Penn State notebook: Offensive line shuffle continues
UNIVERSITY PARK — Donovan Smith returned. Angelo Mangiro moved again. Miles Dieffenbach played more.
Penn State’s offensive line Saturday continued to be in flux, but it began to resemble what coaches thought it would during the offseason.
Mangiro, a junior, got the nod at left guard, the third position at which he has started this season. He started the first seven games at center but moved to tackle for two games when Smith was sidelined because of injury.
Wendy Laurent played the first series at center. When Dieffenbach entered the game for the second possession, Mangiro moved back to center. He also played right guard.
Smith played the entire game. Dieffenbach (offseason torn ACL) played most of the game after making his season debut last week at Indiana. Brian Gaia made his ninth start at right guard, and Andrew Nelson returned to right tackle — he had been filling in for Smith at left tackle the past two weeks.
Derek Dowrey and Brendan Mahon also saw time on the offensive line, which used several different combinations.
“We’ve had a lot of guys who got a lot of experience early on in the season,” Mangiro said. “That’s huge for our program and huge for those guys and their development. Then Miles coming back is great with his leadership and his savvy.”
Another freshman starts
With Trevor Williams unavailable because of injury, Christian Campbell became the fifth true freshman — eighth freshman overall — to start for Penn State this season.
After not appearing in the first two games, Campbell has been a regular backup cornerback — and special teams ace — since. He started ahead of Grant Haley, the nickel back most of the season, but they split reps in the base defense.
Receivers Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall have served among the Lions’ top four wideouts. Tight end Mike Gesicki is another true freshman who regularly plays. He started the Maryland game when Penn State opened in a three-tight end set.
Marcus Allen has taken over as the starting free safety in recent weeks. He had been the lone true freshman to start on defense, although linebacker Jason Cabinda and Haley have played extensively. Nelson, Mahon and receiver DaeSean Hamilton are redshirt freshmen who have started often.
“I like freshmen. I like freshmen that come in that make plays,” coach James Franklin repeated three times while looking and gesturing to a balcony that overlooks the postgame news conference. Prospective recruits and their families gather there.
Linebacker Mike Hull moved into 10th place on the career Penn State tackles list. … Junior receiver Matt Zanellato did not play. He does not have a catch this season. Linebacker Von Walker returned after not playing at Indiana. … Temple’s eight first downs were the fewest by a Penn State opponent since FCS Indiana State had eight in 2011.