As the snow is just about all melted, and the temperatures warm up in Happy Valley that means only one thing. Spring football is just around the corner.
The team will take the indoor field of Holuba Hall the week of March 30, for what should be a very interesting few weeks of practice. The intra-squad, Blue-White Game will take place on April 25 which will reveal the likely starters for the 2009 season. But until then here’s a preview of what to expect during this spring.
There are 15 starting roles that are currently vacant, seven on offense and defense, and a kicker. Defensive ends Maurice Evans and Aaron Maybin both left school early for the NFL leaving two defensive end spots open. Maybin an All-American will be missed a lot because of his speed, as a rush end he was phenomenal in the passing game. Maurice Evans had a great season his sophomore year, but a suspension early in the season last season caused him to miss three games, and he never got back to the previous year form. Also lost on the defensive line is starting defensive end Josh Gaines. Gaines leadership, and consistent play will be missed as the Lions head into 2009 with a very young group of defensive ends.
Outside Linebacker Tyrell Sales, a two year starter along with everyone in the secondary’s gone. Corners Lydell Sargeant and Tony Davis never received enough praise as they should have all season long. Both at only 5’10” consistently shut down receivers with great awareness, and coverage. Both will be missed for their talent and their experience. Safeties Anthony Scirrotto, and Mark Rubin are both gone as well. There’s much work to be done here to replace this veteran group.
On the offensive side of the ball much experience is lost. Receivers Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, and Derrick Williams have all been starters since their freshman year, and they all possess something different that made them one of the best receiving corps in the country. All three of them will be missed greatly because of their consistent play and experience.
Offensive line loses three linemen for arguably one of the best Penn State lines ever. Needing to be replaced is, Rich Ohrnberger and Rimington Award winner AQ Shipley, both were three year starters and captains last year, and Gerald Cadogan a two year starter. Once again leadership and experience is what will be most missed in this group.
Fullback Dan Lawlor consistently made great blocks for running backs Evan Royster, and Stephfon Green all season long last year, and never received any credit for it. He will be missed in the running game a lot. And kicker Kevin Kelly leaves Penn State as the career points leader, and second all time in the Big Ten behind Ron Dayne. Kelly a four year starter will be missed as he was very consistent from 40 yards and closer.
*All class identifications are for the 09-10 school year.
As long as Larry Johnson Sr. is the defensive line coach, this team continues to produce good defensive ends. Early favorites are sophomore Jack Crawford, and fifth year senior Jerome Hayes. Hayes a rush end, has shown flashes of being a good defensive end the past two years, but both years has tore an ACL, in two different legs. If Hayes doesn’t appear to be 100% Kevion Latham and Eric Lattimore both sophomores are waiting, but both should see significant time anyways with Crawford starting for the first time, and Hayes coming off an injury.
Senior AJ Wallace and Sophomore D’Anton Lynn are the early favorites to fill the vacancies at cornerback. Both are 6’1” which is a nice change from 5’10” Sargeant and Davis, but Wallace and Lynn have big shoes to fill. At safety promising sophomore, Drew Astorino will fill in for Scirrotto. In Astorino’s minimal time at safety he looked very promising, and showed great instincts for the ball. The other safety spot has many candidates to claim the job. Early enrollee freshman Gerald Hodges, sophomore Nick Sukay, and juniors Cedric Jefferies, and Knowledge Timmons, will all vie for the starting spot.
Once again there are many options here. Sean Lee will be back after tearing his ACL last year in spring practice, and before the injury he was on just about everyone’s preseason All American list. Lee a senior will most likely will play middle linebacker, and Navorro Bowman will have the other outside spot locked up. This leaves sophomores, Andrew Dailey, Michael Mauti, Nate Stupar, Michael Yanchich, juniors, Chris Colasanti, Bani Gbadyu, and Senior, Josh Hull all candidates for the vacancy. Keeping Lee on the outside will allow everyone listed but Yanchich, and Gbadyu as candidates for the middle, but Lee will most likely play middle.
The whole left side of the line from center over is up for grabs. Whenever there’s a shakeup on the offensive line there seems to be infinite possibilities. Sophomore DeOn’tae Pannell will step into left tackle, and last season’s starting right guard, junior Stefen Wisniewski will probably take over center. Junior Lou Eliades, and sophomores, Johnnie Troutman and J.B. Walton will fight for the two guard spots. Other names to remember are sophomore, Quinn Barham and true freshman Eric Shrive. Many possibilities exist here.
Juniors Graham Zug and Brett Brackett are the only receivers who saw any playing time in a meaningful situation last season. In their limited time both showed signs of good hands, and both possess a big target, but neither are going to wow with their speed. For the third and fourth receiver spots expect to see sophomores Chaz Powell, and Derek Moye who both saw the field in mop-up duty last season. Of course colleges always seem to have an influx of wide receivers on their squad but all the following could see the field in 09; fifth year seniors Kevin Cousins and James McDonald, sophomore Jon Ditto, redshirt freshman A.J. Price, true freshmen, Justin Brown, Curtis Drake, Shawney Kersey, Devon Smith, and sophomore running back Stephfon Green could play in the slot occasionally after showing good hands last season.
Redshirt freshman Michael Zordich was a highly touted middle linebacker and fullback in the 2008 recruiting class, and has apparently showed that he can play fullback. He was almost immediately listed as a fullback upon reporting to summer practice in 08, when he was more highly regarded at middle linebacker, coaches must see something good in him. Other possibilities are fifth year senior Larry Federoff, or sophomore Joe Suhey.
Junior kicker, Collin Wagner is probably the favorite right now, but early enrollee Anthony Fera, ranked 2009’s second best kicker will have a shot at the starting job as well. With Derrick Williams and Anthony Scirrotto’s departure this leaves punt return and kick return duties open. Chaz Powell will take Williams’ role in kickoff, on the side of Powell will be either A.J. Wallace, Stephfon Green, or a freshman like Devon Smith or Curtis Drake. Punt return, not too sure here since it has been solely Williams and Scirrotto the past few seasons, my guess is one of the guys mentioned for kickoffs will be the primary guy for punts.
Mark Arcidiacono-Offensive Line-6’4”-289-NA
Strong upper body, and overall size has formed Arcidiacono into a great high school lineman. Instinctive to where he should move the d lineman after initial contact, and shows impressive footwork.
Justin Brown-Wide Receiver-6’3”-210-4.44
Tall and surprisingly bulky, Brown is a physical receiver that can stretch the field, and shows good hands. Catches everything thrown in his direction, and shows overall intelligence on the field.
Recruited as an offensive lineman, Cadogan has shown throughout high school that he can play defensive end, and tight end. At 6’6” and 265, Cadogan will probably play either defensive or offensive tackle. Older brother Gerald Cadogan just finished his career at Penn State at offensive tackle, and that’s where he will most likely fit in.
He looks like the typical linebackers at “Linebacker U” when they’re still in high school, 6’3” and 220, with a build that could add 10 more pounds without losing a step. Shows good speed, and quickness for a middle linebacker, along with good instincts and sure tackling.
AA Player of the Year, Drake lead his high school to the Pennsylvania State Championship game as the quarterback, but looks better running the ball than throwing it. Penn State coaches have told him that his future is most likely in the secondary, or receiver. Expect to see him taking on a sort of role like Derrick Williams, who also played QB in high school and gave the offense versatility.
Curtis Dukes-Running Back-6’2”-225-4.4
6’2” and 225, with a 4.4 40, reminds me of Eddie George, with his size and speed. Could put on weight, and become a fullback, but with Zordich being a redshirt freshman, and his size and speed combination he’s meant to play running back at Beaver Stadium.
Brandon Felder-Wide Receiver-6’2”-167-4.43
As a junior Felder was a stud pulling in 40 catches for nearly 1,000 yards, and 11 touchdowns, but in a pre season scrimmage game suffered a season ending knee injury. Felder definitely possesses the physical tools at 6’3” and 167 with a 4.43 40 but as it is with any injury, rehab is very important to get back onto the field.
Showed great leg strength throughout high school, consistently kicking into or outside of the end zone, and a 4 second hang time in kickoffs, and consistent in the 40’s on field goals. As a punter in high school he would provide coverage on the punt as well, which is a plus with a kicker not being afraid to take a hit, and at 6’2” and 230 he’s definitely not fragile. Already Enrolled.
Frank Figueroa-Offensive Line-6’4”-285-5.2
Has shown much dedication to get here. Figueroa has put 40 pounds on his frame the past two years. Enjoys going to the next level to put a hit on the linebackers. At 6’4” and 285 pounds he plays smart and will most likely play guard or center at Penn State.
At 6’6” and 260 with a 4.7 40, he belongs playing some end position. It has been mentioned that he could play offensive tackle, but for how athletic he is he belongs at a skill position. Tight end is where he’ll probably get his first shot, but don’t be surprised if he plays defensive end as well.
Athletic, instinctive, and rangy make Givens one of the premier corners in the nation. Physical in press coverage, and his technique in man-to-man coverage is well above average. At 6’1” and a 36” vertical, he becomes receiver-like when the ball’s in the air, demonstrating leaping ability, timing, and great ball skills for a corner.
Adam Gress-Offensive Line-6’7”-294-5.22
Look at a picture of him, and you see his chest and shoulders dominate the picture. Upper body strength is Gress’s strongpoint in his game, and he successfully dominates defensive lineman with his upper body strength and long arms.
Jordan Hill-Defensive End-6’3”-290-4.7
Hasn’t played defensive line at all during high school, but rather was an oversized middle linebacker. Is hard to move, and shows good hand work in shedding blocks, but will obviously have to show that he can do these much quicker on the defensive line, and will have to learn how to do all of that coming out of a three point stance. But being an ex linebacker will be a plus for him against the run.
Gerald Hodges-Safety/Outside Linebacker
At 6’3”and 211 pounds, with a 4.46 40, he could be plugged in at safety right now. Shows great instincts for the ball at safety, and displays great athleticim. Takes proper angles, doesn’t get fooled by a juke, and knows how to properly tackle. One of the best gets in this class for Penn State easily. Already enrolled.
Howle has physically dominated defensive lineman throughout high school. Off the snap he’s not satisfied until he has his defender in another zip code. Very hard worker, and never eases up, gives 100% every play. Good in the pass, but great in the run. Already enrolled.
Shawney Kersey-Wide Receiver-6’2”-190-4.5
Big target, with long arms and good hands, Kersey is a good receiver. Once he separates from the defender, he shows good downfield speed, and shows his toughness by going over the middle and taking a lick from defenders.
Kuntz is an interesting prospect. He could play a number of positions at Penn State, including H-back, tight-end, wide receiver, safety, or outside linebacker. Shows good ball skills, is great after the catch, and at his size doesn’t mind taking a hit. Good athlete with high upside.
Makes up for lack of size by being a good cornerback, and not letting his man get past him. Reads the quarterback well, and knows exactly when to jump the route to make the pick. Follows the ball well and makes up for the lack of height by timing the ball perfectly, and playing the ball well. He provides good run support, slips past lineman and running backs with his small size when he blitzes, and is a threat to take it to the house on a pick. Could bulk up and play safety so his lack of height wouldn’t be as big of an issue.
Kevin Newsome-Dual Threat QB-6’3”-217-4.57
It was absolutely imperative for Penn State to get a QB in this class, especially with Junior Pat Devlin transferring to Delaware. Newsome will likely backup Daryll Clark as a freshman, and with the weak schedule at the beginning of the season Newsome will get a good amount of playing time his freshman year. Great runner, who has a good strong arm to go with it, and can put the two together very well throwing on the run, and across his body. Already enrolled.
Has good speed, and good instincts toward the ball. Has a solid frame combined with his speed that allows him to tackle well in a large range. Also hawks the ball very well, will most likely play safety at Penn State.
Eric Shrive-Offensive Line-6’7”-285-5.1
Great size, with very impressive and unexpected speed to go with it. With the unexpected speed he gets into the next level, and blocks linebackers as well. Most likely will play either tackle position at Penn State, and could press for time his freshman year. Shrive boasts one of the most impressive offers list in the nation.
One of the fastest high school kids in the country, has been clocked at 4.19 before. Makes up for his lack of size by blowing people away with his speed. Is at top speed after his first few steps, and shows great balance weaving through the secondary after a catch. Despite his size, he’s not afraid of taking a hit, and will fight for extra yards after initial contact. Realistically Smith may play a little in the slot, and take a few handoffs a game, but will mostly be a return specialist.
Sean Stanley-Defensive Lineman-6’2”-250-4.7
Tall and built, without pads he looks more like a tackle, with pads he looks like an end. Comes off the ball with a decent pad level, and holds his own when he takes on a block. Sheds blockers well, and is strong enough to knock his blockers to the ground, possesses the speed, and shiftiness needed to pursue the ball holder. Could lose, or add weight and play either end or tackle.
Versatile athlete who played receiver, and safety in high school, and it’s a tossup of where he’ll play at Penn State. Showed that he was fully capable playing all three phases of the game in high school, with his good size, and speed combination. High upside because of his versatility, and knowledge of all the possible positions he could play.
Very lean body and strong frame, but his biggest asset is his brain. Most of Urschel’s offers were from Ivy League schools, but he also got offers from Stanford and Boston College. Urschel was an all state player on the offensive line, and a standout on the defensive line as well, and could play either way at Penn State.
Probably got an offer from Penn State mostly because his teammate and good friend Jelani Jenkins was between Penn State and Florida, and would be just another incentive for Jenkins to come to Penn State. Penn State didn’t get Jenkins but got a good athlete in Wallace, who shows he knows how to play the position well. What he lacks in height, he makes up with good muscle tone, and range. Plays both the run and pass well and is a good tackler, could play any position in the secondary.
With his size, he shows great range against both the run and pass. Reads the passer well and takes the proper angles to get the ball or ball carrier. Very athletic and aggressive prospect that could become a concern for receivers going over the middle, could also move up and become an outside linebacker.
Justin Brown, Anthony Fera, Darrell Givens, Gerald Hodges, Kevin Newsome, Eric Shrive, and Devon Smith.
QB: Daryll Clark
RB: Evan Royster
FB: Mike Zordich
WR: Graham Zug
WR: Brett Brackett
WR: Chaz Powell
TE: Mickey Shuler Jr.
LT: DeOn’tae Pannell
LG: J.B. Walton
C: Stefen Wisniewski
RG: Lou Eliades
RT: Dennis Landolt
DE: Jerome Hayes
DT: Abe Koroma
DT: Jared Odrick
DE: Jack Crawford
OLB: Navorro Bowman
MLB: Sean Lee
OLB: Michael Mauti
CB: A.J. Wallace
CB: D’Anton Lynn
S: Drew Astorino
S: Knowledge Timmons/Gerald Hodges
K: Anthony Fera
P: Jeremy Boone
KR: Chaz Powell
KR: Devon Smith
PR: A.J. Wallace
Names You Might Still Hear
(*=Will be receiving regular playing time)
*RB Stephfon Green, *RB Brandon Beachum, *WR Derek Moye, WR Justin Brown, WR James McDonald, WR Kevin Cousins, OL Eric Shrive, OL Johnnie Troutman, *TE Andrew Quarless, TE Andrew Szczeba, DB Nick Sukay, K Collin Wagner,*LB Josh Hull, LB Bani Gbadyu, LB Nate Stupar, LB Mike Yanchich, LB Chris Colasanti, LB Andrew Dailey, *DL Devon Still, DT Brandon Ware, DE Eric Latimore, DE Kevion Latham, DT Ollie Ogbu.
All-Big Ten Candidates
QB Daryll Clark, RB Evan Royster, OL Stefen Wisniewski, OL Dennis Landolt, DL Jared Odrick, LB Navorro Bowman, LB Sean Lee, S Drew Astorino
LB Sean Lee, DT Jared Odrick, QB, Daryll Clark, TE Mickey Shuler
9/5: Akron-W-Easy win.
9/12: Syracuse-W-Easy win.
9/19: Temple-W-Easy win.
9/26: Iowa-W-First true test of the season for Penn State. After Penn State’s National Championship dreams were shattered last year at Iowa, Penn State takes care of Iowa pretty handily at home in a revenge game.
10/3: at Illinois-W-One of the three toughest games of the season. Illinois puzzlingly went 5-7 last season, but Penn State had trouble with them at home. Now Penn State goes to Illinois where they lost in 07.
10/10: Eastern Illinois-W-Easy win.
10/17: Minnesota-W-Minnesota is returning just about the same team as last year. The team that went 7-1 and imploded finishing 7-5, Penn State wins handily.
10/24: at Michigan-W-Two words that will forever make Penn State fans cringe; “At Michigan.” Fortunately for Penn State, Michigan’s going to need at least another year until Rodriguez has the spread offense working well in Ann Arbor, and Penn State will have the spread running very smooth.
10/31: at Northwestern-W-This definitely isn’t the Northwestern team Penn State’s used to playing. Last time they went to Northwestern was in 05, and they needed a last second touchdown to win the game. Penn State won’t need a last second touchdown to win, but it will be closer than most think.
11/7: Ohio State-?-This game could go either way. Whichever team wins this game will probably win the Big Ten.
11/14: Indiana-W-Easy win.
11/21: at Michigan State-W-Hardest game besides Ohio State. Michigan State is a dark horse candidate for the Big Ten title, and not playing Ohio State helps their chances. Penn State always struggles in East Lansing and Michigan State has a good team coming back. Penn State wins by a small margin.
Clearly Penn State has their hands full come this offseason. There’s much leadership lost on the team, and many talented players as well. There are areas that will improve, and there are areas that will probably see a drop off. But if this team can pick up the lost leadership and play at a high level like last year, the sky’s the limit. Hope to see you April 25.