Class of 2012 players to watch: No. 4

Over the next week, NittanyNation will look at different players from the 2012 class that could make a big impact next season

No. 4 player to watch: DT Austin Johnson

He may have redshirted his first season, but he traveled with the team and was listed as the team's third-string defensive tackle. With the graduations of Jordan Hill and James Terry, Johnson could be the next man up in 2013.

He appears to be further along than the other defensive tackles in the 2012 class (Derek Dowrey, Brian Gaia), and the competition among the interior isn't all that deep. Outside of redshirt sophomore Kyle Baublitz and starter DaQuan Jones, the only other player listed on the depth chart at this position was Anthony Zettel, a 253-pound player more accustomed to defensive end.

In other words, it's highly likely Johnson sees time next season, and he'll compete with Baublitz for the starting job. At 297 pounds, Johnson is already 10 pounds heavier (and one inch shorter) than Baublitz, so his youth isn't exactly a hindrance to his frame.

Johnson made an immediate impact in preseason camp and became one of just a handful of freshmen who found themselves on the depth chart. He could've played in 2012, but it wasn't necessary because the Nittany Lions' boasted three experienced upperclassmen.

With two of them leaving, though, Johnson could very well be a surprise in 2013. He's definitely a player to watch.

Quotables: He's "going to be a force to be reckoned with." -- Bill O'Brien