Lions' Lounge: Offense

FightOnState.com has continued a classic from the old Lion News site — The Lions' Lounge. In this edition of The Lounge, FightOnState.com contributor Jamie Trescavage takes a closer look at Penn State's recruiting board and where the Nittany Lions stand from a position-by-position standpoint. This is a review of the offensive side of PSU's recruiting board.

- Penn State verbal commitment
- Penn State leads or co-leads.
- Penn State is very much in the picture.
- Penn State is barely in the picture.
- Penn State has offered but is not involved.

The Current State of Offensive Recruiting:

I cannot remember a season when Penn State recruiting was so quiet. This fact is reflected in the number of official visits from non-committed Penn State recruits this fall for home football games which can be counted on one hand. With 13 (including J.B. Walton) prep school or high school seniors [hopefully] committed, examination of some important recruiting points must be done.

1. Penn State has 17 players graduating from its current roster after the Outback Bowl. In addition to players graduating, the losses of Wyatt Bowman and Greg Harrison to career-ending injuries opened an additional two scholarships, contingent on no underclassman walk-ons being given the grants. But the Nittany Lions do not have 19 scholarships to give because both Johnnie Troutman and Eric Latimore will be enrolling in school in January. So with thirteen athletes currently committed to Penn State, the Nittany Lions appear to have four more scholarships.

2. If you cannot handle Penn State finishing outside the national top 20 in recruiting rankings, you should probably avoid recruiting web sites in February. After competing for the mythical recruiting championship last February, the current crop of future Nittany Lions have not lived up to their predecessors' star rankings. But this doesn't mean that this Penn State recruiting class is full of players who will not contribute. With only eight seniors on next year's squad, there should be enough quality players on the roster that none of these freshmen should be forced into action in 2007. But there are a number of kids who can come in and help Penn State immediately. With Nick Sukay still committed and supposedly enrolling early, he should compete for safety, nickel or wide receiver spots. Other verbals, like the talented linebacking trio, will add immediate depth at the position and possible special teams help.

3. With only four possible scholarships available, what positions does Penn State need to target?

* Obviously, adding a player with the talent of LeSean McCoy at running back would be considered the jewel of the class and add to a position that comes into 2007 with many questions.

* The continual loss of offensive lineman has left the tackle position especially thin. Some believe Andrew Szczerba, a high school tight end, could grow into a tackle, but it's a dicey situation relying on Mother Nature to do her job. It's also dicey putting a relative newcomer at the position after the Penn State offensive line coaches have failed to adequately develop the talent they have recruited over the past 10 years.

* The loss of Derrick Morgan to Georgia Tech may be the biggest miss of the recruiting class. He is a player graduating early and possessing the size and speed to contribute immediately as a true freshman.

4. An interesting situation to keep an eye on in coming months is how Joe Paterno's broken leg and knee injury will affect Penn State's recruiting. Last February there was much made about JoePa coming in to close the deal with a number of highly sought after prospects, including one-time Maryland commit Antonio Logan-El, who showed a picture of himself with JoePa during his nationally televised press conference. With his ability to travel squashed by mobility issues, it is a pretty safe assumption that Penn State will be the only Division I-A school who will not have its head coach in recruits' homes and schools comes January and February.

5. While the Nittany Lions have 17 seniors leaving this year's squad, next year's seniors currently number eight. Traditionally, Penn State has not done well when it has a low numbers of scholarships to give. Pennsylvania appears to have a better class of skill position players next year, including Jeanette quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Easton cornerback Jarred Holley, West Mifflin athlete Leon Green, Hopewell linebacker/safety David Posluszny, Altoona all-purpose athlete A.J. Alexander and Bishop McDevitt wide receiver Julian Harrell.

Quarterback:

'07 Depth: Anthony Morelli (Sr.), Paul Cianciolo (Jr.), Darryl Clark (So.), Kevin Suhey (So.), Pat Devlin (Fr.) and Brett Brackett (Fr.)

With six quarterbacks on scholarship for next year, quarterback is not a priority in this class. Rumors have been swirling that Suhey and/or Brackett could end up at a different position. Stay tuned.

Tyrod Taylor - Hampton, Va. (Hampton HS) 6-2, 190 Taylor had an early interest in the Nittany Lions, but verbally committed to Virginia Tech.

Running Back:

'07 Depth: [RBs] Austin Scott (Sr.), Rodney Kinlaw (Sr.), Evan Royster (Fr.) and Brent Carter (Fr.); [FBs] Matt Hahn (Sr.), Dan Lawlor (Jr.) and Mickey Shuler, Jr. (So.)

Because Tony Hunt is a senior, Austin Scott redshirted and Rodney Kinlaw is a junior, many felt Penn State would have to really get involved with some of the top tailbacks on the East Coast. One problem, the East Coast is pretty much devoid of top senior running back talent. Penn State has since looked to the South, West and an old name with a new attitude to fill their void.

Broderick Green - Little Rock, Ark. (Pulaski Academy) 6-2, 230

Scout.com's No. 6 ranked running back, Broderick Green remains a USC commitment who will take all five official visits. But don't call him a "soft verbal." Green remains firm that he is just making sure that USC, who have a stable of freshmen running backs and incoming stud Marc Tyler, is the right place for him. Over the coming months, Green will take visits to Ohio State, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, USC, and Penn State.

Ryan Houston - Matthews, N.C. (Matthews HS) 6-2, 250

Houston had an early interest in the Nittany Lions, but verbally committed to North Carolina.

Robert Hughes - Chicago, Ill. (Hubbard HS) 5-11, 228

Despite some Internet predictions that there was a 50 percent chance that Robert Hughes would wear the Blue and White, the Nittany Lions have seemingly been eliminated from consideration. However, the odds are good he will play in Beaver Stadium, but he will stand on the west sideline wearing the uniform of Ohio State, Illinois, Notre Dame, Michigan or Minnesota. Bet on the Illini, who are doing a fantastic job recruiting.

LeSean McCoy - Harrisburg, Pa. (Milford Academy) 5-11, 200

After captivating Pennsylvania football fans for four years with his explosive ability, LeSean McCoy took his legend to a new level when it came to his recruitment. After nearly committing to USC, liking Virginia Tech and giving Penn State interest, McCoy eventually surprised people when he chose Miami on signing day. But it was ultimately a moot selection because his grades were not good enough to qualify, sending him to Milford Academy, an upstate New York prep school. There, he began to get his academic affairs in order and began a friendship with Penn State signee J.B. Walton. His initial interest in the Nittany Lions has since grown to the point that he visited Happy Valley for both the Temple and Michigan State games. It appears that he will visit Pittsburgh and Penn State in December officially before he decides. He will not be able to enroll in any college he chooses until after spring semester.

Malcolm Smith - Woodland Hills, Calif. (Taft HS) 6-2, 215

The younger brother of USC wide receiver Steve Smith, Malcolm Smith has expressed a serious interest in Penn State despite its cross-country location. Although Scout.com lists Smith as a linebacker in its database, it appears that the Nittany Lions are recruiting him for the offensive side of the ball. The hometown Trojans and UCLA Bruins join Notre Dame as the teams he is most interested in, followed closely by the Nittany Lions, Michigan and California. He may visit Penn State in January.

Wide Receiver:

'07 Depth: Terrell Golden (Sr.), Brendan Perretta (Sr.), Derrick Williams (Jr.), Deon Butler (Jr.), Jordan Norwood (Jr.), Mark Rubin (Jr.), Chris Bell (So.), Kevin Cousins (So.) and James McDonald (So.)

With Penn State's wide receiving corps mostly upperclassmen, the coaching staff needs to continue to build depth. Nick Sukay may start out at wide receiver but the Nittany Lions may be best served signing an additional athlete.

Arrelious Benn - Washington, D.C. (Dunbar HS) 6-1, 210

Benn had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Illinois.

Greg Little - Durham, N.C. (Hillside HS) 6-3, 205 Little had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Notre Dame.

Duval Kamara - Hoboken, N.J. (Hoboken HS) 6-3, 205 Kamara had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Notre Dame.

Derek Moye - Rochester, Pa. (Rochester HS) 6-5, 178

Derek Moye has narrowed his choices down to Penn State, Pittsburgh and Boston College. He's also been quiet for quite a while on his recruitment, choosing to concentrate on leading his Rochester HS team to a state championship. Moye is ranked as the nation's #59 wide receiver, but his potential is great once he adds weight to his frame. His attributes include leaping ability and a surprising elusiveness that you rarely see in a 6-foot-5 body. He has not publicly announced any scheduled visits.

Jay Smith - Virginia Beach, Va. (Kempsville HS) 6-2, 195

Smith had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to North Carolina State.

Taurian Washington - Orchard Lakes, Mich. (St. Mary's HS) 6-0, 170

Washington had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Ohio State.

Lansford Watson - Brooklyn, N.Y. (Lincoln HS) 6-4, 215

Watson had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Maryland.

Maurice Williams - Erie, Pa. (Strong Vincent HS) 6-3, 190

Maurice Williams is the younger brother of Penn State women's basketball player Mashea Williams. But will that sibling connection be enough to give Penn State the edge for the very talented wide receiver/defensive back from Erie? Throughout the summer it was assumed that Williams would be a Nittany Lion, especially after he was quoted as saying he wanted to make things easy on his mother. As the recruiting year has worn on, however, many observers have felt Williams's attachment to Pittsburgh getting stronger and stronger. Some believe that he will not make it past his Dec. 1 visit with the Panthers without giving Dave Wannstadt a verbal commitment. He has not publicly announced a visit date to Penn State.

Tight End:

'07 Depth: Jordan Lyons (Jr.), Andrew Quarless (So.), Francis Claude (So.) and Brennan Coakley (So.)

Quarless has certainly established himself as the starter and a potential All-Big Ten player in the future. Behind him, Lyons has not yet lived up to his potential after fighting through two season-ending injuries. When healthy, he is a solid No. 2 tight end. Neither Claude nor Coakley ever saw the field in 2006.

Devonte Campbell - Forestville, Md. (Forestville HS) 6-2, 235

Campbell no longer lists Penn State, having cut his list to Georgia Tech, Illinois, Syracuse, Tennessee and Maryland.

Jon Ditto - Monroeville, Pa. (Gateway HS) 6-4, 221

A hybrid wide receiver/tight end, Jon Ditto struggled a bit during his senior year with a freshman quarterback and playmakers like Cameron Saddler emerging. Despite his lack of touches, Ditto is still one of the most explosive, sure-handed players in Pennsylvania. He committed to Penn State June 8 over offers from Michigan, Pittsburgh and Ohio State.

Rob Gronkowski - Pittsburgh, Pa. (Woodland Hills HS) 6-6, 250

After transferring to Woodland Hills HS from Williamsville, N.Y., many felt that Penn State and Pittsburgh may have had a shot at signing Scout.com's #3 tight end. Gronkowski had different ideas, letting the Nittany Lions and Panthers know early that he wasn't interested in either. Instead, he has looked heavily at his native state school Syracuse, Arizona, Maryland, Clemson and Ohio State, where he took an unofficial visit for the Ohio State-Michigan clash.

Mike Ragone - Cherry Hill, N.J. (Camden Catholic HS) 6-5, 230

Ragone had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Notre Dame.

Andrew Szczerba - Wilmington, Del. (Salesianum HS) 6-6, 250

Penn State's 12th verbal commitment, Szczerba chose the Nittany Lions over Virginia on Aug. 13. A productive, big-bodied tight end out of Delaware, some have suggested that Szczerba projects as a tackle on the college level. If he stays at tight end, his size would be a great complement to the pass-catching tight end on the opposite side, Andrew Quarless.

Offensive Line:

'07 Depth: [T] John Shaw (Sr.), Gerald Cadogan* (Jr.) and Johnnie Troutman (tFr.); [G] Elijah Robinson* (Jr.), Austin Hinton (Jr.), Rich Ohrnberger (Jr.), Dennis Landolt* (So.), Antonio Logan-El* (Fr.), Lou Eliades (Fr.), J.B. Walton (tFr.); [C] A.Q. Shipley (Jr.) and Doug Klopacz (Fr.)

Will Alvarez - Woodbridge, Va. (C.D. Hylton HS) 6-5, 315

Alvarez had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Virginia Tech.

Quinn Barham - Durham, N.C. (Hillside HS) 6-4, 265

The definition of a consummate student-athlete, Quinn Barham excels on the football field as much as he does in the classroom. Because of those "smarts," it appears that Barham will come into Penn State and begin his career at the center position. Barham committed to Penn State Aug. 11 over East Carolina, Duke and Colorado.

Anthony Davis - Piscataway, N.J. (Piscataway HS) 6-6, 330

The biggest (emphasis on BIG) mystery of Penn State's recruiting efforts this year has been Anthony Davis' recruitment. A stud tackle from an area within the school's normal recruiting range, he plays a position that has become razor thin through injuries, defections and inferior talent. He was offered very late and Penn State was not able to make any type of inroads. Davis has narrowed his choices to Ohio State and Rutgers.

Josh Marks - Catawissa, Pa. (Southern Columbia HS) 6-4, 285

One of the most impressive players on last year's PIAA championship weekend, Marks uses his country-boy strength to overpower opponents. Marks and his teammates are on pace again to reach Hershey and he has done nothing to hurt his reputation as a punishing run-blocker. A future guard in college, Marks committed to Penn State May 13.

Richard Muldrow - York, Pa. (William Penn HS) 6-8, 285

One of largest offensive lineman in Pennsylvania, Richard Muldrow has attracted interest from West Virginia, Rutgers, Purdue, Boston College, North Carolina and Penn State. One of the maxims of recruiting says that you cannot teach Muldrow's kind of size. But the biggest question mark that surrounds him is his footwork. Can he move his feet quickly enough to play left tackle at the college level? He plans to make an official visit to Penn State the weekend of Dec. 1. He will also visit West Virginia Dec. 8 and Rutgers Dec. 15.

Kristofer O'Dowd - Tucson, Az. (Salpointe Catholic HS) 6-4, 312

After being offered by the Nittany Lions, O'Dowd expressed an interest but he has not listed Penn State as a destination for one of his official visits.

Trinton Sturdivant - Wadesboro, N.C. (Anson County HS) 6-5, 281

Sturdivant had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Georgia. After tripping to Notre Dame and Florida, he did visit Penn State unofficially on Oct. 14 for the Michigan game, though he has not publicly reneged on his Bulldog commitment.

*J.B. Walton - Indian Head, Md. (Milford Academy) 6-3, 275

After bonding with many of his fellow 2006 Penn State signees, J.B. Walton learned that the NCAA Clearinghouse would hamstring his freshman season, forcing him to attend Milford Academy in upstate New York. While that may have broken the spirit of many kids, Walton used it as an incentive to get bigger, better, and badder. Maybe more importantly for the Penn State program, he used it as an opportunity to really get into former Pennsylvania All-State running back LeSean McCoy's ear. Needless to say, Walton will come into next season ready to compete for playing time at guard or center.

Stefen Wisniewski - Pittsburgh, Pa. (Central Catholic HS) 6-3.5, 275

Many felt that Stefen Wisniewski to Penn State was as automatic as a Yao Ming slam dunk. Months later, the son and nephew of former Penn State stars remains uncommitted. He has narrowed his final choice down to the Nittany Lions and Boston College. While the Nittany Lions have the family advantage, Boston College has the coaching advantage, gaining a great reputation for producing NFL lineman. Wisniewski may announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American game in early January.

Stay tuned for Jamie's Lions' Lounge covering the defensive side of the ball next week.

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