Take Your Marks: Preparing for Spring

Harrington and Brennan tackle the pressing off-season issues facing the Nittany Lions in another version of TYM. In this one, they talk about potential trouble spots in the spring, which players are likely to switch positions, the athletes who will surprise people over the next few months and more.

1). Now that recruiting season is complete (or just about so), the focus of the Nittany Lion coaching staff should be…

BRENNAN ANSWERS: To pound home that message that the success of 2005 was a result of players — especially the seniors — breaking their backs in the off-season. If the Lions don't show that same sort of dedication this year, they could fall from grace very quickly, especially considering their brutal road schedule in 2006.

HARRINGTON ANSWERS: Assessing the holes of this team and identifying how to fill them, particularly with the offense and the heir apparent at QB, Anthony Morelli. The offensive staff has to rebuild the offensive line (the lynchpin of offensive success) so it had better get started. As for motivation, with the likes of Paul Posluszny and Tony Hunt leading the younger guys, I think they have set the tone and will have them determined in the off-season.

2). The most important task in spring practice will be…

HARRINGTON ANSWERS: Rebuilding the offensive line, which is a task that is easier said than done. The staff has a lot of young, talented linemen in the ranks like Greg Harrison, Gerald Cadogan, Dennis Landolt and A.Q. Shipley. The key is getting them to work as a unit consistently and communicate effectively.

BRENNAN ANSWERS: Developing a cohesive offensive line. I know, the Arrowgate mess left the line in turmoil last spring and it performed just fine when the regular season rolled around. But that was a veteran group. With four starters gone, the new faces are going to have to get used to playing alongside one another. The good news: Many of the key players here received many reps last spring when the archers were suspended. I'm also anxious to see who emerges in the secondary.

3). One player who will surprise people this spring is…

BRENNAN ANSWERS: Sophomore linebacker Sean Lee. With Posluszny, the Butkus Award winner, possibly skipping most (if not all) of the drills while recovering from a knee injury, Lee will receive serious reps. If Lee and redshirt freshman Jerome Hayes are as good as advertised -- and we suspect they are -- it will force the staff to at least toy with a 3-4.

HARRINGTON ANSWERS: My obvious pick is Hayes. He has had rave reviews out of practice and is expected to make a big impact this season. I am not sold that the Lions can effectively run a 3-4 scheme, but if the reports on Lee and Hayes are remotely true it could happen. I would also keep a close eye on Tony Davis. The secondary lost all four starters and the staff is looking for guys to step up. Davis has the speed and cover skills to step in at corner and make an impact.

4). One player who will change positions this spring is…

HARRINGTON ANSWERS: A.Q. Shipley. Shipley made an impact at defensive tackle, but he is the foundation at center for the offensive line. Given his experience there and his shadowing of E.Z. Smith, watch for Shipley to be a key factor in the success of a rebuilt line this off-season.

BRENNAN ANSWERS: Now that's going out on a limb. I'll take Lydell Sargeant. I'll bet Tom Bradley, who recruited Sargeant, talks him into playing defensive back. If not, a shift to running back may be in the works. In any event, do not expect Sargeant to be back at receiver in 2006. He is a gifted athlete who can contribute in many areas, but just does not have the natural receiving skills needed to play that position.

BRENNAN'S FINAL WORD: It is difficult to believe the start of spring ball is just around the corner, but, with so many starters lost to graduation, I'm sure Joe Paterno and company can't wait for it to get here. There are concerns about losing three of four starters on the defensive line, but I think the return of Ed Johnson, the emergence of Jimmy Shaw and the arrival of reinforcements in late June will help mitigate that. Cohesion on the O-line and in the secondary are more pressing issues. And I agree that this is a huge spring for Morelli, who has a chance to prove that this offensive is now his.

HARRINGTON'S FINAL WORD: Penn State loses a lot with the departing seniors. Though the Lions lack experience at several positions, they have a significant amount of talent waiting in the wings, particularly on the offensive line and in the secondary. How quickly these units come together and perform will dictate the team's success (or lack thereof) during the 2006 season. The staff will have their work cut out getting the O-line up to speed and retooling the offense to fit a dramatic shift in the quarterback position this spring.


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