Nittany Notebook: OL

Perhaps no unit on the Nittany Lion squad has more interest and questions surrounding it than the offensive line. With an offense that most of the Nittany Nation anticipates will be revamped in 2005, the line is the center of attention for fans this preseason.

Observers have pointed out fairly consistently this preseason that it has been a challenge to determine how much progress and improvement the offensive line has been making given the sheer fact that the players are matched up against a talented and experienced first-team defensive line.

Couple this with a myriad of players being rotated in and out of the various spots so far, and getting a handle on the starting lineup, let alone their progress, has been difficult.

The offensive line has opened holes to get "some nice runs at defense during this week's scrimmage, which shows improvement in the line considring how tough this defense is."

The "baseline starting lineup" heading into preseason practice last week was the same lineup from the Blue-White Game at the close of spring practice:

LT: Levi Brown
LG: Charles Rush
C: Lance Antolick
RG: Robert Price
RT: John Wilson

However, that lineup has seen a variety of rotations and shifts this week with two-a-day sessions and scrimmage snaps. "The starting lineup has been fluid and changes everyday. The coaches are pushing the line hard — when a starter makes a mistake or slacks off they toss a backup player right in the mix."

This approach has provided younger players like Greg Harrison, Gerald Cadogan and Austin Hinton a share of first-team reps and experience against the likes of Jay Alford, Tamba Hali and company.

The main position on the line that has not seen as much rotation is the center spot. Lance Antolick has been getting the majority of the first-team reps. "Lance is doing well and hasn't been pulled off [the line] a lot."

This, in turn, likely has fans asking about backup center A.Q. Shipley and his progress so far. As one observer explained, "A.Q. is improving — he is doing OK out there. The thing everyone needs to understand is that he is still learning his assignments, so he has some setbacks since he is doing it against an experienced defensive line."

It is challenging to assess the overall progress of the line, but the fact it is opening up some lanes and moving the ball in scrimmage situations against a potent defense has observers positive. "As a core unit they are making some headway."


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