Shipley Looks to Stabilize Line

Though only a redshirt sophomore, the center has seen more game action than most of his linemates. See what is going through Shipley's mind as the Nittany Lions prepare for Saturday's season opener against Akron.

Last year, A.Q. Shipley was a backup lineman with loads of potential but no defined role. He started on offense, finished on defense and was on the field just enough to pique the interest of eagle-eyed Penn State fans.

This year, it's a different story. Shipley is one of the anchors of Penn State's rebuilt offensive line, a stabilizing force even though he's only in his second season of eligibility.

To say the redshirt sophomore center is looking forward to Saturday's opener against Akron would be an understatement.

“I've really been waiting for this for a while,” Shipley said. “Now that it's finally here I'm pretty anxious to get started. I was playing behind some good players. I learned a lot from them. Now it's time to show what I learned.”

Joe Paterno is eager to see that as well. The veteran Penn State coach isn't ready to bestow any accolades on E.Z. Smith's successor just yet, but he does like the 6-foot-1, 297-pouner's potential.

“I think Shipley's got a chance to be a good center,” Paterno said. “Now, he's got to do it in a ball game for me to tell you he's good. But he's done well [in preseason practice]. So have a couple of the other kids [on the offensive line].”

Shipley said the line has looked good of late. It will be under heavy scrutiny Saturday with three players - Shipley, guard Gerald Cadogan and tackle John Shaw - set to make their first career starts.

Going against Larry Johnson's always well-prepared defensive line in practice has helped, Shipley said.

“That's one of the best defensive lines in the country year in and year out,” he said. “Just being able to go against guys like Eddie Johnson and Jay Alford, Josh Gaines and Jim Shaw, that's the best competition you're going to get leading into game time.

“Halfway through preseason, they were a little bit ahead. But by the time preseason ended, we got everything in and were caught up. We matched up pretty well against them.”

Against Akron, the challenge will be not just physical but schematic. The Zips use an unusual 3-5 front with three down linemen and five linebackers. They do a lot of stunting, with linebackers blitzing both inside and outside. It's an alignment Penn State has rarely seen in recent seasons, and that's a concern.

“It's different seeing it at first,” Shipley said. “But once you start preparing, start studying a little film, start seeing more reps in practice, time goes by and it seems like you've been playing against it all along.”

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