It's not exactly starting from scratch. But James Franklin has made it clear that no starting job is safe.
The new Penn State coach opens his first spring practice Monday looking to create as much competition as possible on the Nittany Lions' depleted roster.
“I think the most important thing is these kids all start with a clean slate and they have an opportunity to earn starting jobs,” Franklin said earlier this offseason. “There are no returning starters at any position. At any position.
“Every single day, these guys are going to wake up in the morning and they're going to earn their job. Obviously, we have guys that have tremendous experience … but we're going to create the most competitive environment we possibly can.”
That will especially be true in the summer when the majority of the 2014 recruiting class arrives on campus. For right now, however, the Lions have just 53 scholarship players to work with during spring ball. And a few of them will either be limited or held out entirely as they continue rehab from injuries.
“We really won't even have a depth chart,” Franklin said. “We'll do a depth chart this spring that will be based on seniority, and we'll do a depth chart in summer camp that is based on seniority as well. But the players will have a good idea of where everybody's at.
“I want to make sure we create an environment where everybody knows you're going to have to wake up every morning and compete like crazy for your job.”
With that in mind, here's a position-by-position look at the Lions — listed by seniority, as Franklin suggested — as they open the spring.
Walk-ons: D.J. Crook, Austin Whipple, Jack Seymour
• OK, so this is one spot where the starting job isn't up for grabs. Getting Hackenberg as many reps to nail down the new offense will be important. Bill O'Brien's plan was to redshirt O'Connor and that could be an option for Franklin as well.
Walk-ons: Deron Thompson, Brandon Johnson, Cole Chiappialle, Adam Geiger, Brian Tomasetti, Dominic Salomone (FB), Jack Haffner (FB), Brandon Smith (FB)
• A year ago, a wrist injury to Zwinak had the former staff ready to eliminate the Blue-White Game as we know it. Franklin isn't about to go that far, but it will be interesting to see how easy he takes it on his running backs over the next month.
Walk-ons: Deshawn Baker, Gregg Garrity, Luke Vadas, Chris Geiss
• Penn State will be getting some very talented reinforcements here in the summer when the rest of the freshman class arrives. As it is, this spring is a huge opportunity for Lewis to establish himself as Hackenberg's top target headed into the season.
Walk-on: Tom Pancoast
• The new staff obviously doesn't have the track record with tight ends that Bill O'Brien did. But the talent and versatility at the position — now adding a healthy Wilkerson — more or less demands that it remain a focal point of the offense.
Walk-ons: Albert Hall, Evan Galimberti, Andrew Terlingo, Tom Devenney
• Depth in the trenches is one of the Lions' biggest concerns right now. Tanner Hartman left the team over the winter and Dowrey has made the switch from defense. A pair of redshirt freshmen in Nelson and Mahon could be needed to step right in and start.
Walk-ons: Tyrone Smith, Carl Nassib
• Penn State's first spring without Larry Johnson in nearly 20 years will take some adjustment. The Lions need to figure out their rotation at tackle with Zettel conceivably able to play inside or outside this season.
Walk-ons: T.J. Rhattigan, Drew Boyce, Matthew Baney, Charles Idemudia, Adam Cole, Mike Wiand, Hunter Crafford, Ryan Ammerman, Carter Henderson
• Numbers here may be even thinner in the spring, as Kline, a Dallastown High School graduate, is coming off of two separate offseason surgeries and may be eased back into action. It gives new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop some latitude to look at some of the 4-2-5 schemes he used at Vanderbilt.
39`Jesse Della Valle`(5th/Sr.)
Walk-ons: Devin Pryor, Jesse Merise, Jordan Dudas, Von Walker, Colin Harrop, Dad Poquie
• Shoop said upon his introduction that the plan is for Amos to move back to safety. The issue last season was that the Lions didn't have another corner they could trust opposite Lucas. One imagines Williams will get another shot to reclaim that starting role.
Walk-ons: Chris Gulla (P), Zach Ladonis (KS), Tyler Yazujian (KS), Andrew Corcoran (KS)
• If the season opened now, Ficken would be the kicker and Gulla would be the new punter. But the Lions do have a small army of non-scholarship kickers arriving in the summer, so the special teams battle could last all the way until the opener in Ireland.