You hate to pin the hopes of a team on one guy.
Adam Gress (58) has a huge task ahead of him this fall.
So I'll put them on three guys.
After a spring filled with changes, Penn State's roster appears to be rounding nicely into form in most areas. The Nittany Lions look like they'll have another sturdy front seven, depth and talent at running back and wide receiver (and, just as importantly for the new offense, tight end), and Anthony Fera should be solid on both kicks and punts. The concerns about the experience and the depth in the secondary are justified, but considering the predicted strength of that front seven and the lack of premier passers on the schedule, the defensive backs should have time to jell.
What the Nittany Lions will need, if Bill O'Brien is going to make a splashy arrival in the Big Ten, is steady quarterback play. And to get that, they'll need just as steady play from their offensive tackles.
I won't say that the quarterback isn't the most important position for Penn State in 2012. In today's game, that's true for most teams in most years, and in O'Brien's offense, by all accounts, the quarterback isn't merely the star of the show -- he's the director, the producer and the screenwriter, too. Whether that quarterback is Matt McGloin (likely), Paul Jones (less likely) or Rob Bolden (ummm …), he'll have to make not only good decisions but quick decisions both before and after the ball is snapped.
That's going to be tough for all three guys in the first year in the system. It will be tougher, though, if they have to make those post-snap decisions under duress. Pressure from the edges came early and often in last week's Blue-White Game, and though you could take that as a sign that Penn State has some good, young (and fast) talent at defensive end, it also highlighted the task Adam Gress and Donovan Smith have ahead of them this season.
No starting positions are set in stone at this point, but I think it will be Gress and Smith at the tackles, with Mike Farrell as the top backup to both. Nate Cadogan has played just as much tight end as tackle to this point in his career and looked shaky in the spring game. Reserves Luke Graham, Kevin Blanchard and Khamrone Kolb all need seasoning.
Both Gress and Smith have what you want to see from your tackles -- they're both big (6-foot-5-plus, about 310 pounds apiece), strong and can move. With the help of Mac McWhorter and Craig Fitzgerald, they both came a long way this spring. But they'll have to keep coming.
McGloin has the potential to thrive in O'Brien's offense if he makes the right reads, gets the ball out quickly on short to intermediate passes and puts it in spots where the receiver can catch it with some room to operate. What has gotten No. 11 into trouble in the past, though, is when he tries to force the football into places it shouldn't (or can't) go, and he's more likely to do that if opposing defensive ends break up the timing of the play and put McGloin on the move.
Jones has the arm and feet to make plays if the protection breaks down but again, that's not what will make this new offense successful. O'Brien wants to keep the defense on its heels, not hope that his quarterback can make something out of nothing.
If the tackles can hold the edges on passing downs and help the interior linemen clear the way for Silas Redd and the running backs (they looked more than capable of doing so in the Blue-White Game), Penn State's offense has a chance to be good. If they can't, O'Brien will have to keep his tight ends and running backs in to block more often, which will limit the versatility of his offense. And though McGloin or Jones or Bolden will likely throw a few picks with good protection this season, they will assuredly throw a lot more if their tackles cause them to acquire a bad case of happy feet.
Only one NFL team (the New Orleans Saints) put up more passing yards last season than O'Brien's New England Patriots. That's partly because only eight teams in the league allowed fewer sacks.
To bring the Patriots' offense to Beaver Stadium, O'Brien will need his quarterbacks to have a clear mind and a true arm. To make that offense work and put some wins on the schedule, he'll also need the big guys protecting them to have quick feet and play to the whistle.