question of if he can stare adversity in the eye and still come out on top.
At the end of the day, Ash will have to prove he can be rebound from slow starts week in and week out. If he can bring his game to that level, then the Longhorns are in for a treat next season. Otherwise, it might be back to the drawing board.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Forgotten in the offense throughout much of his freshman season, Texas Longhorns' all-purpose tailback Daje Johnson is set to explode in 2013. All he needs is his touches.
Now that D.J. Monroe and Marquise Goodwin have graduated, Johnson stands alone as the team's fastest player as well as its top home run threat. This means that he is not only in line for a major increase in offensive touches, but that he is the top candidate to handle kickoff returns, an area where the 'Horns are desperate for some big plays.
Now that he is going to get the touches he deserves, Johnson is set for a career season in which he will establish himself as one the Big 12's most explosive players. Here's why.
Every year, we pay a ton of attention to the 5-star prospects, elite 4-star recruits and players that we feel are top-10 caliber recruits at their position. That's always going to be the case, because those prospects get a lot of hype and, therefore, they get a lot of coverage.
The drawback from that is that many other good football players get "slept on" and become "sleepers". They don't get the hype, coverage and attention that the elite recruits get, even though they deserve it.
In this 2013 recruiting class, there are a ton of sleepers and players at the bottom of the board who I feel will go on to have great careers.
For this read, I'm going to give you the top-10 sleepers to watch out for from this 2013 college football freshman class.
Continuing our look ahead to the 2013 season, it's time to rank the most powerful backfields and rushing attacks in the Big Ten for next year.
A good running game is typically required to grind through the tough conference season and come out with a chance at a title. Not surprisingly, four of the conference's teams (Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Northwestern) ranked in the Top 20 nationally for rushing, and all four of these teams were near the top of the standings.
Also not surprisingly, each of those four teams will be competing for the top spot in 2013 as well. But there are also some up-and-comers trying to unseat these four in the conference standings and atop the rushing charts.
The following rankings have been based on the 2012 and career statistics of returning players, as reported by ESPN, with the addition of players injured last season and incoming recruits. Having multiple proven options is a valued asset considering that most teams experience some injuries at this position throughout a long season.
Let's take a look at the best backfields in Big Ten Country for 2013.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys weren't able to defend their Big 12 title in 2012, but 2013 is looking like the team's chance to reinsert itself back to the top of the conference.
Obviously, the Big 12 is a very deep conference that sent nine of its 10 teams to bowl games in 2012.
The Cowboys are going to have to overcome the tough teams of the conference, as well as some key offseason changes.
Oklahoma State may be without stud running back Joseph Randle and offensive coordinator Todd Monken. However, there are plenty of other factors that has them looking like possible front-runners next year.
The Senior Bowl is an excellent chance for college football's best to showcase their talents just three months before the upcoming NFL draft. No different from any other year, the 2013 Senior Bowl featured plenty of winners and losers.
While some players improved their draft stock, many saw the opposite occur. There is still plenty of opportunity in the coming months, particularly with the scouting combine, but the week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl and the game itself are the first indicators.
The game was relatively close, but the South led from start to finish en route to a 21-16 victory.
Here are the winners and losers from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Paul “Bear” Bryant looms as the Alabama football program’s biggest icon, but several players—before, during and after Bryant’s tenure—have gone on to achieve excellence during their stay at the Capstone.
From the era of the 1930s with Hall of Fame split end Don Hutson to Nick Saban’s present-day dynasty led by quarterback A.J. McCarron, Alabama supporters have witnessed the birth of several star-studded careers on the gridiron.
With so many players dominating at a school synonymous with excellence and winning, there are a number of gifted and charismatic athletes who would be left off no matter how long this list could possibly be.
So with that said, which players stood out the most in their time wearing Crimson and White?
Find out as I attempt to nail down the 30 most legendary players in Alabama football history.
The NCAA has made some changes to the rules of recruiting. Coaches can now pretty much contact a recruit more freely and more frequently. Coaches also now don't have any restraints on how to contact a recruit, so Facebook, calling, texting, Skyping, emailing, flying kites and just about everything else is pretty much fair game now.
Another interesting change in recruiting is that there is no longer any restraint on how many coaches can go off campus to recruit. So now, a head coach can unleash his whole staff to attack the trail and pound the pavement at once. You won't see head coaches out on the road often, if at all, but now they can deploy their whole staff of coaches to go lure talent to campus at the same time.
So which coaches stand to gain the most from these changes? Let's find out.
Few people saw Florida's immensely successful 2012 season coming.
This really should come as no surprise. The team was coming off a disastrous 7-6 season under first-year head coach Will Muschamp, and he would be forced to hand the offense over to a sophomore quarterback. There were many occasions where the offense had looked flat, and the defense had looked soft. The Gators were supposed to be better last season, but a BCS bowl seemed out of the question.
Of course, it's apparent that the Gator defense had other plans.
The end result was an 11-1 regular season and a Sugar Bowl appearance. It was made possible by a variety of factors, but none bigger than the team's highly talented defensive unit. This group shut down the likes of LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina en route to becoming the fifth-best scoring defense in the nation.
Unfortunately for the Gators, many key defensive contributors are now gone. Matt Elam, Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Sharrif Floyd are just some of the names they will have to replace for next season.
However, help is on the way with the arrival of their latest recruiting class. Littered amongst the team's list of committed players are defensive prospects that have the potential to become stars. With so many others departing, the Gators will likely need to rely on this new talent crop next season.
Here are the five recruits that are most likely to make a significant impact during their first season as a Gator.
The transfer of Jacoby Brissett means the Florida Gators will be without a safety net at quarterback in 2013. That makes this the most important offseason of Jeff Driskel's young career.
For a first-year starter, 2012 wasn't a bad season for Driskel, but there is a lot of room for improvement in his game.
While Driskel showed flashes of the quarterback he can become against Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida State, there were two games (Georgia, Louisville) where he and the offense were exposed.
Driskel will be a junior next season and in his second year of Brent Pease's playbook, so the excuses that he is still young and learning the offense are no longer valid. It's time for Driskel to realize his potential and take the next step in his development.
With the backup quarterback job still up in the air, let's look at the top five areas Driskel needs to work on in the offseason to become the leader the Gators offense will need in 2013.
If his debut with the Michigan Wolverines is anything like his press conference, then Derrick Green should hit the field in style for coach Brady Hoke.
Green, the nation's No. 1-ranked running back of the 2013 class, committed Saturday to Michigan during a presser at Hermitage High (Va.), the school he helped achieve a 10-1 record in 2012 by averaging close to 13 yards per tote.
Sitting behind a table on stage, Green had Michigan, Auburn and Tennessee hats—to represent his final three choices—placed in front of him. As the presser continued, Green stood up, then grabbed a Michigan hat placed to his right, put it back down on the table, and then reached for a Tennessee hat that was to his left.
The suspense. The drama.
But that was just the beginning.
Green then made his way to the back corner of the room, hitting a switch that activated a drop cloth that revealed where he would play college football. As the cloth lifted, a blue jersey appeared.
That jersey was a Michigan jersey, complete with No. 27 and the name "Green" across the back shoulders.
Now that he's officially a "Michigan Man," the time to predict his contributions to the program starts now. Granted, those speculations were made prior to his commitment, but he's one step closer to being signed, sealed and delivered (it'll be set in stone on national signing day, Feb. 6).
Let the mayhem ensue.
Green's entry to Michigan begs one question to be answered: Do the Wolverines now possess the Big Ten's top backfield?
Take a moment to mull over the list of departing stars like Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead, a trio of the league's standouts that are bound for the next phase of their careers.
Now, give this a thought: Michigan could have a foursome unlike any other in the Big Ten, starting with a healthy Fitz Toussaint, a former 1,000-yard rusher in 2011; will-be junior Thomas Rawls, an incredibly talented downhill runner and third-down specialist; and Justice Hayes, a player that can juke his way out of a phone booth.
Add in will-be freshman Deveon Smith, perhaps an underrated 3-star recruit, and Michigan's stable of running backs looks all the more threatening.
Don't forget about that Green kid, either. He's important.
Comparing Big Ten's Best Backfields to Michigan's (Basically OSU vs. UM)
Ohio State has quarterback Braxton Miller, a will-be junior with a set of wheels that complement his respectable arm. Miller rushed for 1,271 yards in 2012 and gives the Buckeyes the same type of threat that Denard Robinson (1,266 yards) gave the Wolverines.
Both led their teams in rushing this past season, too.
But let's subtract Miller and Robinson from the equation; they're not running backs, and Robinson is finished at Michigan.
As of now, Ohio State will have Carlos Hyde's services this fall. He rushed for 917 yards in 2012, good for the Big Ten's sixth-best average of 97 per game. The will-be senior is one of the league's elite, and he'll get more help once 4-star prospect Ezekiel Elliott joins the Buckeyes.
At 6'0" and 198 pounds, Elliott certainly has the build to be a solid ball-carrier in the physical Big Ten. According to Rivals.com, he's the country's 12th-best tailback of the 2013 class.
And he runs a 4.42-second 40-yard dash. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Rod Smith, a former 4-star rated recruit, is a bruising 6'3", 230-pound soon-to-be junior. He outweighs Derrick Green by 10 pounds and is three inches taller. That being said, it's quite obvious that the Wolverines aren't the only kids on the block with a tank-like force capable of moving the sticks.
Smith averaged 6.7 yards per touch in 2012, a clip that highlighted his grand total of 215 on 32 carries.
Now let's shift to Michigan.
The Wolverines benefited by having Thomas Rawls in the mix this past fall. He averaged 8.9 yards per carry on third down, a measurement skewed by a 63-yard touchdown. However, that doesn't diminish his value when push comes to shove. At 5'10" and approximately 215 pounds, Rawls provides size and durability.
He was once thought to be Michigan's best option for the No. 1 job.
Now that Green is on his way to Ann Arbor, Rawls could be the second or third option, depending on the progress of will-be junior Justice Hayes and true freshman Deveon Smith.
Fitz Toussaint's status for the 2013 season isn't 100 percent certain. The horrific leg injury suffered against Iowa could keep him shelved until 2014. If consistent, he'd give Michigan a big-play threat. But for now, let's keep him on the back burner; it's uncertain if he'll return fully healthy this fall.
One 5-star recruit doesn't automatically give Michigan an advantage over Ohio State, nor does it guarantee ground supremacy in the Big Ten. However, landing Green definitely affords some type of upper hand for offensive coordinator Al Borges, who will no longer have to rely on a sprite quarterback to advance the ground game.
That's a leg up over Ohio State, which will likely have Miller take on the majority of rushing duties in 2013.
So much talent, so much to debate. Leave a comment explaining why you feel Michigan does or doesn't have the best backfield in the Big Ten.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Scott Frost was just promoted to one of the most glamorous positions in all of college football: offensive coordinator for the Oregon Ducks.
In case you've been stuck in an airplane circling Chicago, Frost takes over the OC position from Mark Helfrich, who was promoted to head coach to succeed Chip Kelly. If you're just learning this news, I'm sorry for the lack of spoiler alert.
To recap, Kelly, who is now the coach of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, took defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro with him. So, that means there will be three assistant coaches in new roles for Oregon in 2013.
Today, let's look at the Ducks' new offensive coordinator and his chances for success.
The recent coaching switcheroo has left the Oregon football program in a precarious position with less than two weeks until national signing day.
The Ducks have an impressive list of recruits, but with schools like Ohio State coming after the commits in the wake of Chip Kelly's departure, it's up to new coach Mark Helfrich to convince the current class to stay put.
There are a million reasons why Oregon is an attractive destination for talented football players. Many of the recruits have already visited, so they'll have heard the Ducks' pitch.
Nevertheless, Helfrich needs to reiterate many of the positives about Oregon football that caused the current recruits to commit in the first place. In some cases, presenting new information may also help seal the deal.
Here are five things that Helfrich must tell recruits in order to keep them committed.
Aaron Murray did not want to end his career in Athens wondering if he could have led the Bulldogs to a national title if he had stayed his senior season.
After missing the big game by five yards, Murray made the decision shortly after the Bulldogs' season ended to play his senior season and see if he can do something that hasn't been done in over 30 years.
But winning a title is not the only thing Murray can achieve in 2013. Based on the way he has played the last three seasons, Murray will be on the watch list for the Heisman Trophy.
In fact, not only will he be on the watch list, but he will also be making his way to New York for the trophy presentation in December, as he will be one of the finalists.
The 2012 Texas A&M Football team featured the top offensive line in the country. How the Aggies respond to the loss of two members of that line will define how successful their 2013 season is.
Luke Joeckel was the starting left tackle on the Aggies' offensive line in 2012, and he declared early for the NFL draft. Joeckel is expected to be one of the top five selections in the draft.
Patrick Lewis started on the offensive line all four years he was at A&M. He spent the last two seasons as the Aggies' center. He is projected to go anywhere from the fifth round of the draft to signing as an undrafted free agent.
The Aggies lost two very talented offensive linemen who were also leaders of the team. This would be a major blow to most programs, but the Ags have a lot of depth at the position and an offense that is versatile enough to cover up for weaknesses on the line.
Matthews' Return Solidifies Line
The prospects for the 2013 offensive line received a huge boost when Jake Matthews announced he was going to return to A&M for his senior season. Matthews was named All-SEC and All-American for his play at right tackle in 2012.
Jake Matthews to Return to Aggieland aggi.es/2ubXRE
— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) January 10, 2013
Matthews will move over to left tackle to protect rising sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel's blind side. Most mock drafts had Matthews being selected in the first round along with Joeckel. By returning for his senior season and playing left tackle, Matthews will get the opportunity to improve his draft stock into a top-10 selection.
With the move of Matthews to left tackle, there will be a hole at right tackle. Cedric Ogbuehi should move over from right guard to right tackle. Ogbuehi is built like an NFL left tackle and will likely take over at left tackle in 2014 when Matthews moves on to the professional ranks.
Mike Matthews is Jake Matthews' younger brother and was the backup center in 2012. He will take over Lewis' starting spot in 2013. The younger Matthews got extensive experience in the Aggies' multiple blowout wins in 2012. He should be a solid center for A&M for the next three years.
Jarvis Harrison returns at left guard for in 2013. He got better as the season went along in 2012. Harrison should be expected to compete for All-SEC honors in 2013 as a junior.
The move of Ogbuehi to right tackle leaves a hole at right guard. Redshirt freshman guard Kimo Tipoti should compete with a slew of others for the starting spot at right guard.
Do not be surprised if incoming freshman offensive guard Joas Aguilar gets a serious look at that right guard spot. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has shown that he will play true freshmen on the lines in the SEC.
At 6'5", 295 lbs, Aguilar has the size and strength to play in the trenches in the SEC in 2013. It will be a question of how far along his technique is and how well Tipoti plays during spring practice.
Versatile Offense Can Conceal Weaknesses
The 2013 offensive line should be very good and has a chance to be outstanding. If the line does struggle, the Aggies' offense is versatile enough where the coaches should be able to conceal those weaknesses.
In 2012 the Ags had one of the top offenses in the country averaging 558 yards per game. The Aggies averaged 316 yards passing and 242 yards rushing per game. If a team stacked the box to stop the run, the Ags could throw over the top.
If a defense dropped into a nickel or dime defense to stop the pass, then the Aggies rushed the ball with Ben Malena and Johnny Manziel. They could hurt defenses in multiple ways.
The beauty of Sumlin's spread offense is in the diversity. There is an answer in it for every question that a defense presents it with. The offense can feature five wide receivers on the field on one play, and three running backs in the backfield on the next.
If the offensive line struggles in pass protection, you can run one and three-step drops and pass the ball inside of three seconds. If the line is weak up the middle, you can run out of a double-wing formation or run some speed option.
The Ags will feature four running backs on the roster in 2013 who could start for most other teams in the nation. Brandon Williams, Trey Williams, Ben Malena and Tra Carson give the Aggies the deepest backfield in the nation this side of Tuscaloosa.
The Aggies will be able to pound most SEC defenses with Manziel and those running backs in the coming season. If Mike Matthews and the new right guard cannot get the job done, they can put two tight ends in the backfield and run wide with the double-win all day long.
If the interior offensive line is strong but Jake Matthews and Ogbuehi are struggling, then Manziel and his band of running backs can run zone-read all day long.
If the offensive line struggles in run blocking, then you spread the field out with four and five wide receiver sets and pass the ball the majority of the time.With receivers Mike Evans, Malcome Kennedy and Derel Walker returning, the Ags will be a tough task to cover by any secondary.
The Ags are bringing in JaQuay Williams, Kyrion Parker, Laquvionte Gonzalez, Ricky Seals-Jones, Jeremy Tabuyo and Sebastian Larue at receiver in the 2013 class. Edward Pope is a 6'4" receiver who redshirted during the 2012 season. No secondary in the country will be able to match up with the height of Evans, Williams, Pope, Parker and Seals-Jones.
The Ags should be able to find a nice rotation of seven receivers out of the returning players at the position and the incoming freshmen. Manziel has the elusiveness and the speed to buy time to get the ball to his receivers.
Malena and Trey Williams caught 30 passes combined in 2012. They will be a threat in the passing game out of the backfield.
The Clear Factor
Cameron Clear signed with A&M during the early signing period for junior college players, without much media attention. The tight end recruit from Arizona Western Community College is one of the lesser-known players in the Ags 2013 recruiting class.
He may end up being the most important. At 6'6" and 275 lbs, Clear is an imposing blocker who will give the Ags a dominating presence on the edge of the line.
If either Jake Matthews or Ogbuehi struggle at their respective positions, the coaches can line up Clear next to them to help out. He has the size and strength to project as a blocking tight end in the NFL. Clear will remind most Aggie fans or former A&M tight end and current New York Giant Martellus Bennett.
In 2012 when the Ags got into the red zone, they would often insert Joseph Cheek at left tackle and move Joeckel to right tackle and Jake Matthews to tight end on the right side to get better blocking on the edge. With Clear on the field, they can simply line him up at right tackle and have a viable receiving target from that position in the red zone.
Clear may end up being most valuable out of the double-wing formation. Most Aggie fans will remember this formation from the Louisiana Tech game where both the A&M and Tech offenses lined up in it against each other.
In 2012 the Ags used Michael Lamothe and Nehemiah Hicks as the wing backs in this formation. They lined the two tight ends up closer to the quarterback so long with the running back, it appeared that the Ags had a diamond formation in the backfield.
The point of the double-wing formation is to outnumber the defenders on the edge. With five offensive linemen and two wing backs they should be a minimum of seven blockers on every play. With a quarterback like Manziel carrying the ball, you could have eight blockers in the game.
Clear would offer the Ags a devastating blocker on the edge out of this formation. He would also give them the option of a 6'6" receiving target out of this formation. If the Ags put Carson in as the running back in this formation, they could have 275-lb Clear and 230-lb Carson on the edge blocking for Manziel.
Diversity Is The Key
Sumlin and the Aggie coaching staff have recruited enough skill talent to A&M in the past two years that their options on offense are unlimited. They can be equally effective running the ball or passing the ball.
The offensive line is key to the success of any offense. However, the fact that Sumlin keeps such an open mind about his offense and is not afraid to experiment with new formations means that they scheme around any offensive weakness.
Sumlin has recruited the personnel and already employed the schemes and plays needed to overcome any weakness on the offensive line.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Penn State Nittany Lions will have several holes to fill in 2013 on both sides of the ball—most notably, replacing quarterback Matt McGloin, who led the Nittany Lions last season and made them the No. 2 passing offense in the Big Ten.
There will no doubt be an adjustment period on offense, that means that the defense, especially early on, is going to have to step up and lead in 2013.
Though there will be several starters returning on offense, one has to think that the team could struggle early on with an inexperienced signal-caller. This year's team will take the field with a new leader at quarterback. Top recruit Christian Hackenberg, junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and 2012 backup Steven Bench will all be vying to be named the starter.
Whoever gets the job, there are sure to be growing pains as the offense evolves throughout the season. Bench is the only one with Division I experience, though he threw just eight passes in 2012. It takes time to learn the speed of the college game, develop a relationship with the receivers and to gain a knack for reading defenses.
The production that Penn State can expect from the quarterback position in 2013 is unknown and hard to predict. The Nittany Lions will likely rely heavily on the running game in order to take pressure off the passing attack.
The running game struggled in 2012, meaning that the play of McGloin was even more important to the success of the team. Even with the emergence of running back Zack Zwinak last season, the Nittany Lions ranked ninth in the Big Ten, averaging just 144.3 rushing yards per game.
Defenses will key on the backs, making the Nittany Lions beat them through the air.
While it may take a few games for the offense to gel in 2013, the defense is going to have to take a lead role. A solid defensive performance can keep any team in a game, regardless of any offensive struggles.
Although the unit will have to make up for the losses of Jordan Hill, Sean Stanley, Stephon Morris, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, it will still be solid. Despite the key losses, Penn State still returns seven guys who started last year, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year, defensive end Deion Barnes.
The secondary, which will return three regular starters, should be the strongest piece of the defense. Adrian Amos, Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong all bring valuable experience that will be relied on heavily in 2013.
Barnes and Da'Quan Jones, who both started last year, will anchor the defensive line. Starting middle linebacker Glenn Carson and the talented Mike Hull will be the core of the linebackers.
Fans should not expect to see the same Penn State offense as last season right away. Yes, a lot of the faces will be the same, but it's going to take time for the new quarterback to get everything clicking.
While the offense will be in a learning mode, the defense will be the backbone of the 2013 Penn State Nittany Lions.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com