Sticking with the Block

Penn State senior O-lineman Pannell, listed on the first team yet again, intends to hold on to his starting job this season.

DeOn'tae Pannell was Penn State's starting right tackle the first four games of the 2009 season, until Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn so dominated him that the coaches unceremoniously yanked him in the middle of a home loss to the Hawkeyes.

And Pannell was the Nittany Lions' starting left guard the first two games of last season, until they went to Alabama and got smacked around.

Another season begins Saturday, when Indiana State visits Beaver Stadium, and Pannell is once again penciled into the starting lineup, again at left guard.

Emphasis on the word “penciled.”

“I'm just looking to make the most of it,” he said on a conference call earlier this week, “and hopefully hold onto it and not lose it.”

Pannell, who is beginning his final season, said consistency has been his biggest problem, that as a younger player he had his ups and downs.

“That's one thing I've tried to work on,” he said.

That, and his conditioning. He said he began winter drills at a puffy 330 pounds, but now checks in at 308.

His weakness?

“Cookies, cakes and pies,” he said.

He managed to excise them from his diet, while realizing that this season will be, you should pardon the expression, no piece of cake. Coach Joe Paterno has often wondered aloud if the offensive line will be tough enough to get the job done, and during his first weekly news conference of the season Tuesday also mentioned depth as being a possible problem.

Pannell, who was thought to be competing with John Urschel at right guard coming out of spring drills, was instead listed as the starter on the left side when the first depth chart of the season was released Monday. Johnnie Troutman, expected to be the left guard, is supposedly sharing right guard with Urschel.

Pannell, who has made nine starts in his career (seven as a sophomore, two last year), said Wednesday he did in fact begin preseason drills on the left side. He added that while line coach Dick Anderson likes to move guys around, Pannell has seen his most reps at that spot. And though he has been given “no for-sure indication,” he believes he will be starting there against the Sycamores.

The rest of the line consists of tackles Chima Okoli and Quinn Barham, and center Matt Stankiewitch.

Pannell confirmed that the coaches have been challenging the O-line to stay on blocks and compete every play, with the hope that they can erode an opponent's will once the season starts.

We'll see on that one. Just as we will see about Pannell's staying power.

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