Preview 2009 - Offense
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What you need to know: While it might seem like there should
be problems with the loss of a starting trio of wide receivers
like Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood, and with
having to replace three all-star offensive linemen, the offense
should be more than fine as long as QB Daryll Clark is healthy.
The team's unquestioned leader, Clark has the total command of
the offense and he has the weapons around him to be a league MVP
if everything breaks the right way. The 1-2 rushing punch of
Evan Royster and Stephfon Green will be devastating once Green's
broken leg heals up Sophomores Chaz Powell and Derek Moye will
be the new star receivers, while the talented tight ends,
specifically Andrew Quarless, will be used more. The line needs
DeOn'tae Pannell to shine at left tackle so Dennis Landolt can
stay on the right side, but there will be plenty of shaking up
of the lineup before the right combination is found. Even so,
the line should be good with a little bit of time.
Passing: Daryll Clark
192-321, 2,592 yds, 19 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Evan Royster
191 carries, 1,236 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Evan Royster
17 catches, 155 yds, 0 TD
Star of the offense:
Senior QB Daryll Clark
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Chaz Powell
Best pro prospect: Junior RB Evan Royster
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Clark, 2)
Royster, 3) C Stefen Wisniewski
Strength of the offense: Running back, Receiver size
Weakness of the offense:
quarterback, Line experience
With a sixth year of
eligibility, senior Daryll Clark is back after
an MVP-caliber season (even though Iowa's Shonn Greene was the
Big Ten Player of the Year) completing 60% of his throws for
2,592 yards with 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He
also ran for 282 yards and ten touchdowns. At 6-2 and 233
pounds, he's a thick, tough, strong player with excellent
mobility and a great command of the offense. With so many new
pieces to the Penn State offensive puzzle, he'll have to be even
steadier this season. With his experience, he appears ready to
make everyone around him better. The one question mark is his
ability in the clutch. While he helped lead the way to an Alamo
Bowl win over Texas A&M two years ago, he threw a key late
interception against Iowa that ended up leading to the Hawkeye's
game-winning drive, and it was Pat Devlin who led the way to the
win at Ohio State with the key late drive (after Clark got
knocked out of the game). And then there was the Rose Bowl, when
he was fantastic in the second half against USC after he
struggled and the team was getting blown out in the first half.
That's not to say he can't be the main man when needed, but
unlike last year, he'll have to carry the team through
Projected Top Reserve: 6-2, 225-pound true
freshman Kevin Newsome isn't ready to take over
the starting job, but he's as polished as can be considering he
left school early to join the team this spring. He didn't buckle
against the good Nittany Lion pass rush in practices, and while
he still needs a ton of time to become consistent, he appears to
be the main man for the future. A great runner, if he's in the
game he'll be taking off more than he'll be throwing.
Redshirt freshman Matthew McGloin is the clear
third man in the mix. At 6-1 and 196 pounds, he's not the
biggest of passers, but he has a decent arm and good mobility.
While he has a year of experience in the system, he still needs
a lot more time before he's ready to be considered for a
starting job. This year will be an important season to see where
he stands going into next year's camp.
Watch Out For ... Clark to repeat last year's season.
Many will predict a slight dip considering the loss of all the
starting receivers, but this year's receiving corps appears to
be solid and Clark should be even quicker with his decision
Strength: Mobility. Clark is a playmaker who makes
things happen with his legs as well as his arm and his head,
while Newsome is a big, dangerous runner who can be used from
time to time just to throw a curve ball into the equation. Both
have live arms, too.
Weakness: Backup quarterback. Newsome is a true freshman, and
you know how Joe Paterno feels about playing the inexperienced.
With Pat Devlin transferring, the Nittany Lions have to hope for
Clark to stay healthy, and effective, of a possible Big Ten
title season could quickly go kaput.
Outlook: Clark might turn out to be the Big Ten
MVP if he can lead the Nittany Lions to the Rose Bowl again, but
he'll have to prove he can come up big late in tight games.
While he's a great runner, he needs to do everything possible to
avoid the big hits and to stay on the field. Newsome is
promising, but the team would be extremely happy if he's not a
part of the equation this year.
Projected Starters: When healthy, 6-1,
209-pound junior Evan Royster is a special back
with first round draft pick potential. He came up with a
breakout season rushing for 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns,
averaging 6.5 yards per carry, while catching 17 passes for 155
yards, and now he's looking to do even more. Just when he
appeared ready to make a big statement on the national stage,
and become the hot player coming into this year, he suffered a
sprained knee and a bad case of USC Linebackeritis in the Rose
Bowl, being held to 34 yards. Now he's 100% and he should be in
for a huge year with his combination of speed, power, and
toughness sure to be enough to force him to make a tough
decision on whether or not to stick around for his senior year.
The big question is his durability, getting hit with an ankle
problem two years ago. When he's on the field, he's one of the
nation's elite players.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Stephfon
Green is lightning with the ball in his hands and is a
terrific No. 2 back. The 5-10, 192-pounder was second on the
team with 578 yards and four touchdowns, but he's trying to get
back healthy after suffering a broken leg in the Rose Bowl.
While he wasn't ready yet this spring, he's expected to be fine
for the start of the season and once again be a steady producer
who could be a starter without a problem if anything happened to
With injury problems among the backups, 6-0,
219-pound sophomore Brandon Beachum got plenty
of work this offseason as a key reserve behind Royster. The most
powerful back in the mix, he's a physical runner with good
quickness and the potential to be a pounding chain mover. He's
not all that fast and he needs time and more reps, but he was
able to get in a little work last year rushing for 114 yards and
a score in blowouts.
Junior Brent Carter
started out his career as a safety before moving over to running
back. the 6-2, 211-pounder has a nice blend of power and speed,
and he was able to get in a little work rushing for 129 yards
and averaging 5.9 yards per carry. However, he's iffy at best
for the season as he's trying to get back from a torn ACL.
6-0, 214-pound sophomore Shaine Thompson
was one of the surprises of spring ball showing the toughness to
be used as a fullback and the ability to be a runner for
stretches. A plugger, who's most like a linebacker playing in
the backfield, he'll do the dirty work for the offense and he
should grow into a key blocker.
Watch Out For ... Beachum. With Green hurt and Carter
iffy, Beachum has to take advantage of the opportunity and
become the steady back he was expected to be coming out of high
school. He might put up big numbers early on, and then be phased
out as the season rolls.
Strength: Quickness. Royster is fast, while Green
can dart in and out of traffic and out of jams. The experience
will also help, with the four top running backs of last year
Weakness: Backup health. Royster hasn't exactly had the
world on his shoulders, getting just 191 carries last year and
with Green getting 105, and he has to prove he can last a whole
season if he's a full-time feature back. If he goes down, the
team will have to hope Green's leg is right or there could be
Outlook: If all goes well, Penn State will have
the same year as 2008 running the ball with a healthy mix of
Royster and Green, about 250 yards from Daryll Clark, and
production from one of the receivers, maybe Chaz Powell, to fill
a Derrick Williams-like role. Only injuries can keep the team
from running for more than 2,500 yards.
It'll be a battle all season
long to see who becomes the No. 1, go-to target, and going into
the fall, sophomore Derek Moye has the look of
a burgeoning star. Not only does he have 6-5, 195-pound size,
but he has sub-4.4 speed and tremendous upside. While he's not
polished and could stand to put on another 10-to-15 pounds of
bulk, the former running back, who caught three passes for 71
yards last season highlighted by a 33-yard touchdown grab
against Syracuse, has all the tools.
sophomore Chaz Powell is a blazer who'll be
used in a Derrick Williams-like role. Not only will he be a key
wide receiver, but he'll likely see about 30 carries, after
running for 74 yards and two touchdowns last season, and will be
the team's top kickoff returner. Now he has to become a more
reliable target. He caught two passes for 37 yards in his
limited role last year, and while he has the potential to be a
top playmaker for the passing game, he has to do a better job of
holding on to the ball; he fights the ball a little bit too
Junior Graham Zug isn't the best
athlete in the rotation, he's a decent veteran with good
quickness and great route running ability. The 6-2, 178-pound
walk-on caught 11 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns, with
his season highlighted by a 49-yard play against Ohio State.
He'll clean up everything underneath while the speed receivers
take care of the deep balls.
Senior tight end
Andrew Quarless looked like a special prospect after
catching 21 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns in his
freshman year, but then a knucklehead streak kicked in. In and
out of the doghouse, hurt mostly by a suspension for a DUI
charge, he was fine over the last two years, but nothing great
catching 25 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. Now he
appears ready to turn things back around. At 6-4 and 253 pounds
with tremendous speed, blocking ability, and hands, he has
become new man around the program with the NFL payday there for
Projected Top Reserves:
Junior Brett Brackett will
work in a rotation with Derek Moye at one spot after catching 13
passes for 160 yards and a score as a reserve. With 6-6,
231-pound size, he's a matchup problem who should be a dangerous
target in three and four wide sets. While he's not a blazer, he
has just enough speed to make things happen down the field.
Redshirt freshman A.J. Price is a rail-thin
6-4, 173-pounder, but he's a potentially dangerous threat
playing behind Powell. With his height, he poses matchup
problems, but he'll only become a big part of the equation if he
can prove he can handle himself against tougher, more physical
While Quarless is the team's best tight
end, and one of the best in the nation, 6-4, 249-pound senior
Mickey Shuler isn't a bad second option. The
son of the former NFL tight end by the same name isn't an elite
receiver, but he's a good route runner and a terrific blocker.
He only caught nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown last
season, but that's because the offense didn't use the tight ends
Eventually, sophomore Andrew Szczerba
will be a factor at tight end. At 6-6 and 260 pounds,
he has the size and wide receiver-like hands, but he'll mainly
be a blocker.
The 2006 Delaware Gatorade Player of the
Year was a star high school defensive end as well as a tight
end, and while he only made one catch for nine yards, he has the
talent to do far more.
Watch Out For ... Powell.
He's not likely to lead the team in receiving, that'll probably
be Moye, but he'll end up being a do-it-all playmaker and one of
the team's top weapons.
Strength: Size. This group is big and fast, with
Powell and Moye each possessing next-level wheels. Even the
small receivers are around 6-2, while Moye goes 6-4, Brackett is
6-6, and Price is 6-4.
Weakness: Experience. Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan
Norwood combined for 132 catches for 1,932 yards and 17
touchdowns. There was little room for anyone else to shine, and
while there's a ton of promise among the new starters, there
aren't any sure things to count on.
Outlook: While it might seem devastating to lose
four-year producers like Butler, Williams and Norwood, the team
is stocked with excellent prospects. Moye and Powell will be
stars, while the tight ends need to be used more. Quarless will
be a better pro once he gets used the right way, and now he
needs the ball more in the Penn State attack.
The line was amazing last year, but now
it has to undergo some major changes with some key new starters needing
to replace the departed all-stars. With A.Q. Shipley gone at center,
junior Stefen Wisniewski will move over from right
guard, where he started for most of last year when he wasn't working on
the left side. The nephew of former Penn State and NFL star, Steve,
beefed up this offseason to get up to 302 pounds on a 6-3 frame, and now
he should be even more physical and stronger for the running game. While
he should be a star at center, he'll make his money at the next level at
The only other starter returning to the line, and the only
one returning to his regular position is Dennis Landholt,
a 6-4, 303-pound right tackle who started every game to up his starting
streak to 26 straight games. An honorable mention All-Big Ten performer,
he was overshadowed last year but he became a solid, dependable
all-around blocker who's healthy after getting hurt in the Rose Bowl. As
good as he is and with his experience, he's better at right tackle than
Moving in for Gerald Cadogan at left tackle will be
DeOn'Tae Pannell, a 6-5, 313-pound sophomore with all the tools
to be special. While he has a lot of pressure on his shoulders and will
be the spotlight player on the revamped line, he should be up for the
job. He's been just good enough to keep Landolt on the other side. A
fantastic run blocking prospect, he has to prove he can be consistent in
With Wisniewski moving to the middle, 6-4,
305-pound junior Lou Eliades will take over after
serving as a key reserve. He missed most of 2007 with a broken foot, but
he came back to work at right tackle behind Landolt and stepping in when
needed in the Rose Bowl. Now he'll move inside where he'll be an
athletic right guard with the versatility to move back outside if
There's a battle for the left guard job, but the
leader in the race, by a slim margin, is Johnnie Troutman,
a 6-4, 322-pound sophomore who's good enough to see time at tackle if
needed. One of the team's strongest players, he should be devastating
for the running game once he's able to settle in. However, he'll have to
be perfect or he'll quickly move to the second team.
Projected Top Reserves: If it's not Troutman at
left guard, it'll be Matt Stankiewitch, a 6-3,
290-pound redshirt freshman who's far lighter than Troutman, but much,
much quicker. He saw plenty of work throughout spring ball with the
first team, but he'll most likely be one of the team's most important
While Pannell is considered the star of
the future, while getting his chance at left tackle now, senior
Nerraw McCormack should play a role. He
would've had an even shot at getting the job, but he suffered a
knee injury and is trying to get back to 100% before challenging
again this fall. At 6-5 and 295 pounds, he's not as big as
Pannell, but he can more than hold his own as both a run blocker
and in pass protection.
Watch Out For ...
Pannell. It's not a stretch to call him the key to the offense.
As long as he's good, Landolt can stay at his more natural right
tackle position. If it all comes together and Pannell uses his
skills to become a star, he'll be on everyone's list of top NFL
Strength: Versatility. The team's best guard,
Wisniewski, will be playing center, Eliades can play tackle or
guard, Landolt can play either tackle spot, and several other
players are able to move around when needed.
Weakness: Continuity. You don't lose three all-star offensive
linemen without suffering a little bit of a drop-off. With only
one player, Landolt, returning to his starting spot, it might
take a little while for the production to be there compared to
Outlook: While the line might take a while to be
anywhere near as good as it was last year, the potential is
there for this year's front five to be more talented. Eliades
has always had star potential, but he's just now about to reach
it. Pannell will make money at the next level, while Wisniewski
will be a first day selection for somewhere in the middle. It
might take a while for everything to come together, but this
will hardly be a weakness.