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When the Nittany Lions lined up at the end of practice on Mondays last Fall it was a chance for the younger players to participate in scrimmages. Bill O Brien s staff used the scout team, or the as O Brien s staff called it, to give the younger players competitive situations so at the end of the season they would have more film to sift through of their underclassmen.

O Brien and his staff left in January, but a trio of redshirt freshmen defensive linemen left a favorable impression on their teammates because of their play during those scrimmages last year. Defensive tackle along with ends and redshirted last season as true freshmen and are working to learn the new defensive scheme this spring.

They all went hard, said. I think those three guys were the three biggest standouts on [the dirty show] defense last year. When I went out to practice, I'd see Parker and Garrett getting into the face of those linemen. They didn't care that they were starters or anything.

They went hard at practice. That goes along the lines of respect. They didn't take a day off. Just because they weren't at the top, they'd still go hard. They really impressed you.

The Lions have both returning starters at defensive end with C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes. In the middle there is tackle Austin Johnson who played in every game last season and made two starts as well as upperclassman

praised Penn State s defense several times this spring and while the unit as a whole is ahead of the offense at this point something that is customary this time of year developing depth along the defensive line remains a focal point. There are plenty of new faces in the mix, a luxury the Lions do not have when the offense lines up on the other side of the ball.

That s the one position where we ve got as good of depth as any position on our team, Franklin said. Defensive end as well as defensive tackle [and] the move we had to make moving guys to the o-line affected us a little bit at defensive tackle but we did that because we have a lot of confidence in and the freshman that came in at mid semester. We have a lot of confidence in those two guys. They re going to have to play for us.

Between the trio of redshirt freshmen plus White and Barney, who arrived in January after spending the last two seasons at Northwest Mississippi Community College, the future of Penn State s defensive line continues to fall into place. The spring is about developing young and inexperienced players and with a handful of practices left it sounds like Penn State has had some success doing so with the defensive line this spring.

I think they're some guys who may play this year, Bars said regarding the three redshirt freshmen. They're trying to get stronger and learn the playbook more, but they all have great potential. There's nothing bad to be said about those guys.

who was the fourth-best player in New Jersey while Cothren and Cothran were both three-star players and all of them had the benefit of sitting and learning their freshman year. All three are working to improve their size so they can hold up and thrive against Big Ten offensive linemen. While they actually lost weight since the 2013 season ended they will have another training cycle this summer to zero in on their playing weights.

The young defensive linemen will have another chance to showcase their talents, this time for the fans and the media to see, during the Blue-White Game on Saturday. After the final of 15 spring practices it s anticipated Franklin or each position coach will meet with each player to let them know where they grade out of spring ball. Those reports will continue to be important pieces of information that impact the depth chart and help monitor the progress of each player.

They've bought into [ and they're trying to learn his defense the best they can and work hard, Bars said of Sickels, Cothren and Cothran. They do a great job at practice. They're a big positive and all three of those guys will be good at Penn State.

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