TYM: Countdown to Spring Practice

The original position-by-position breakdown of the Penn State football team heading into spring ball continues, as Harrington and Brennan, after already tackling quarterback, running back and receiver, set their sights on the offensive line. We offer this version as a free sneak peek of the often imitated but never matched FOS TAP series.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Key Issues

Brennan: With four of five starters gone, this is a potential trouble spot for the program. There is more than enough young talent on the roster, but will 15 days of spring ball and the preseason be enough time to sort out the depth chart hierarchy and develop cohesiveness? The offensive brain trust has its work cut out for it here.

Harrington: Once again the success of the program hangs in the balance with the offensive line. The biggest issue is identifying the best players and building a two-deep chart off the bat. There is little time for the staff to be playing head-games to motivate the players given the lack of experience this unit has all around. Here is how the preliminary offensive line is penciled in heading into spring practice:

RT: Chris Auletta, John Shaw/Wyatt Bowman

RG: Robert Price, Greg Harrison/Rich Ohrnberger

C: Patrick Weber, A.Q. Shipley

LG: Mark Farris, Austin Hinton

LT: Levi Brown, Gerald Cadogan

Off-season Priorities

Harrington: The biggest priority is the communication of the unit in order to work together on shifts, pulls, drops, rolls, etc. The key to achieving this is leadership from the center position and cohesiveness across the line. That is easier said than done, but the Lions should have the talent to do so.

Brennan: All of that stuff is extremely important, but since you've already said it, there is no sense being repetitive. Another priority will be staying out of trouble. The offensive line recovered from the Arrowgate debacle in the spring of 2005 in part because the Lions had a relatively easy early schedule in the fall. Not so this year, with trips to Notre Dame and Ohio State hitting before October does.

Keep An Eye On

Brennan: I'll go with the easy one and say A.Q. Shipley. We only caught brief glimpses of him at center last season, and you never got the sense he settled into a rhythm. Then he was moved back to defensive tackle. I believe he is at center for good now and I'm anxious to see how he responds. He has the strength and attitude to be a three-year starter.

Harrington: Shocking pick there. With Anthony Morelli the likely helmsman of the offense, it will be essential for the inner line to be established early. Watch for a battle to brew throughout the spring between Greg Harrison and Rich Ohrnberger at right guard. However, given the reports on both of these guys it would not be shocking to see the guy who loses the right guard spot to get a chance to battle Farris and Hinton at the left guard position.

Behind The Scenes

Harrington: Though senior veterans like Price and Farris are penciled in at the starting spots now, the buzz is focused on the younger guys. The talent of these underclassmen is expected to be the lynchpin to bring together this unit. Guys like Shipley, Hinton, Ohrnberger, etc. play with discipline and determination and could be the punch the line needs to succeed out of the gate.

Brennan: Two things you can count on every spring. First, FOS will break the news of which linemen are running with the first team in the first few days of drills. Second, certain fans will go nuts because the lineup seems completely twisted. But don't sweat the early reports because this is an area where the PSU coaches are infamous for holding back starting jobs in the spring as a means of motivation (remember Dan Drogan as a starter?). By the end of the sessions — on-campus hunting excursions notwithstanding — the “real” line should be pretty well set.

Setting The Record Straight

Brennan: While Brown had some fun with the speculation over whether he would turn pro early, I doubt he ever seriously considered it. Good thinking on his part. With his degree already in hand, he can spend more time focusing on football and refining his game into that of a top-10 draft pick.

Harrington: As we first reported after the bowl game, Shipley has shifted back to center and looks to be in his set position for his career at PSU (according to observers and barring any catastrophe on the defensive line). As an observer explained, “Shipley brings an intimidation factor that the line will feed from. He has a defensive tackle attitude and honestly the offensive guys need that.”

Part 3: Receiver.
Part 2: Running Back.
Part 1: Quarterback.

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