Sunday, May 23, 2010
With the departure of Pat Devlin before the 2009 season, right after the NCAA granted Daryll Clark an extra year of eligibility, everyone knew that Penn State would have a green starting quarterback this season. That's been the biggest story of the spring practice, and so far it looks like there's no clear leader. Let's break down this position battle further along with all others for the Nittany Lions' offense.
Quarterback: There's three candidates here: Sophomore Kevin Newsome, Freshman Paul Jones, and walk on Matt McGloin. Freshman Robert Bolden doesn't arrive on campus until August so he can expect to be redshirted. The Blue White Game revealed very little about the competition, with the freshman Paul Jones stealing the show and throwing for 2 touchdown passes. The word is that McGloin has been the most accurate, but Newsome has more experience and better mobility. I think Newsome ends up being the winner here and Penn State goes back to the offense they ran in 2008 with Daryll Clark, which implemented the QB read option.
Running Backs: For the 3rd year in a row the two backs handling most of the carries for Penn State will be Evan Royster and Stephfon Green. Royster needs just over 400 yards to become the school's all time leading rusher. Curtis Dukes will provide depth here while Brandon Beachum recovers from an ACL injury. It is possible that incoming freshman Silas Redd sees some time here but I'd rather him not burn a redshirt for 20 carries, he has serious potential. Joe Suhey will be the starting fullback.
Wide Recievers: Last year everyone was concerned about the impact that the departure of Derrick WIlliams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood would have on the passing game. It turned out to be a strength of this team's offensive attack. Derek Moye filled in adequately and Graham Zug became Clark's most trusted target. Chaz Powell had a slightly disappointing year, but he's since been moved to defense. We saw flashes of Curtis Drake's speed last year when he was only a freshman, he looks very comfortable with the ball in his hands and I think we can expect 20 catches from him this year. For anyone that saw the spring game they saw Shawney Kersey's impressive performance, hauling in the only two touchdown catches of the game. We will have more depth this year than we did last, and I think it's important for veteran recievers to help along whoever ends up being the starter under center.
Tight Ends: It looks like senior Andrew Szczerba is going to be the primary tight end this season, with Garry Gilliam backing him up. He's been described as a good blocker with soft hands, but I think we all know that we're losing something with Andrew Quarless being gone. Mel Kiper described him as a "1st round talent" when he was taken in the 4th, he was able to go vertical like none of the guys we have this year.
Offensive Line: For the second year in a row, the offensive line may be the biggest problem this team has. They have 5 players back with starting experience, but that shouldn't be too reassuring to anyone because they just aren't that good. Wisniewski is the only All-Conference guy on this unit, I'm very worried about the guys around him. In both losses last year the line got absolutely shredded, and I just hope that some sort of chemistry transformation takes place this summer so these guys can come out and play well. Expect Quinn Barham and Deonte Pannell to start at tackle, with Wisneiwski and Eliades at the guard spots, and Doug Klopacz getting the nod at center.
Outlook: I think we'll execute well against lesser teams this year, but I'm expecting struggles against Ohio State, Iowa, and Alabama. Similar to what you saw last year I think teams with more athletic defenses will take away the line of scrimmage from us and we won't be able to get the ball downfield to put them on their heels. At times in games like that you're going to need your quarterback to step up and make a play, and I don't know our guys are ready to do that yet. The staff seems really comfortable in their scheme after running it with Clark successfully for the last two years and they feel like they have everyone in the right place. We are talented and could potentially surprise some people, but I think 2011 is a year where we are going to be really dangerous offensively. I think Wisniewski and Royster get All Conference honors.
Defensive Recap later this week.
Posted by Bill at 3:48 PM