Penn State running back Zach Zwinak gets hit by Iowa's Joe Gaglione on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, during first-half action against Penn St. at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (John Schultz / Quad-City Times)

John Schultz

This is the 10th installment of a daily series updating the status of Big Ten football teams. See all of the reports at

2012 rewind

Record: 8-4, 6-2 Big Ten (second in the Leaders Division)

Stat leaders: Rushing, Zach Zwinak, 1,000 yards; Passing, Matt McGloin, 3,266 yards; Receiving, Allen Robinson, 1,013 yards; Tackles, Gerald Hodges, 109; Sacks, Deion Barnes, 6; Interceptions, Michael Mauti, 3

Spring forward

Returning starters: Offense 8, Defense 6, Specialists 2

Top returners: RB Zach Zwinak, WR Allen Robinson, OL Donovan Smith, OL John Urschel, TE Kyle Carter, DE Deion Barnes, DT DaQuan Jones, CB Adrian Amos, LB Glenn Carson

Key losses: QB Matt McGloin, C Matt Stankiewitch, FB Michael Zordich, LB Michael Mauti, LB Gerald Hodges, DL Jordan Hill, CB Stephon Morris

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Four-down territory

  • The Nittany Lions will be green behind center, where freshmen Tyler Ferguson and Christian Hackenberg will compete for the starting role at quarterback during fall camp. Whoever wins the opportunity to direct the Penn State attack will benefit from an experienced group of receivers led by Allen Robinson and tight end Kyle Carter.
  • Penn State returns its leading rusher from a year ago, Zach Zwinak, but coach Bill O’Brien likes the potential he saw from Akeel Lynch during spring drills. The Nittany Lions have several other newcomers positioned for playing time on offense, including wide receiver Eugene Lewis.
  • A pair of receivers spent the spring working in the secondary and Trevor Williams may have found a new homer. Penn State is also looking at Malik Golden for a role in the defensive backfield which will be built around versatility. Adrian Amos, a returning starter at cornerback, shifted to safety at times in the spring.
  • Penn State’s kicking game remains a question. O’Brien opted to keep his offense on the field on fourth down frequently last season as Sam Ficken struggled to a 14-of-21 year in field goal attempts with a long of 39 yards. That inconsistency carried over into the spring, and Penn State could look at incoming freshman walk-on Chris Gulla as the season nears.

First thoughts

Opener: Aug. 30, Western Michigan