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Looking for Penn State Football Leadership? It's Here, in 17 Different Places

by on April 18, 2013 10:10 PM

Where’s the leadership coming from for the 2013 Nittany Lions, now that Mauti, Zordich, McGloin, Hill, et al are gone?

It’s already there, their coach says. It just doesn’t look the same.

And how could it? The senior class in 2012 was 31 deep and included several fifth-year players. That leadership was lightning in a bottle, really, caught in the midst of a tremendous thunderstorm when Penn State needed it most.

“We had great leaders last year,” said head coach Bill O’Brien, whose Nittany Lions went 8-4 in 2012. “And for the situation we were in last year, we needed those leaders. For a new coaching staff, it was fantastic to have those 31 seniors.”

Even though NCAA sanctions prevented a complete restocking of the shelves, Penn State’s roster still boasts more than 90 players. O’Brien will need every last one of them, on and off the field, this coming season.

“Just because those guys are gone doesn’t mean we’re depleted in the leadership category,” O’Brien said last week. “We feel really good about those guys who are back for us now. It’s a little bit different type of leadership going – it’s older guys, it’s medium – juniors and sophomores – guys, and it’s younger guys, who we think are going to be leaders too.”

That 2013 leadership, though, will look different than Mauti and Zordich standing in front of dozens of TV cameras last July. Or McGloin tossing the ball at his center’s head. Or…well, let’s show you. In 2013, Penn State’s leadership shows up this way:

1. Genius John Urschel shows he’s an Everyman with a wicked sense of humor.

2. DaQuan Jones shows film to his understudies.

3. Zach Zwinak shows 1,000 yards doesn’t mean a dadgum thing, saying the other day, “I work just as hard as I always have, try to compete against other guys at my position. Nothing has really changed.”

4. Adrian Amos and Allen Robinson show, via text, that teammates must show up for offseason passing sessions.

5. Eric Shrive shows how to put supporters’ money -- $70,000 he personally raised, and counting – where a worthy charity’s mouth is, as president of Penn State’s Uplifting Athletes Chapter and the 2013 winner of the national Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion.

6. Glenn Carson and Mike Hull show, in tandem, that tackling the Linebacker U legacy can be done, even when following two future NFLers.

7. Garry Gilliam shows loyalty by asking for a sixth year.

8. Malcolm Willis shows underclassman in the secondary the primary way – the way he’s learned firsthand as he heads into his fifth season -- to use their eyes, their feet and their guile.

9. A-Rob shows off a new body, 11 pounds heavier – all muscle.

10. Ty Howle shows he’s on the team no matter what, from beginning (verbally committed March 2008) to end (starting center 2013), and everything -- long snapper, 3.59 GPA, torn pec – in-between.

11. Amos shows he’s versatile and will play anywhere – safety, corner and, says Willis, “you could probably have him play linebacker if you had to.”

12. Kyle Carter shows he’s serious by winning the offseason Rehab Award after missing the final game of 2012 with torn wrist ligaments.

13. Early enrollees Richy Anderson, Adam Breneman, D.J. Crook, Anthony Smith and Jordan Smith show they’re ready to contribute immediately.

14. Tyler Ferguson shows there are no hard feelings, it’s all Jake Waters under the bridge, by leaving California for University Park in the middle of winter.

15. Gilliam, Nate Cadogan, Malik Golden and Trevor Williams show flexibility by switching – and with the latter two, maybe switching back – sides of the ball.

16. Nyeem Wartman shows confidence -- after suffering a knee injury in the second game of his career last season – by vocally coming back to land a starting slot at linebacker.

17. Dozens of players show their understanding of civic responsibility by visiting an Altoona VA hospital, hosting several Make-A-Wish families and performing at THON – all in the same weekend.

That’s all well and good. Even good-hearted.

But the toughest part?

Showing it on the football field, starting at noon on Saturday in Beaver Stadium during the Blue-White Game.


Recent Columns:

Countdown to the Blue-White Game: Does Anyone Care About the Score?

O'Brien's Quarterback Decision: The Long Road Ahead

The Parallel Universes of Penn State Football

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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