Left Tackle: The least mysterious position on the 2006 offensive line at this point is left tackle. All-Big Ten selection Levi Brown is one of the few players on the whole team who Joe Paterno annointed a starter during his press conference this past Saturday, and the only line veteran of the bunch. A great leader and example for the younger linemen, it's not surprising that Brown is the captain for the offense.
"You can bet Anthony Morelli is happy to have Levi anchoring his blind side. I know the line has questions, but having his position locked up provides a big step in getting the line where it needs to be," according to one observer.
Backing up Brown is 6-foot-5, 320-pound Wyatt Bowman, who is focused on his hands and footwork this preseason. However, barring a catastophe, Brown is the set starter at left tackle.
Left Guard: With the shift of Greg Harrison from right to left guard, he is looking to unseat Gerald Cadogan, who has held the starting position all off-season. Cadogan, a 6-5, 313 pound redshirt sophomore,, has a size advantage over Harrison, who is 6-3, 292.
Harrison sits low, sets a wide base and opens his stance outward rather than upward. "He tends to follow his assignment's' heads rather than their chests at times, which puts him at a disadvantage," an observer explained.
Cadogan has "great intensity" and "plays like a quiet storm — he has a lot of aggression." He gets his center low and "squares up on his assignments."
Center: Perhaps the second-least mysterious position is the center spot. The consensus among observers is that A.Q. Shipley is "head and shoulders" above the other players vying for the position and "owns the spot."
Shipley "is a lineman who will punch anyone in the mouth." He's intimidating and has an impressive motor. He has really refined his communication for the linemen (e.g. shifts, pulls, rolls, etc.) and has "developed a comfort with his new role." At times his aggression has given his assignment the upper hand, "getting him off balance with a shoulder drop or side step."
Patrick Weber is backing up Shipley, but Shipley's athleticism, attitude and adjustment to the position have most observers feeling he is the obvious favrotie for the starting role, a position he has held all off-season.
Right Guard: Although Robert Price has been the starter this off-season, the coaches have shifted over Rich Ohrnberger from left guard. Ohrnbeger has a two-inch height advantage on Price according to the media guide but appears to be much taller when you see both athletes in person. Each tips the scales at about 298 pounds.
Ohrnberger has the "build you want in a lineman," he is solid and "downright nimble" for his size. He is pushing Price hard and observers say he is "incredibly hungry" for playing time. He has also been compared to Shiply in terms of intensity and it is said the two get along well.
"Rich had some issues when he first arrived, but he's matured and is starting to realize just how good he can be. He needs to work, but look at the guy — he's really tackled the weight room."
Right Tackle: This may be te most intense preseason battle on the line. Chris Auletta played left guard in place of the well-seasoned Brown all spring to get him added reps and coaching from the senior captain. However, John Shaw saw first-team reps on the right side of the line at tackle. "Both guys have seen an equal number of first-team reps up until preseason; now they're fighting over the right [tackle] spot."
Auletta and Shaw are both strong and have shown they can handle pocket pressure. Shaw, though, is considered to be among the strongest players on the entire squad. Shaw's strength is in his overall power while Auletta's is in his agility and footwork to get in front of his assignment quickly.
Observers are split on who they think will end up starting, with a slight edge going to Shaw. "It's greating having two talented guys battle like this, though. It only makes the line better. The key is how they all come together against an opposing defensive line."