FOS The Mag Sneak Peek

Get the lowdown on which young Nittany Lions are ready to emerge as serious contributors in 2007 in this free preview of content from the March issue of Fight On State The Magazine. The deadline to subscribe and receive this magazine is midnight Saturday.

The deadline is fast approaching to order an annual Total Access Pass to FightOnState.com and receive the March issue of Fight On State The Magazine. In the March issue, we recap the 2006 Penn State football season while taking an early look ahead to the 2007 campaign.

With that in mind, as a free sneak preview of the magazine we are offering the following magazine story, where several Penn State veterans talk about which young players they expect to emerge in the off-season. You can see the entire rundown of the content in the magazine after the following story.

If you would like to order an annual TAP and receive this magazine and all the other perks of an annual subscription, visit this link (Order Securely Online) or call our customer service center (888-501-5752) before midnight Saturday.

And if you order before midnight Tuesday, you will automatically receive one month added to your annual subscription FREE as part of a separate promotion we are running today only.

HEADLINE: Waiting in the Wings

SUBHEAD: Get the lowdown on which young Nittany Lions are ready to emerge as serious contributors in 2007

BYLINE: Mark Brennan

Some of the best Penn State players in recent history either played sparingly or not at all during their first season in the program. Athletes who would go on to enjoy long NFL careers -- Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Jeff Hartings, Larry Johnson, Marco Rivera and Brandon Short -- all took redshirts during their initial year in Happy Valley. Others only saw spot action or special teams duty, players such as LaVar Arrington, Bobby Engram, O.J. McDuffie and, more recently, Tony Hunt.

So every year at this time, we like to check with the Penn State veterans to get a feel for those youngsters who figure to emerge as strong contributors. We polled several upperclassmen as the Nittany Lions prepared to face Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, and these are the athletes they think bear watching.

OFFENSE

Replacing the versatile and dependable Hunt at tailback appears to be a real challenge for the Nittany Lions. Yet while they have not recruited a super blue-chipper at the position in recent years, several veterans point to redshirt freshman Evan Royster as a back who will surprise fans.

“Royster looks very good at tailback,” said All-America linebacker Dan Connor, who played against the Fairfax, Va., prospect on the foreign team in most practices. “He's a smooth runner, has great acceleration and is a good blocker. He's the full package. He's young now, but I can only see improvement coming. Everyone on the offensive side speaks highly of him.”

Royster is solidly built at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. So too is classmate Brent Carter, a 6-2, 199-pounder. Hunt likes them both.

“They're both pretty fast and not too small,” he said. “They're smart young guys and hard workers.”

Wideout Chris Bell also received universal praise from his teammates. Bell played as a true freshman but in a limited capacity, making five catches for 66 yards.

“Chris Bell is so tall and he's fast, too,” receiver Derrick Williams said of the 6-2, 200-pounder. “He's going to be a special player. You can spot them.”

Up front, there will be a host of young faces competing for playing time next season. But departing left tackle Levi Brown, an All-American, likes what he has seen from the man who played behind him in the latter part of 2006 -- redshirt freshman Dennis Landolt.

“I'm not sure if he's going to be a guard or a tackle next year,” Brown said. “But he has great technique. He's been able to watch and learn, and he understands what it takes to play an offensive line position.”

Elsewhere on offense, two quarterbacks played well on the foreign team in 2006. But one of them had a bigger impact at other positions.

“Pat Devlin and Brett Brackett have both been doing a great job,” All-America linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “Brackett's been playing tight end and wide receiver on the scout team. But they are both going to be really good in a couple of years.”

DEFENSE

Penn State played two true freshman defensive ends in 2006 -- Maurice Evans and Jared Odrick. But according to Brown, the best of the bunch was held out for a redshirt. Though listed at 6-4, 226 on the latest roster, Aaron Maybin now checks in at well over 250 pounds.

“If he practices like he played on the foreign team, he's going to be an All-American every year he is at Penn State once he gets on the field,” Brown said. “He is a high-intensity guy at the end position. He has height but he plays with leverage, which is important. He is quick and he has a lot of strength. He has a great combination of athletic ability and desire.

“There have been times where I thought he was better than some of the guys we were going against [in games],” Brown added. “I couldn't tell him that … can't let him get all cocky and stuff. But at times he gave me a better look in practice than guys I faced in games.”

Even with Posluszny moving on, Penn State appears loaded at linebacker. And Posluszny is looking forward to seeing a pair of redshirting freshmen in action.

“Navorro Bowman and Bani [Gbadyu] are both going to be studs when they're older,” Posluszny said. “They are both great athletes. Bani can fly. They just need a little more time to mature and pick up our defense.”

Another speedy player is defensive back/receiver A.J. Wallace, who saw only a few snaps on defense in 2006. Williams expects that to change next season.

“You have only seen a little bit of what A.J. can do, especially on defense,” Williams said. “A.J. is going to be a great safety or cornerback -- wherever he plays. He's a big defensive back. He's very fast, but he can be a very physical cornerback.”

Williams also commented on the young linebackers, saying Bowman “is gonna be a great one,” and that redshirt freshman Jerome Hayes “just brings that linebacker mentality. He's very hard-nosed.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

The key spot to address in the kicking game is at punter, where four-year starter Jeremy Kapinos graduates. Penn State spent a scholarship on incoming freshman Ryan Breen to help fill that void. But Kapinos said fans should not rule out redshirt sophomore walk-on Jeremy Boone.

“I haven't watched Ryan,” Kapinos said. “But in terms of gauging my skills to Jeremy's, he is good enough to play at a Division I-A school. He has the advantage of the bowl game and spring practice to be the only guy to impress, and I think he has been turning heads with his punting. He has a good mixture of hang time and distance. He can't quite kick it as far as me because he is smaller.

“It is going to be a competition,” Kapinos added. “But right now I think Jeremy has the edge.”

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This issue of Fight On State The Magazine is 48 pages of high-quality, glossy magazine stock. The content includes the following:

• Complete Outback Bowl coverage, featuring analysis, great photos, grades, key matchups and much more from our week-plus in Tampa.

• The lowdown on Joe Paterno's rapid recovery from a broken leg.

• An update on Dan Connor, who feels he has unfinished business in Happy Valley.

• Analysis of the theory that PSU does not throw over the middle, where we offer graphic evidence to back up our points.

• An update on Florida resident O.J. McDuffie, who still enjoys following his college team.

• Our Photo of the Month, featuring Outback Bowl MVP Tony Hunt.

• Analysis of the 12 key seniors Penn State loses. We run through all of them, from the player we believe will be the most difficult to replace to the one who will be the easiest to replace.

• A story on some new faces (freshmen and redshirt freshmen) ready to make an impact for the Lions, with veteran players commenting.

• Highlights & Lowlights: The memorable players and plays from the 2006 football season.

• Penn State NFL Report: A roundup of how former Lions fared in the pros in 2006-07.

• The latest on wide receiver Jordan Norwood, who is now playing for the PSU hoop team.

• We talk to PSU basketball coach DeChellis about recruiting athletes who want to play two sports in college.

If you would like to order an annual TAP and receive this magazine and all the other perks of an annual subscription, visit this link (Order Securely Online) or call our customer service center (888-501-5752) before midnight Saturday.

And if you order before midnight Tuesday, you will automatically receive one month added to your annual subscription FREE as part of a separate promotion we are running today only.


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