- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
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Big Ten media days, a two-day event in Chicago, kick off Thursday. Until then, we’ll be getting you prepared for what to expect by running down some of the biggest questions each program will face at the lectern and as the regular season gets started.
Up next is Penn State. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin will be bringing defensive tackle Anthony Zettel, offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro and safety Jordan Lucas. Here are some of the questions they could face:
How much better can this offensive line be? It's no secret that the Nittany Lions' weak link last season was the offensive line and it's no surprise that, yet again, the offensive line remains Penn State's biggest question mark. Donovan Smith's early departure to the NFL leaves an opening at left tackle, and you can bet that Franklin & Co. will field plenty of questions on just how his potential replacement has fared so far this offseason. Junior-college transfer Paris Palmer is the favorite to take over, and he's been a hot topic since January. (Franklin was asked about Palmer just two weeks ago and said his weight is 299.4 pounds, a gain of 21.4 pounds since the spring.) Mangiro will act as the spokesman for this unit, and he'll likely field questions on everything -- from Stanford transfer OL Kevin Reihner to unit chemistry to offseason improvement.
Will Christian Hackenberg improve his numbers from last season and live up to his billing as one of the nation's best quarterbacks? No, Hackenberg won't be at Big Ten media days. But that certainly doesn't mean there'll be no questions about the Lions' most popular -- and most visible -- player. He's coming off a 12-touchdown, 15-interception season, but he's clearly capable of more. So in what many believe will be his final college season, can Hackenberg finally put it all together? The offensive line was to blame for many of his issues last season and, as already mentioned, the line will be addressed. But there also are questions about Hackenberg's confidence, his progress and his cast of receivers. Hackenberg has the potential to be one of the nation's best, but will he be able to meet that potential this season?
What's it mean to move on from the sanctions? For the first time since 2011, there'll be no questions about lack of bowl games or reduced scholarships. (PSU's postseason ban wasn't lifted until about six weeks following last season's media days.) That's a different dynamic for these Nittany Lions. This is also the last group that played for Joe Paterno, as Mangiro and Zettel are among the final five recruited players with that historic connection. In other words, this year marks the end of an era of sorts for Penn State and the beginning of a new one. Can PSU become a serious contender this season? And what does this mean for those final five players who stuck through it all? Expect those questions and more on Friday.
12dMitch Sherman and Brian Bennett