Look to the all-important left tackle spot on the offensive line.
And to the defensive secondary.
As expected, there really wasn’t any head-turning moves or position changes when Bill O’Brien released his depth chart Tuesday, three months before the season-opener.
The two biggest newsmakers — Matt McGloin being named the starting quarterback and cornerback Curtis Drake not being on the team — were known last Friday.
Rather, the most intrigue comes on the offensive line and with the defensive backs — or lack of them.
The X-factor on the line is at left tackle where promising, massive redshirt freshman Donovan Smith has taken over. The left tackle often is considered the key performer on the line because he protects a right-handed quarterback’s blind side from oncoming rushers.
Smith is about the perfect size for the position at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds with agile feet. Some on Penn State’s previous staff reportedly called him the team’s most promising incoming offensive lineman since Levi Brown.
Though he didn’t play last fall, Smith went about winning the right tackle spot from senior Mike Farrell this spring before being elevated over junior Adam Gress at left tackle now.
(Gress was moved to right tackle, where he is the listed starter).
The burden will be great for Smith. The success of the offense probably will rely, in heavy doses, to the ability of a young man who has never played a down of college football.
Now, on to the defense, and in particular, the cornerbacks and safeties.
The question is this: Who are these guys?
While the depth is strong at right cornerback with returning starter Adrian Amos and key backup Derrick Thomas, the other three spots all have significant concerns.
Walk-ons (or former walk-ons) will serve as top backups at left corner (Jesse Della Valle) and at free safety (Tim Buckley) and even as the starter at strong safety (Jake Fagnano).
While injuries would dent many positions on a Big Ten roster, injuries here would devastate the Nittany Lions. One hope is that a couple of incoming true freshmen from Calvert Hall in Baltimore could supply some help when they arrive this summer.