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O'Brien impressed by several freshmen, including DBs Davis, Lucas

August 16, 2012 - Cory Giger
By Timothy Schoen

Mirror intern

Bill O'Brien will not be the only newcomer to make an impact for Penn State this season.

The coach has a group of true freshmen he is very high on and expects to make contributions to the team in their first year on campus.

The Nittany Lions' secondary was hit hard by graduation and has suffered some key injuries that is making depth an issue. It will force O'Brien to use some of his true freshmen in key roles.

The coach said he has been pleased with the progression of the group as a whole and his freshmen in particular.

True freshmen Da'Quan Davis (5-foot-10, 161 pounds) and Jordan Lucas (6-0, 188) both have turned heads through the first two weeks of training camp at cornerback and safety, respectively, and O'Brien said he will look to them to help the team come September.

In order for a true freshman to see the field, the coaching staff would have to be confident he would see a significant amount of play throughout the season. O'Brien said it would take the first three to four games to decide on the redshirt candidates.

"If you're going to play a freshman, you really need to play him," O'Brien said. "You don't come out of there with 10 plays and you've burned a redshirt."

Deion Barnes (6-4, 246), a redshirt freshman, also is high on O'Brien's list. The coach said Barnes understands the schemes and has worked himself into the defensive end rotation, along with seniors Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro.

"He's a good pass rusher," O'Brien said of Barnes. "He's an athletic guy who's tough, and I've enjoyed watching him play this camp."

True freshman Akeel Lynch (6-0, 209) is one of the running backs vying to spell starter Bill Belton, and O'Brien has been impressed with Lynch's play during camp. At tight end, the Lions figure to have some depth and will rotate five different players, including true freshman Brent Wilkerson (6-3, 239).

The coach said his freshmen also have an opportunity to be leaders on the team by the way they play on the field.

"Any time you're a younger player, if you're a good player, and you're out there on the field and you're making plays, you have a chance to be a leader on the team," O'Brien said.

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