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2009 Penn State Preview - Offense
Penn State QB Daryll Clark
Penn State QB Daryll Clark
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 27, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Penn State Nittany Lion Offense

Penn State Nittany Lions

Preview 2009 - Offense


- 2009 CFN Penn State Preview | 2009 Penn State Offense
- 2009 Penn State Defense | 2009 Penn State Depth Chart
- 2008 PSU Preview | 2007 PSU Preview | 2006 PSU Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
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 DeOn'Tae Pannell
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:
Backup quarterback, Line experience

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: 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 adversity.

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 making.
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.
Rating: 8.5


Running Backs

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 Royster.

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 returning.
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 concerns.
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.
Rating: 8.5


Receivers

Projected Starters: 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.

6-1, 195-pound 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 much.

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 the taking.


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 defensive backs.

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 enough.

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.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: 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 guard.

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 left.

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 pass protection.

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 necessary.

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 backups.

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 prospects.
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 last year.
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.
Rating: 7.5