REDSHIRT REPORT: Part II

Get an exclusive, inside update on how the Penn State rookies who redshirted last season have progressed to date in practices and conditioning.

While a handful of Penn State true freshmen played in 2011 — like CB Adrian Amos, WR Bill Belton, K Sam Ficken and WR Allen Robinson — most members of the Nittany Lions' 2011 recruiting class redshirted.

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 II of our exclusive Redshirt Report series:


Donovan Smith, OT, 76

Smith has been among the most impressive redshirt freshmen. At 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, he has great size and has been a "workhorse" in the weight room. The previous staff debated using him in ame action last season, but ultimately felt the redshirt would serve him better.

Despite redshirting, Smith impressed the coaches enough to not only gain a coveted spot on the travel roster, but he also moved up to see second-team reps in practice early last season.

In the Eastern Michigan game Smith nearly wasted the redshirt. When the coaches called for the second-team offensive line to take the field, Smith instinctively headed out with the unit, only to be pulled back long before the snap.

"He's a fantastic package— size and strength." an observer said. "He's shown agility off the blocks and has a level head." Smith also has an aggressive streak, which has served him well in Fitzgerald's competitions.

There is a lot of excitement from the new staff about Smith's abilities and potential. In terms of position, the new staff is expected to work him at both tackle spots. He's shown to have good endurance, but Fitzgerald has been working to get him conditioned to be an "every down guy."

With starting tackles Chima Okoli and Quinn Barham graduated, PSU will look to Smith to step up quickly given the limited experience the position has. He'll be competing with veterans like Mike Farrell, Adam Gress, Eric Shrive and Nate Cadogan, and fellow newcomers to the role such as Ryan Nowicki, Anthony Alosi, and Luke Graham.


Anthony Zettel, DL, 98

Zettel has consistently received praise for his motor. "He never quits — he destroys himself in workouts, leaves everything out there," an observer said. That drive prompted defensive line coach Larry Johnson to fight to keep Zettel on his side of the ball. Though he saw some time at offensive guard last season, Zettel seems to have found a home on the defensive line. That is probably the best fit considering his lean build.

At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Zettel has impressive strength with a solid physique. He has focused on improving the power from his legs, as well as the use of his hands, and general footwork.

Zettel has a determined approach and is described as "very coachable." He's also been described as "nasty" and "intimidating" with his style of play. "He's shown he can be aggressive and doesn't back down. He's a fighter," according to an observer.

With guys like Jordan Hill, James Terry, DaQuan Jones and Evan Hailes in the mix at tackle, Zettel will need that fight to get into the core rotation. But he's quick enough that he can also see time at end.

Johnson like to use light defensive linemen at tackle early in their careers, to toughen them up. Tamba Hali and Jack Crawford are two of the more notable examples.


Kyle Carter, TE, 87

Given the way O'Brien relies on tight ends in his offense, he's in search of players who can create separation and serve as consistent intermediate targets for the quarterbacks. Carter is a prospect who could fit this role. Carter has worked on increasing his overall strength, too, and the addition of increased free weights and regular squat sessions has reportedly already started to benefit him.

PSU landed Carter as its first verbal of the 2011 class. A tall kid with long arms and good hands, he has a good vertical jump, which will help in goal-line situations. He is an athletic tight who will only get better with additional strength and weight training at PSU. "It'll take time, but he's stronger on his cuts and starting to be more precise," an observer said. "Part of that could also be the added attention too."

The tight end position is relatively thin, with veteran Kevin Haplea and the anticipated return of Garry Gilliam from injury. They figure to be the top two tight ends. But Cadogan has moved back to the offensive line.

That could leave Carter fighting for third-team reps with converted defensive end Dakota Royer and early enrollee Jesse James.


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