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2008 Penn State Preview - Offense
Penn State WR Deon Butler
Penn State WR Deon Butler
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 9, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Penn State Nittany Lion Offense

Penn State Nittany Lions

Preview 2008 - Offense


- 2008 CFN Penn State Preview | 2008 Penn State Offense
- 2008 Penn State Defense | 2008 Penn State Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Penn State Preview | 2006 CFN Penn State Preview 

What you need to know:
Everything is in place to be really, really good. The line could be the best in a conference full of terrific front fives, the receiving trio of Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler might not be the be-all-end-all, but it's among the nation's most experienced corps and will be solid, and the running back tandem of Evan Royster and speed-demon Stephfon Green will likely be an upgrade. It all comes down to the quarterback play. Anthony Morelli tried hard, but he wasn't efficient and he didn't do enough to make the offense special, so his loss isn't all that big a deal. Daryll Clark is a mobile veteran with plenty of upside, while Pat Devlin is the one-time superstar recruit who's the quarterback of the future, and possibly the present. The coaching staff will work a bit more with a spread attack to get the ball in the hands of the receivers on shorter, quicker patterns, but the quarterback have the ability to air it out when needed.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Daryll Clark
6-9, 31 yds
Rushing: Evan Royster
82 carries, 513 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Deon Butler
47 catches, 633 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Derrick Williams
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Daryll Clark
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Stefen Wisniewski
Best pro prospect: Wisniewski
Top three all-star candidates: 1) C A.Q. Shipley, 2)
Wisniewski, 3) OG Rich Ohrnberger
Strength of the offense: Line, wide receivers
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback experience, backup receivers and linemen

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: It'll be an interesting quarterback controversy going into the fall, but senior Daryll Clark appears to have the slight edge with his combination of size, speed, and experience, limited as it might be, making him an interesting option. He only completed six of nine passes for 31 yards, but he took over the Alamo Bowl against Texas A&M and ran for 50 yards and a touchdown as he showed off his rushing skills in leading the Nittany Lions to the win. He's 6-2 and 231 pounds with a live arm, and if he can show he can be efficient on his short to midrange passes, he'll be the main man.

Projected Top Reserve: Sophomore Pat Devlin was a big recruit a few years ago and now is being given every shot to win the starting job. While he's nowhere near as mobile as Clark, he has 6-4, 222-pound size and a next-level arm that can put the ball anywhere on the field. There was a though that he was going to come in and start right away in 2006, but he has been groomed over the last few years to be ready for this year. Very smart and very talented, he'll likely be the star for the offense next year if he doesn't take over the full-time starting job this season.

Joe Paterno says senior Paul Cianciolo is still in the mix for the starting job, but he seems to be the only one who thinks that way. Cianciolo is a very smart veteran backup who is in grad school and has been a good pitcher for the baseball team, but the 6-4, 219-pounder will be strictly an emergency option.

Watch Out For ... Clark to be another Michael Robinson. Robinson was a talented runner who put it all together in a fantastic senior year as he led the Nittany Lions to the Orange Bowl in 2005. Clark is the same type of big, tough veteran who can run and appears to be on the verge of becoming a nice passer.
Strength: Big arms. Clark can throw the ball a ton, and Devlin has an even better arm. The offense is changing up a bit and these two aren't going to be airing it out all that often, but the ability is there to go deep at any time.
Weakness
:
Speculation. For a team good enough to win the Big Ten title, not having a clear-cut starting quarterback could be an issue. It's not like Paterno and Penn State haven't dealt with this in the past, but it would be nice if there was a definitive pecking order to work around.
Outlook: Considering there's no real experience among the starting options, the situation isn't all that bad. The key will be who can consistently hit the short to midrange passes and not turn the ball over. Clark will likely end up being the No. 1 guy, but Devlin won't be far behind and will almost certainly see meaningful playing time throughout the year.
Rating: 7


Running Backs

Projected Starters: 6-1, 212-pound sophomore Evan Royster might not be all that flashy and he isn't going to come up with too many highlights, but he's a talented, quick back who can run between the tackles just as easily as he can bounce it outside. He finished second on the team with 513 yards and five touchdowns, averaging an impressive 6.3 yards per carry, and he caught three passes for 18 yards. He took over the running game in the middle of the season, highlighted by a 126-yard, one touchdown day in the win over Purdue before suffering a banged up ankle, and he came up with 65 yards and a score on just nine carries in the win over Texas A&M.

Projected Top Reserves: While Royster is the best all-around running back on the roster, and the one who'll get the most meaningful work, Penn State fans will all be on the edge of their seats every time Stephfon Green is in. A 5-10, 189-pound bolt of lightning, the redshirt freshman has created a big-time buzz with his big runs in practice, and now he'll be used as a change of pace to bring more speed to the running game.

Brent Carter started out last year as a safety and saw a little bit of time, with the one highlight a fumble recovery against FIU, and then he was moved over to running back halfway through the season. The 6-2, 211-pound sophomore finished with 43 yards on 11 carries at his more natural position, and he'll be part of the rotation to keep Royster and Green fresh.

When the offense uses a fullback, it'll be up to 6-2, 244-pound senior Dan Lawlor to step in after he came up with a nice year filling in for Matt Hahn, who suffered a knee injury midway through the year. Lawlor only ran for 37 yards with a touchdown and caught one pass for nine yards, but he's a solid blocker.

The star of the 2008 recruiting class, 6-0, 212-pound Brandon Beachum, got to school early and could see time right away. A physical runner with great quickness, he fits the Penn State mold of running back and will get every shot to win a job in the rotation this fall. In a perfect world he's able to redshirt, but he might be too good to keep off the field.

Watch Out For ... Green. It's not like Royster can't move, he's plenty fast, but Green is the one who'll get the crowd moving. He's not the disciplined, dependable runner Royster is, but he'll be the highlight-reel runner.
Strength: Size. Penn State has a type of back that seems to work well for its style of play. Royster, Carter and Beachum are all thick, 210ish-pound runners with the quickness to get through the line and the toughness to pound away for hard yards. Even Green, for a speed back, has good size.
Weakness
:
Catching the ball. The backs aren't asked to do too much in the passing game, even though Rodney Kinlaw made 21 grabs last year. Green needs to create a role for himself as a possible third down specialist, but none of the backs has done much for the passing game so far. Then again, Green, Carter and Beachum are new to the mix.
Outlook: There are plenty of excellent options to keep things moving. If one goes down, or isn't producing, there's another good back ready to take over. Throw in WR Derrick Williams in the mix from time to time, and there's speed, power, and talent throughout the backfield.
Rating: 7.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: Fine, so senior Derrick Williams isn't going to be transcendent superstar everyone assumed he was going to become when he was the nation's top recruit a few years ago, but if you don't go by the hype, he hasn't been all that bad. He led the team with 55 catches for 529 yards and three touchdowns, but for a guy with 4.3 speed and 6-0, 194-pound size, averaging 9.6 yards per catch is a joke. Also used in the running game, he was fine, but again, he's supposed to be a home run hitter and averaged just 6.3 yards per carry on 16 runs. The one thing he's been really good at is returning punts, averaging 11 yards per try last season. Now the idea is to stop expecting him to be a deep threat, and to try to get him the ball on the move where he can do something with it by putting him in the slot. The hope is that he can be a yard-after-catch playmaker.

Forever known for not being Derrick Williams, but for actually becoming the better of the two receivers, is former walk-on defensive back Deon Butler, a 5-10, 168-pound senior who has made 132 career catches for 1,961 yards and 15 touchdowns with 47 grabs for 633 yards and four scores last season.
With enough speed to be used as a deep threat, and reliable hands, he's a true number one, go-to receiver, and now he has to score more. He only had one touchdown catch over the first 10 games, and then he caught one in each of the final three.

Senior Jordan Norwood has spent his career as a strong third man in the mix seeing plenty of time in three-wide sets and in a rotation. He has 85 career catches for 956 yards and seven touchdowns, and is coming off his best season yet with 40 grabs for 484 yards and five scores despite not catching a pass in the final two games. Extremely quick, he's great at making things happen on the move, and he should thrive with the change to the shorter-range passing game.

While Andrew Quarless remains in the doghouse, 6-4, 251-pound junior Mickey Shuler, son of the former NFL tight end by the same name, will be the first option. He's not a great receiver like Quarless, but he's not bad making seven catches for 91 yards and a touchdown last year. He's a good blocker who, at the very least, will see plenty of action in two tight end sets, and is a more than capable starting option.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior tight end Andrew Quarless has pro potential with good speed, athleticism and hands in a 6-5, 250-pound frame. He caught 14 passes last season for 205 yards and two touchdowns and is a proven matchup nightmare with too much downfield speed for most linebackers, but now he has to get back in the mix after being suspended from the team thanks to a DUI charge.

Even when Quarless is back, 6-6, 252-pound redshirt freshman Andrew Szczerba will play a big role after coming up with a great off-season. He has fantastic hands and moves like a wideout, considering his size. The 2006 Delaware Gatorade Player of the Year was a star high school defensive end as well as a tight end, and he should soon make a big impact.

Needing to show something positive this year to put him in the hunt for a starting job next season is James McDonald, a 6-2, 198-pound senior who looks the part with good size and nice athleticism, but he made just one catch for 10 yards in mop-up time. He's a hard worker who'll do what he needs to for more playing time behind Williams.

One of the most interesting targets could soon be 6-6, 235-pound junior Brett Brackett, a big former quarterback who made one catch for 16 yards and was a good special teamer. While he's a limited athlete, he's tough, has great size, and he could be a matchup problem playing behind Butler.

Watch Out For ... the receivers to be asked to become bigger playmakers on their own. The coaching staff is tinkering around with the offense and will try to get the ball to the veteran receivers on shorter patterns, but on the move. There might not bee as many field-stretching deep balls, even though the quarterbacks can air it out.
Strength: Experience and speed. Butler, Williams and Norwood have been around forever, and they've done a good job of growing into their roles. However, they didn't make a big jump up in overall production last year and they didn't make Anthony Morelli better, and vice versa. Now they'll need to be bigger stars.
Weakness
:
Backup wide receivers. Terrell Golden was always a nice fourth option to throw into the mix with the three established starters. Now there's no one, absolutely no one, the offense can count on right away outside of the big three. Developing a few new targets is vital going into next year.
Outlook: By now, everyone knows what Williams, Butler and Norwood can do. They're all solid, they can all step up and be the main man when needed, and they'll all produce. They're not going to blow anyone away, but they're good, reliable receivers who'll be a major plus for the new starting quarterback. The tight end situation is excellent with or without Andrew Quarless.
Rating:
8

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: All five starters return to the line with one big twist. The 6-3, 288-pound sophomore Stefen Wisniewski, the nephew of former Penn State star and longtime NFL starter, Steve, saw time as a true freshman and was fantastic when he got the chance, starting the Indiana game and working as a strong backup the rest of the way. Now he has pushed Mike Lucian out of the job, and even on a line full of talented, established veterans, he's considered the best talent of the bunch.

Wisniewski might be the star, but this is A.Q. Shipley's line. The 6-1, 297-pound senior center was an All-Big Ten performer last year and has been the rock up front for the last two seasons starting every game. The former defensive lineman was originally considered a guard, but he has turned into an anchor at center and the leader of the solid front wall.

Back at right tackle after starting every game is 6-4, 309-pound junior Dennis Landolt, an excellent pass protector has worked his way into becoming a solid, reliable blocker. Great on the move, he should be even better if Wisniewski plays as expected at guard. He can play either tackle spot as needed.

Returning to his spot at left guard is Rich Ohrnberger, who started 12 games on the left side and one, against Iowa, on the left, and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. The 6-2, 291-pound senior wasn't a dominant blocker before last year, and then he became a pounder for the running game. Experienced, tough, and one of the team's most popular players, he has become a good one.

Senior Gerald Cadogan took over for Levi Brown and did a great job at left tackle, starting every game after playing mostly at left guard the year before. One of the team's best players in the classroom, he's a smart, talented all-around blocker with 6-5, 314-pound size and quick feet. He's a great athlete for his size and can be a bruiser when he has to.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Mike Lucian was a key starter throughout last year at both guard spots spending most of his time on the right side. While he was very good, especially for the running game, he's now Stefen Wisniewski. Lucian, a  6-2, 290-pound former defensive end, can still play guard if needed, but he'll move over and work mostly behind Shipley at center.

6-5, 309-pound sophomore Lou Eliades was neck-and-neck with Rich Ohrnberger for a starting guard job last year, but lost out and ended up getting hurt with a broken foot. Now he'll work at right tackle behind Landolt, but he could quickly move inside and play either guard spot.

Watch Out For ... Wisniewski. Shipley and Ornberger will earn All-Big Ten honors, and Landolt and Cadogan will get their share of looks for the post-season all-star teams, but Wisniewski is about to become the main man and one of the Big Ten's most dominant guards. He's that good.
Strength: Experience among the starters. Five starters return, not including Wisniewski, from a line that was a rock in pass protection all season long and consistent for the running game. If everyone stays healthy, this should be among the Big Ten's best lines.
Weakness
:
The backups. Lucian will be a godsend throughout the year as the coaching staff will put him where needed, but it's uh-oh time if there are major injury issues, especially at tackle. There are plenty of good guards who should be able to fill in without a problem, but there will be some major reshuffling done if Landolt or Cadogan go down.
Outlook: The line paved the way for 194 rushing yards per game, and if it's Daryll Clark under center, the offense will crank out well over 200 yards per outing behind this group. Pass protection is hardly a problem, even though the tackles are very good, and not next-level superior. This is a talented, smart, experienced line that'll be the reason the Nittany Lions win a few games. Few defensive lines will be able hold their own for a full 60 minutes against this group. The big task will be preparing for next year by getting several new players prepared to take over at key spots.
Rating: 9