Penn State's season opener against Youngstown State is still a few months away, but it is never too early to start looking ahead to what the 2010 season will bring the Nittany Lions. As always, there will be ups and downs, and the schedule unforgiving, with road trips set for Alabama, Ohio State, and Iowa. The players are in the offseason between spring and fall practices, so at this point no news is good news. With that in mind, let's take a look at the 2010 Penn State offense.
Where do you start when examining the quarterback situation for Penn State in 2010? Exactly who will start on Sept. 4 is shrouded in mystery. Anyone who follows PSU football knows that Joe prefers seniority, so maybe it will be true sophomore Kevin Newsome. But Newsome played exactly zero meaningful snaps in 2009, so it could also be highly recruited freshmen Paul Jones (from Sto-Rox) or Robert Bolden. The dark horse would be redshirt freshman Matt McGloin, a former walkon who had been sharing snaps in Spring practice with Newsome.
Player To Watch: Paul Jones - If Newsome struggles in Week One, or even Week 2 against Alabama, watch for Jones to be the next one up for a shot to start.
RUNNING BACK / FULLBACK
Evan Royster returns for his final year, and behind him is a USC-esque stable full of talented running backs. Stefon Green, Curtis Dukes, Silas Redd, Joe Suhey, and Zach Zwinak, among others, will ensure that the RB position at PSU is solid for years to come. This position will easily be the strong point of the 2010 offensive roster.
Player To Watch: Silas Redd - Royster and Green will get theirs, but the speedy Redd (and his thundering counterpart Dukes) have Lion fans excited for the next four years.
WIDE RECEIVER / TIGHT END
Like running back, and somewhat surprisingly for a PSU team, the WR position is filled with athletic, heralded players who should provide some sort of security blanket for the new QB. Graham Zug, Derrick Moye, Justin Brown, Shawney Kersey, and others provide a good mix of deep ball threat, cross pattern running, and good hands.
At tight end, however, almost all of the 2009 production is gone with the departures of Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler. Attempting to fill the shoes are players like Mark Wedderburn, Kevin Haplea, Gary Gilliam, and Andrew Szczerba.
Player To Watch: Justin Brown - A true sophomore, Brown played on special teams as punt returner in 2009, but is expected to contribute in a big way for the offense in 2010.
Three pieces return, though Stefan Wisniewski moves from center back to his true position of guard. Other than that, things are far from settled up front, which is disconcerting, particularly considering the quarterback dilemma. Bob Flounders has your rundown:
Stefen Wisniewski, a first-team All-Big Ten center last season, has spent most of the spring at right guard.
Lou Eliades, last year's starting right guard, has been starting at right tackle, according to Wisniewski, with DeOn'tae Pannell, the No. 1 right tackle at the start of 2009, holding down the left guard slot.
Joining them up front are some new faces. Doug Klopacz, a senior who has missed time in the past due to a torn ACL in right knee, is the first-team center and Quinn Barham, a junior who spent previous seasons at guard and center, is at left tackle.
“I really think [the coaches are] trying to figure out what positions guys are best at,'' said Wisniewski, a senior who is the son of former PSU defensive lineman Leo Wisniewski and the nephew of former Lions' offensive lineman Steve Wisniewski.
The offensive line will be a concern, but there are enough big mudders to get through a respectable season. The line is young, so valuable playing time now will reap benefits in the future. That's not to say they can't put a solid season together, especially with Wisniewski returning to his natural position.
Player To Watch: Miles Dieffenbach - The Pittsburgh native is shaping up to be the heir apparent to the all-world centers that Penn State has produced recently.
So there you have it...two strong groups and two inexperienced groups. However, things are looking up, as there are very talented players at all of the positions of need. With outstanding coaching and solid depth at certain positions, the best players will play, and all signs point to them playing well.
Way Too Early Prediction: The inexperience costs the Lions a game or two against a brutal road schedule, but a ten win season should be the minimum goal.