Big 33: Grading the Future Lions

HERSHEY — Six future Penn Staters took the field for the Pennsylvania squad in the 2006 Big 33 Classic, and helped lead their team to a 61-42 victory, breaking a three year Ohio winning streak. FOS staffers Scott Cole and Thomas McLaughlin review the performances.

Pat Devlin

Devlin could have easily gotten discouraged after he was intercepted on the first two series of the game. In Devlin's efforts to throw an easily catchable ball, he appeared to be trying to put too much touch on it. Both throws were in the air too long and gave defenders a chance to make plays. That's something he will correct at the next level.

Instead of getting down on himself, Devlin showed mental toughness and tenacity by putting up 119 yards and two touchdowns over the final three quarters. Both touchdown passes showed perfect touch and velocity.

In addition, Devlin showed much better footspeed than expected, including a 13-yard touchdown run on a scramble that saw him juke a defensive back at the 5-yard line before going into the end zone untouched. All in all, it was a solid effort from Devlin and an indication that he has the necessary tools to eventually be a starting quarterback at Penn State.

Devlin finished the game with seven completions against four incomplete balls and the two interceptions. His 81-yard touchdown to Berry stands as the longest play from scrimmage of the game. With two touchdown tosses and a rushing score, Devlin accounted for 18 points, tied for the game lead.

FOS Grade: B

Abe Koroma

Koroma's name didn't appear on the stat sheet often, but he still made a strong impression. Koroma was a load in the middle of the Pennsylvania defensive line and made it nearly impossible for Ohio to get running yards between the tackles. He did not give ground often and occupied space just as a 3-4 nose tackle is supposed to do.

Perhaps Koroma's most impressive play of the night was one he didn't make. Late in the fourth quarter, Koroma chased Ohio running back Delone Carter nearly the length of the field and caught up to him inside the Pennsylvania 10-yard line. Koroma missed the tackle and Carter scored, but it clearly showed that he has speed to go with that bulk.

Koroma did not receive the accolades that many of the other defensive line recruits in the incoming class did, but there's little doubt that he is another very talented recruit for Larry Johnson to coach.

Officially, Koroma was credited with five assists for the game, allowing Ohio no room to run up the middle of the defense. Despite the team from the Buckeye state piling up 297 yards on the ground on 33 carries, virtually none of that rushing total was up the gut, and Koroma was one of the big reasons why. At the next level, Koroma will need to work on his burst from his down stance and improving his side to side mobility. But as a defender at this level, Koroma delivered all he was asked to provide.

FOS Grade: A-

Travis McBride

It's difficult to make an informed evaluation of McBride's performance due to the limited playing time he received and the fact that he was playing a position other than safety, where he is expected to be stationed in Happy Valley.

McBride played exclusively at tailback and only received a handful of carries. He was not quite fast enough to turn the corner on a sweep toss in the first half, but he ran hard between the tackles when Pennsylvania was trying to run the clock down in the second half after taking the lead.

McBride accounted for 23 yards on five carries for a healthy 4.6-yard average, picking up key yardage to help the Pennsylvania squad maintain posession in the second half.

"Tank" will get a chance to live up to his nickname at safety for Penn State and is a probable redshirt.

FOS Grade: Incomplete

Tom McEowen

The Pennsylvania Defensive Player of the Year displayed great strength and a non-stop motor throughout the game. He looked equally comfortable rushing the passer and plugging holes in the line against the Ohio running game.

McEowen ended Ohio's first offensive series by barreling into Derell Johnson on the pass rush, forcing a near interception. Later in the first half, McEowen showed great determination in tripping up Johnson for a short gain despite being engaged by a blocker.

McEowen drew the ire of Pennsylvania coach Mark Schmidt late in the game when he relaxed a bit from his fundimentals with the game in hand, allowing Drew Kuhn to scamper 31 yards for a meaningless touchdown that served only to push the total points scored by both teams over the century mark. Schmidt coached McEowen at Neshaminy High outside of Philadelphia.

For the game McEowen was credited with one solo tackle and three assists to go with one tackle for loss.

McEowen has been told by the Penn State defensive coaches to be ready to compete for playing time this fall, and he took that challenge to heart, showing up for the Big 33 at a sculpted 280 pounds. Don't count him out of the defensive line rotation this season.

FOS Grade: B+

Jared Odrick

Odrick was arguably the most physically impressiv'e player on either team. It's rare to see a 6-foot-6 285-pounder with so little body fat and so much speed. Ohio's quarterbacks spent most of the night scrambling out of the pocket, and Odrick was a big reason why. He brought consistent pressure on the pass rush using a combination of speed and bull rush moves.

Against the run, Odrick was also impressive, showing an ability to slide down the line of scrimmage and make plays from the backside.

Odrick was expected to play mainly at offensive tackle, but that didn't happen, probably because Ohio jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead and Pennsylvania needed to force the issue defensively to create turnovers. He did have a few opportunities to go one-on-one with Ohio's Thaddeus Gibson, who regularly created havoc in the Pennsylvania backfield. Odrick handled the speedy Gibson better than any of the other offensive tackles and was able to keep him from gaining the corner.

Odrick's spirit was contageous on the sideline, drawing laughter and cheers from the Pennsylvania bench as he "danced" the moves to "YMCA" which was being played over the loudspeakers while lying flat on his back and allowing the Pennsylvania trainer to stretch a persistent leg cramp during second half action.

Odrick finished the game with three assists, two for loss, and was credited with half a sack which he shared with Iowa bound linebacker Jeremiah Hunter.

No matter where Odrick plays at Penn State, he should be a multiple-year starter and could contribute this fall as a true freshman.

FOS Grade: A

Collin Wagner

The State College High product accounted for seven points, all on PAT kicks, but missed on his fourth extra point of the night which would have tied the score at 28 (there was a bad snap). Wagner was also busy kicking off, a task he was called on to perform 10 times during the game as the Pennsylvania offense rolled up nine touchdowns. After the game, Wagner told FOS his leg was "beat," when asked if he expected to do so much kicking.

Wagner showed the ability to kick the ball into the end zone, and although Ohio chose to return most deep kicks, one second half bomb rolled through the end zone for a touchback.

The Pennsylvania team was forced to punt just once during the game, and Wagner also handled the punt duties, his kick going for 34 yards with no return.

Though it is difficult to grade a kicker who has no opportunity to show his mettle in a field goal situation, we did get to see a lot of Wagner in this game, and we liked what we saw. Only the lone missed PAT brings down his final grade.

FOS Grade: B

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