This time we shift our focus to the offensive side of the ball to look at the five players who will have the tall order of filling the shoes of departing players like Michael Robinson, Isaac Smolko, Tyler Reed and Charles Rush, among others.
Here is a breakdown of several younger players on offense who have turned heads in practice this season and are expected to impact the depth chart next year. Their class standing listed below is where they will be in 2006.
Mark Rubin (6-foot-3, 215 pounds, RS Soph. WR):
Sidelined with an ankle injury sustained in practice in late August, Rubin's recovery is expected to add another dimension to a wide receiver unit that is already among the most dynamic in the conference.
"Mark has shown he has great hands, but he adds a nice size element to the unit to supplement the speed," one observer explained. "He's obviously not the fastest on the unit, but he is quicker than he looks and should add even more depth to an already deep set of players."
Rubin embraced his physical theropy and also has improved his stength this season. "He is a tough target to cover given his height and wide stride. That should help the passing game."
Greg Harrison (6-foot-5, 285 pounds, RS Soph. G):
Recovering from a broken foot he sustained in late September, Harrison had the screw in his foot removed earlier this month and is off the crutches, ready to see some practice reps for the bowl and "looks great."
"It is huge that Greg will get some bowl practices in to help get him back up to speed on the line. That will help the line that much more in the off-season," an observer shared.
Harrison, consistently described as a leader of the offensive line, saw time at both center and guard prior to his injury. "Although he saw reps at center, he really is a guard and that's where I would expect him to make his impact," another observer explained.
With the departure of Charles Rush and Tyler Reed at the guard positions, the staff will be looking for Harrison to step into the two deep to make an impact this spring.
Jordan Lyons (6-foot-5, 251 pounds, RS Soph. TE):
Another young player who was sidelined this season with an injury, Lyons sustained a ankle injury earlier in the season. This is the second major injury he has sustained in his short career at PSU, having recovered from a shoulder injury in 2004 which forced him to miss most of that season.
Lyons has excellent strength, size and power and a solid physique that gives him a "sleek running style." He has a good blocking frame, which he will need to focus on using to diverisfy his play on the field.
As for receiving, he is a big target who provides a challenge for defenders to cover and can drop a shoulder and deliver a blow for extra yards. He consistently "runs hard" and cuts well. As one observer described, "If the coaches were to use him on some crossing rotes he would be dangerous."
Although he is not the fastest guy on the field, he is quicker than most expect. given the departure of Isaac Smolko, Lyons will be looked upon to step up his game this off-season to help provide protection and a target to the passing game.
Dennis Landolt (6-foot-4, 288 pounds, RS Frosh. G):
One of unsung true freshman of the Class of 2005 that did not see action this season was Dennis Landolt, described as an "aggressive, mean lineman." A champion wrestler in high school, Landolt was asked to wrestle for Penn State by respectfully declined, stating he's now a footbal player.
"Landolt has an impressive starting point to build from. He has good technique and and understanding of the scheme, but more importantly he's smart and improvises well as his assignment adjusts, one observer explaiend. "Dennis has an attitude you want on the line - he feels that line of scrimmage is his and he plays like he owns it."
Landolt is another young player who is expected to help provide depth at the guard positions vacated by seniors Rush and Reed. He has a natural low base and good foot and handwork. He needs to work on his lateral movement, but overall has been impressive with his practice reps this season.
Anthony Morelli (6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Jr. QB):
The "heir apparent" for Michael Robinson, Morelli's athletic abilities and size make him a pure pocket passing quarterback. His "NFL caliber" arm is a "rocket" and "If he has a decent offensive line, he could be a lights-out passer."
His fundamentalts boast a strong dropback technique and clean mechanics. He passes "with ease" and is "throwing consistently catchable balls this year." He has been focused on improving this season on "changing the delivery speed of his passes based on the situation."
If there is a weakness, Morelli's is his mobility. According to one observer, "His scrambling technique is not a strong point." So, he needs a solid offensive line built around him for protection.
He also needs to continue to focus on his reads. The defense has disguised a variety of blitz packages in practice this season to help him learn how to better recognize them. He continues to improve in this area, but the coaches want him to continue to do so in the off-season.