Going into the 2009 offseason, Penn State coach Joe Paterno and his staff knew that there was a lot of work to be done. The departure of the 2008 class meant having to replace the whole secondary, a linebacker, three defensive ends, three receivers, the kicker, and three offensive linemen.
All-Big Ten first-teamers center A.Q. Shipley, left guard Rich Ohrnberger, and left tackle Gerald Cadogan will all soon be trying to get on an NFL team, and many possible candidates on PSU's roster will be trying to fill the big holes they've left behind.
Whether or not the offense is able to move the ball in 2009 will hinge on finding the right replacements on the offensive line.
What We Know
Junior Stefen Wisniewski, who has played at right guard his first two years, will take a couple steps to his left and take over at center. Senior Dennis Landolt will stay at right tackle.
Who will fill in at the left tackle and both guard spots?
Leading candidates are sophomore DeOn'tae Pannell at left tackle, junior Lou Eliades at right guard, and redshirt freshman Matt Stankiewitch at left guard.
The left guard was sophomore J.B. Walton's position to lose heading into the offseason, but he's recently been removed from the depth chart due to a leg injury suffered during practice.
Report from Spring Practice
All reports coming out of Happy Valley so far are that the defensive line has been man-handling everyone on the inexperienced offensive line. This means that unless you're Wisniewski or Landolt, no first-team spots have been given out yet.
Last season, indicators were that Pannell was a beast on the line, but now word from spring practice is that he's being pushed by senior Nerraw McCormack for first-team at left tackle. Sophomore Johnnie Troutman will push Stankiewitch for first team at left guard as well.
Freshmen to Watch
Eric Shrive is a 6'7", 305-pound tackle who was one of the best gets in Penn State's 2009 class. Don't be surprised if you see him crack the rotation his freshman year at one of the tackle spots.
Ty Howle, a 6'1", 280-pound center, is already enrolled at the university and is nearing the end of his first semester. He'll push Quinn Barham for the backup roll.
Projected Two-Deep (Starter-Backup)
Keep in mind this is all dependent on the severity of J.B. Walton's injury. That's what's keeping him from being on here; when he's 100 percent, he'll likely be the starter at one of the guard spots.
LT: DeOn’tae Pannell/Nerraw McCormack
LG: Matt Stankiewitch/Johnnie Troutman
C: Stefen Wisniewski/Quinn Barham
RG: Lou Eliades/James Terry
RT: Dennis Landolt/Eric Shrive
Penn State will have to get some chemistry going on the offensive line quickly so they can adequately protect quarterback Daryll Clark, who has no experience behind him on the depth chart.
Granted, it's just April, and Penn State's defensive line is above-average. But that isn't an excuse for veterans like Wisniewski and Landolt being burnt.
I'll be posting a different position breakdown every Tuesday. Next week is quarterback.