March 29, 2010

Spring Football: First Team offense, defense revealed

Quarterback Kevin Newsome (12) will start 2010 spring practice as Penn State's No. 1 signal caller.

Three days ago, Penn State quietly kicked off its first practice of spring football. As you'd expect, it's tough to gauge much of anything from only the first practice. Still, we got our first glimpse of what this team has to build upon. Probably the most visible and entertaining tidbit to emerge from Holuba Hall was the sighting of the Nittany Lions' first team offense and defense. Let's take a look.


Quarterback: Kevin Newsome

This seems like a no-brainer, but don't be fooled into thinking Newsome has this race in the bag. Joe Paterno is notorious for leaving an unsettled quarterback controversy as is until late summer.

Running Back: Evan Royster

No surprise here. Royster has the chance to become Penn State's all-time leading rusher, needing 480 yards to bypass Curt Warner's mark of 3,398, set in 1982.

Fullback: Joe Suhey

No surprise here, either. Suhey is a great fullback, very versatile. Could use a little more power, but that's a topic for another day.

Tight End: Andrew Szczerba

This could get interesting by the summer. Szczerba opened plenty of eyes with a great performance in last year's Blue White Game. But this will be the first of many wide-open races this spring, with Szczerba competing against Mark Wedderburn, and eventually freshman Kevin Haplea, who's just over a case of mono.

Wide Receivers: Derek Moye, Graham Zug, Curtis Drake (slot)

First thing you'll notice is no more Chaz Powell; we'll get to him in a minute. But this is a very expected starting group for the beginning of spring. Drake took on a greatly increased roll towards the end of last season, particularly on end-arounds and other tricky plays. Moye and Zug are obvious.

Left Tackle: DeOn'tae Pannell

Since we just covered the offensive line issues going into this spring, it's not a surprise seeing Pannell on the blind side.

Left Guard: Johnnie Troutman

Though he had some troubles last season, Troutman was the most consistent player here. Not a shocker by any means.

Center: Stefen Wisniewski

Would be like Royster not starting at running back.

Right Guard: Lou Eliades

Next to Wiz, Eliades is the only returning offensive lineman to have started all 13 games last year.

Right Tackle: Adam Gress

This one is a bit of a surprise, though we've heard great things about Gress coming out of winter workouts. With Eric Shrive most likely not far behind, this position will be a potential hot spot the rest of spring.


Chaz Powell (2) started his Penn State career as a safety, before switching to receiver in 2008. But, injuries in key spots this spring will force the redshirt junior to shift yet again. (photo: Mike Pettigano)

Defensive Ends: Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore

Latimore must have beat out Kevion Latham and Sean Stanley. Can't say I'm terribly surprised here. But I might have been if anyone other than Latimore was listed opposite Crawford to start the spring.

Defensive Tackles: Ollie Ogbu, Devon Still

Like the ends, the tackles on defense are the expected starters. Ogbu is the veteran, while Still has plenty of talent and experience to step right in without hesitation.

(Just a quick note before we look at the first-team linebackers. It looks like Mike Mauti is begin held back a little bit this spring, after his ACL tear last summer. Don't read too deeply into this. With Mauti still finishing up the recovery, the following lineup is about as non-controversial as we could expect this early...)

Fritz OLB: Bani Gbadyu

The redshirt senior has been a regular in the lineup (as a backup and starter) since 2007, so we know exactly what we're getting here.

Mike ILB: Chris Colasanti

The staff went with experience. Colasanti has been around a long time, working hard to get his shot. This is it, as he's a senior.

Sam OLB: Nate Stupar

There was talk that Stupar didn't play so well when in the lineup last year, but it was due to injury, not talent. I like Stupar here, especially coming off the edge on blitzes.

Cornerbacks: Chaz Powell, Stephon Morris

We expected Morris. But the Powell move is interesting. He actually came to Penn State as a highly-touted safety, so the whole defensive backfield thing isn't strange to him. However, could this be directly related to Drew Astorino's injury? After all...

Free Safety: D'Anton Lynn

... we have Lynn officially moved to Astorino's old spot. I wouldn't argue if this is a temporary first-team lineup. There's nothing negative about Lynn playing safety. It's just that it opens all sorts of questions about what happens after Astorino returns.

Strong Safety: Nick Sukay

Sukay, for all his first-year miscues, has really taken command as Penn State's strong safety. It's his to lose.


How much will this lineup change? Oh, a whole lot, even between now and the Blue-White Game in four weeks. If anything, it does have quite a few interesting tweaks for us to ponder until then. More reports will come out as spring practice continues. But finally having something substantive from Penn State football to wrap our minds around is always welcome.

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