But that doesn't mean the players who are sitting out lack talent. The list of Penn State greats who have redshirted is extensive, including All-Americans like Ki-Jana Carter, Kerry Collins, Michael Haynes, Larry Johnson and a host of others.
The best part about redshirting as a true freshman is it allows a prospect to immerse himself in the strength-training program and get fully acclimated with the playbook. Each Friday during the season, while most everyone else on the team is off or traveling, the redshirting rookies are put through brutal workouts at Lasch Building.
With that in mind, we believe it is important to track the progress of the redshirting freshman. See Part IV of our exclusive Redshirt Report series here:
Zack Zwinak, FB, No. 40
Zwinak suffered a torn ACL last season in drills. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound fullback underwent surgery for the injury and has since been recovering. Up until he went down, Zwinak had shown impressive ball-carrying skills in short-yardage situations. "He seems to enjoy contact and has pretty quick feet for his size," an observer said.
He also showed some good speed out of the backfield, both with the ball and getting to assignments with an ability to "make cuts in traffic."
Zwinak displayed consistent footwork and showed promised as a lead blocker, although the coaches were focused on having him get lower on runs. "Sometimes he was too high, which made him easier — not necessarily easy to take down."
Currently Zwinak is "walking fine" with no brace. Observers are doubtful the staff will push him to participate in spring drills to help facilitate his recovery, saying there is no need to rush him with veterans Joe Suhey and Michael Zordich at the position.
C.J. Olaniyan, DE, No. 86
Since arriving at Penn State, the 6-3 Olaniyan has added about 15 pounds to his frame and now tips the scales at 246 pounds. Observers liked the streaks of aggression he showed this past year and believe he has a good frame to build from.
Observers feel the past year has helped mature Olaniyan, saying he seems to be more focused on the field, weight room and classroom now. Olaniyan is said to be "anxious to show Coach [Larry] Johnson he can play and earn some minutes [this coming season]."
One aspect that is impressive is that Olaniyan seems to know he has work to do and now pushing himself to show Johnson what he is capable of. "You can't discount a guy who has talent and knows he can get better with work — and then goes out to put the work in," one observer said.
Olaniyan is good at moving his feet off the snap and has improved as his "rip technique" to get off blocks. He's been focused on keeping lower to "pick up leverage on his assignment." As one observer explained, "He's got the legs and feet, he needs to lower his center to really get an advantage off the corner."
Overall the sentiment is that Olaniyan has solid fundamentals and good basic strength. He also has shown impressive footwork. If he can maintain a low center and consistently use his hands the feeling is that he could be an effective rusher in Johnson's D-line rotation.
Alex Mateas, OL, No. 63
Mateas is one of the mystery men of the redshirt freshman. A native of Canada, Mateas was playing ball with the Ottawa Sooners (said to be a CFL feeder team) in the Canadian Junior Football League prior to coming south to University Park.
This past year was only Mateas' fourth year playing organized football. However, his 6-3, 300-pound frame along with an ability to play left tackle was enough to get him an offer from PSU.
"He's strong and has the power to get a good push," as one observer explained. "He's got work to do on his overall technique though."
Mateas is said to have good "sheer strength" and has been focused on building power in his legs and back this past year to "help with his stance." Although he saw starting time at tackle with his Sooners team, it seems that the PSU coaches feel that he may be better suited for guard. Last season Mateas saw reps at the guard position on the foreign squad. For the Outback Bowl he played the role of Florida left guard Carl Johnson, splitting reps with Frank Figueroa.
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