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Friday, March 18, 2011
Opening spring ball: Penn State

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions hit the practice field Saturday for the first of 15 spring workouts.

Here's a snapshot of Penn State entering the spring.

The big story: Rob Bolden and the quarterback competition. Bolden, who tried to leave the program after the Outback Bowl but was denied his release, returns to practice this spring hoping to reclaim a job he felt should never have been taken away. Although Bolden remained in good spirits this winter and didn't shy away from team activities, he hasn't closed the door on a potential departure from Penn State. How Bolden handles himself as the competition reopens will be interesting. Bolden and Matt McGloin are the top two candidates, but redshirt freshman Paul Jones is another intriguing prospect who could work his way into the mix.

Position in the spotlight: Quarterback certainly qualifies as Penn State looks for a clear-cut starter and greater leadership from the most important position on the field. I'd also include defensive end here. Penn State has lacked a premier pass-rusher since Aaron Maybin in 2008. Although the entire defensive line needs a good spring after a down season in 2010, ends like Jack Crawford will be closely watched.

Coaching changes: Although defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden all were mentioned for jobs elsewhere, Paterno's veteran staff remains intact. Penn State is one of just two Big Ten teams to avoid any staff shuffling this year.

Keep an eye on: Gerald Hodges. A leg injury limited Hodges in 2010, but hopes are high for the junior linebacker. Penn State needs playmakers to emerge alongside Michael Mauti, and the spotlight will be on guys like Hodges, Khairi Fortt and Glenn Carson this spring.

Spring game: April 16