Harrington: Since all three candidates for the starting quarterback job are right-handed (making the left side of the line the weak side) and All-Big Ten left tackle Levi Brown is departed, that is the biggest hole. Perhaps no unit has more gaps to plug on the two-deep than the O-line. But no position is more critical than left tackle. In order to get any element of the passing game ignited with consistency -- no matter who starts at quarterback -- the new left tackle has a major task to fulfill. He must keep the heat off the QB and avoid any backside blunders. Right now it appears Gerald Cadogan and Dennis Landolt are the primary candidates for the position. The Nittany Lion staff has a short amount of time to get both players into the comfort zone of playing the position on an every-down basis.
Brennan: Left tackle is not only the greatest concern on the offensive line, but also the entire team. The coaching staff sent that message by taking the extraordinary step (by its standards) of bringing in a pair of junior college tackles, the first time in more than two decades it had dipped into the juco ranks for a prospect at any position. I still don't quite get why Brown's logical successor, Chris Auletta, decided to give up his final year of eligibility. Makes you wonder if some of these athletes understand the amazing opportunity they've been given. In any event, in the long run, I believe being forced to go with a younger player at left tackle will be good for the line in the long run. But I'd expect some problems early in the 2007 season.
Harrington: It's a fairly unique position for Penn State, but the Lions have a veteran starter at center in A.Q. Shipley. That gives them a solid foundation from which to build, despite having to replace several departed linemen like Brown, Auletta, Robert Price, Greg Harrison (injury) and Wyatt Bowman (injury). Shipley has a firm grasp on the line calls, an essential component of the line play that is often overlooked and provides a strong interior point to aid with the guards. After working on the snap transition with QB Anthony Morelli, the two seem to have it more consistent judging by their performance in January's bowl game. Shipley brings a strong element of experience to a pivotal position.
Brennan: Veteran starting centers are not all that unique at PSU, even recently. Joe Iorio was around forever. Then E.Z. Smith -- when not playing Robin Hood -- was a multiple-year starter. Smith was around the program last season as a student assistant, and I'm sure Shipley would be the first to admit the former Lion helped him make the adjustment from defensive tackle to center. For all of the minor off-the-field headaches Smith caused the staff as a player, there is no question he was a sound technician at center, so anything he passed along to Shipley in that regard had to be positive. As for the brightest spot, there is not much argument there. Now a junior, Shipley will be the heart and soul of the line if he stays healthy. Knock on wood.
Harrington: The reports about Lou Eliades have been positive since his arrival on campus last season. His fundamentals and aggressive style of play have him vying for a starting guard position. Although he has yet to see a snap, I would not be surprised if he made an early impact on the unit out of the gate given the depth and experience issues the line is facing. If he plays as well as he practices he could provide a formidable inside front with Shipley and Ohrnberger, assuming Ohrnberger can nail down the mental aspects of his play.
Brennan: I'll go with Dennis Landolt. Though we have him listed as a second-teamer now, I believe his technical skills and overall strength will allow him to push for a starting job. Where? That's kind of tricky. Landolt finished last season a second-team tackle behind Brown (Auletta moved to right tackle to replace the injured John Shaw), but at 6-foot-4, 291 he is built more like a guard. I'm anxious to see where the staff slots him this spring or if he is given a look at a couple of positions.
It's Now or Never
Harrington: John Shaw has had a rocky career at PSU. He started 10 games at right tackle last season before suffering an MCL tear. Although he did manage to see some action in the Outback Bowl and "appears to be fine," according to one source, the staff wants to see how he handles contact and two-a-day sessions this spring. The question is about his durability and whether he can play like he works out — with impressive domination.
Brennan: You have to feel for the Shaw brothers. Such great work ethics, such lousy luck with injuries. You figure the family is due for some good fortune, and maybe it will befall John this season. In my estimation, redshirt juniors Gerald Cadogan and Austin Hinton are both in positions where they must hammer down starting jobs or perhaps face their football mortality. Cadogan, in particular, appears to have the tools to be a solid offensive tackle. He has a great frame, long arms and decent feet. This is a critical spring for both athletes.
See previous versions of Take Your Marks' winter unit reviews: