Five underclassmen to watch

Adrian Amos saw action in every game last season and could be a breakout player in 2012. Cal Sport Media via AP Images

After so many departures from last year’s squad, Penn State will need to count on some fresh faces this season. NittanyNation has the scoop on who to look out for.

While talented freshmen Eugene Lewis, Jordan Lucas and Da'Quan Davis were all tempting picks, they likely won't impact the team as soon as these five underclassmen.

1. Bill Belton, RB, sophomore

OK, let's get the obvious out of the way. Belton takes over for one of the top tailbacks in the nation, USC transfer Silas Redd, and instantly becomes one of the Nittany Lions' top offensive threats. Belton should fit well in coach Bill O'Brien's scheme and will be a factor in the passing game. O'Brien said Belton is a guy who can handle 20 or more carries a game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him surpass 1,000 yards in his first season as a starter.

2. Donovan Smith, LT, redshirt freshman

The old coaching staff told the Maryland product he had the makings of former Penn State star offensive tackle Levi Brown, who was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. Smith is just a redshirt freshman, but he has already earned a starting position is primed for big things. This season could just be the beginning for a very special Penn State player.

3. Adrian Amos, CB/S, sophomore

Amos played in every game as a true freshman, starting in one. And in that one start against Iowa, he played well enough to help limit the Hawkeyes to just 169 passing yards in a 13-3 Penn State win. He has the versatility to play any position in the secondary. He's an aggressive ball-hawk and could turn out to be the biggest surprise on the defense this season.

4. Deion Barnes, DE, redshirt freshman

No, he's not a starter, but he'll get some chances this season. Defensive end Sean Stanley told ESPN he has been really impressed with Barnes and, besides himself, said Barnes was the best pass-rusher on the team. Barnes will have the ability to flash his potential this season, and NittanyNation doesn't think fans will be disappointed.

5. Kyle Carter, F-TE, redshirt freshman

Coach O'Brien loves using tight ends in his offense, and Carter appears to be his top receiving one. He's quick and athletic and impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a starting job in the spring. Tight ends caught only 15 balls last season, but Carter has the ability to become a favorite target of quarterback Matt McGloin.