Twelve Days — OL

Our 12 days of Christmas breakdown of the Penn State football team continues with one of the most troubled areas for the Nittany Lions in 2004. Read on for the lowdown.

SECOND DAY — OFFENSIVE LINE

MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE: Penn State coach Joe Paterno went out of his way during the season to say his team had some of the most physically gifted linemen around.

You’d have a difficult time convincing the PSU quarterbacks of that fact. Zack Mills and Michael Robinson were both butchered by opposing defenders in 2004, to the point where the team lost the two of them to injuries in a single game.

You’d have a difficult time convincing the PSU running backs, too. Sure, neither Tony Hunt nor Austin Scott showed the kind of explosion needed to star in the Big Ten. But with a proper line, both have the tools to be effective ball-carriers.

Since this has been such a sore spot for so many years — Mills went his entire career without playing with a lineman who won even second-team All-Big Ten honors — we can’t say we agree with Paterno when he says the talent was there. But the coaching has been a more serious issue.

If someone can present a valid argument that Bill Kenney and Dick Anderson are doing an effective job, we’d love to hear it.

Levi Brown is the perfect example of the problems here. The massive tackle looked like a future star as a redshirt freshman in 2003. In 2004, he regressed, constantly making mental errors that led to penalties or easy stops for the defense.

And then there was Andrew Richardson. In his first season as a full-time lineman after moving from tight end, he was placed at right tackle -- the blindside for the starter Mills. Undersized. Inexperienced. On the bench halfway through the year. Who else does this kind of stuff?

WHO WAS NAUGHTY: No free passes here. Everyone on the offensive line underachieved in 2004.

WHO WAS NICE: How bad was this group? Senior guard Scott Davis was a part-time player yet was still named the team’s outstanding offensive lineman. Kudos, Scott.

UNDER THE TREE: We’ve heard good things about a pair of true freshmen who redshirted in 2004, Greg Harrison and Gerald Cadogan. The O-line will not be a strength of State’s latest recruiting class, simply because it is not a priority.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: Word out of the football compound is that Paterno scrapped new offensive coordinator Galen Hall’s zone-blocking scheme early in the season. The Lions may want to fall back on it. Zone blocking relies heavily on quickness and teamwork, which meshes well with a weight-training program that focuses less on brute strength, and more on agility and endurance.


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