PSU's Redshirt Watch

With the Class of 2009 quickly approaching 'Letter of Intent Day' in February the eyes of the Nittany Nation have been set on the likes of Justin King, Derrick Williams, Dennis Landolt and the rest of the incoming class. It would be an understatement to say that Penn State fans have elevated expectations around these incoming Lions. However there is another group of prospects who have yet to see the field, but essentially have a head start on the incoming class - the redshirt freshmen.

Redshirt freshmen are essentially a second recruiting class who have been kept under wraps since they stepped on campus during this past offseason. Given that these players have not had the opportunity to contribute yet and have had a year to brush up their skills, there should be a lot of excitement around these players, yet the buzz around the current recruiting class typically overshadows the excitement around these redshirt freshmen.

We have received periodic progress reports on the redshirts throughout the 2004 season from various practice observers. Here are some updates on a few of the redshirts who reportedly have made some impressive strides this past season in conditioning and practice. You may want to keep an ear out this coming offseason for any buzz around these players and their progress.

Paul Cianciolo: Paul has apparently has a solid 2004 season on the practice field. Early on reports had him "pushing" Anthony Morelli in drills "more than everyone expected this early on."

Paul has seemingly been aggressive all year with his passing, which at times has resulted in forcing the ball into tight situations, resulting in some ill-advised picks. His decision making and play development analysis continues to improve.

Paul is consistently described as a "fundamentally solid" and "mentally tough" player. He has a quick, tight release, he sets his feet well, and has shown and ability to read all his targets farily consistently. Overall he delivers a "nice ball most off most snaps."

Some observers have indicated they would not be surprised to see Paul in the thick of the quarterback battles this offseason, with one comment being, "Paul could easily be the most underrated player of his class."

Tony Davis: Seeing snaps this season primarily in the secondary, Tony has reportedly shown impressive open field tackling ability in drills. Tony's strongest asset, or at least the one most commented on, is his speed. Prior to his arrival in Happy Valley some observers claimed that Tony could run stride for stride with Ohio State speedster Ted Ginn. Although the proof in this statement may not be confirmed for a few years, the comments around Tony's speed point to it being a legitimate asset for the Lions.

His backpeddling technique off the snap is said to be a strength and he also apparently has "excellent catch up speed." He has a powerful stride and "sprints with ease."

Tony has reportedly focused on tightening up his route-running coverage in practice, but is considered a prospect many may be overlooking at cornerback in coming years. Some feel that once he develops a comfort looking to the ball while maintain his stride he could be a force in the secondary.

Rich Ohrnberger: Rich is described as powerful 6'2" lineman. As a senior in high school he had 64 pancake blocks and was a dominant force in the trenches on both sides of the ball. In fact Rich was only the third lineman in 25 years to win Thorp Award.

Observers have told us his strongest attribute seems to be his pass rushing ability. He is said to have an excellent technique off the blocks and has shown a strong 'bull rushing' ability, applying pressure on the pocket, with a good all-around fundamentals.

Rich has been praised for having an "all out motor" on every snap and has been compared in this area to Anthony Adams. He also said to be "light on his feet" for a lineman.

Spencer Ridenhour: As a senior Spencer led his team to a 10-1 season and a spot in the Class AA New York semifinals. He rushed for 1,009 yards and 24 touchdowns, finishing off his four-year career as a starter with a school-record 3,676 yards and 57 touchdowns.

Spencer, who was recruited as an athlete, has the potential to play multiple positions and has seen snaps at both the free and strong safety positions and at outside linebacker.

His workouts this past season have been less about gaining mass and more about enhancing his flexibility and agility. Looking at Spencer you can understand why, as he is described as an "athletic specimen."

Spencer has reportedly been working on his footwork and speed during 2004 sessions, working his legs primarily to gain flexibility and strength to carry his massive frame more efficently.

Spencer initially lost a good 10 lbs. once he entered the program but has worked back to about 210 lbs. The coaches have apparently debated the idea of playing Spencer on both sides of the ball, but he apparently prefers defense, which is said to have been the focal point of his reps in 2004.

Fight On State Top Stories