But that doesn't mean the players who sat out lacked 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, A.Q. Shipley, Michael Zordich, Devon Still and a host of others.
The best aspect 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 every other player on the team is off, the redshirting rookies are put through brutal workouts at Lasch Building.
Granted, things have changed since Bill O'Brien had Craig Fitzgerald have takes over the weight room, but the redshirting philosophy is not expected to change, using the tactic to better position players to make a more meaningful impact throughout their PSU careers.
With that in mind, we believe it is important to track the progress of the redshirting freshman. This is Part 1 of our exclusive Redshirt Report series:
Deion Barnes, DE, No. 18
Described as "athletic" and "raw" as a high school senior, Barnes has spent the last year focused on building his conditioning, strength and understanding of the techniques Larry Johnson employs on the defensive line. Barnes arrived on campus at about 230 pounds and is now over 245 pounds (at 6-foot-4).
His strength and "control of his size" has improved, although he's been a focal point of Fitzgerald's in the weight room. "He's already started to benefit from the free weights to get his core strength up."
Barnes has been described as "hungry to improve," focusing on his rush skills and "balancing his overall speed and power to break the corner." He impressed staffers enough this past season to see second-team reps despite his redshirt. He was honored with a valuable travel spot to the Indiana game, given to redshirt players to excel on the practice field.
Barnes is seen as an important player to bolster PSU's defensive end depth and being looked upon to break into the rotation in 2012.
Ryan Nowicki, OL, No. 68
Nowicki arrived at PSU ay about 280 pounds on his 6-5 frame. Today he's upward of 295 pounds, which was part of the goal this past year, to "put on some added weight."
An Arizona native, Nowicki is "quiet, yet has some attitude" and seemed to acclimate to PSU well. The previous staff had him working at both offensive tackle positions, which is seemingly where Mac McWhorter is expected to work him this spring.
While he has increased his size and strength, there's been a focus on the agility of his footwork and his ability to "explode out" to direct his assignment.
All told, the consensus is that the redshirt year has served Nowicki well as he's looked upon to shore up the depth with Chima Okoli and Quinn Barham graduated.
Matt Zanellato, WR, No. 83
Since he arrived on campus observers have liked Zanellato's 6-3, 190-pound frame. He also displayed "strong basics" with his receiving skills and general route-running.
Although he is "not a top-end runner" in terms of speed he is said to have quick feet off the snap. This past year he worked on his speed and hands and how to "effectively use his body since he's such a big target."
Given his size, there was some early debate as to whether to get Zanellato on the field as a true freshman, but the feeling was that the redshirt would benefit his overall abilities.
Zanellato is still focused on building his strength (which Fitzgerald is said to already be assiting with) and overall stamina. With Derek Moye departed PSU still has the likes of veteran receivers Justin Brown, Devon Smith, Shawney Kersey and Bill Belton, but Zanellato's height, on-par with Brown's, could help to get him in the rotation if he has a strong off-season.
"Strong" is probably the key word there. He has the skills to make an impact. He just has to add some muscle so he can get off the line better and battle with physical defensive backs.
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