O’Brien: Depth an issue starting in 2014, but not this year

UNIVERSITY PARK – Bill O’Brien acknowledged the depth concerns that will hit Penn State starting next year because of the NCAA sanctions, but the coach does not think depth will be a major issue this season.

“There’s certainly some numbers issues, but I think we are still dealing with a little bit of the same situation that we dealt with in 2012,” O’Brien said. “I think when it gets really, really difficult is really ’14 to ’15, ’16. In ’13, even though we have depth issues, we don’t have to get down to 65 [scholarships] until 2014.”

The Nittany Lions will be limited to that 65 total from 2014-17, and entering this season they are expected to have more than 70 players on scholarship.

Highlights from O’Brien’s spring news conference Monday:

* Safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (shoulder) and tight end Kyle Carter (wrist) will not take part in contact drills this spring.

* O’Brien said freshman tight end Adam Breneman, who missed his senior year of high school with a knee injury, “will be full go in the spring. But we are really going to monitor him early on.”

* Miles Dieffenbach is at guard and has not moved to center. Dieffenbach originally was listed at center on the spring roster last week.

* Zach Zwinak is atop the depth chart at running back after a strong 2012 season (1,000 yards), and O’Brien said Bill Belton has lost some weight and is in better condition. Belton began 2012 as the starter but got injured and didn’t play much at the end of the season after falling out of favor.

* Penn State has enjoyed an abundance of talent at linebacker in the past decade, but O’Brien noted this year, “We don’t have a lot of depth at linebacker, that’s for sure.” Glenn Carson returns in the middle, and Mike Hull is expected to be one of the outside linebackers. Redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman has the inside track on the other outside spot, with Ben Kline missing the spring because of shoulder surgery.

* O’Brien spent a ton of time in recent weeks giving speeches at various functions around the country. He joked Monday, “I’m just excited to be off the banquet circuit and back on the field coaching.”

* O’Brien will not be taking part in any NCAA tournament brackets, which have been known to get college coaches into trouble. When asked by the Mirror’s Neil Rudel, O’Brien laughed and said, “No, no” and then joked, “You’re a bad guy Neil for asking.”