Lions' Lounge: Offense

During the time of year when the weather and recruiting heats up, FightOnState.com brings you a special Independence Day edition of the Lions' Lounge -- an all-inclusive look at Penn State recruiting prospects that the Nittany Lions hope will be barbequing in Happy Valley for the next four or five years. This installment looks at the offensive side of the ball.

Fight On State.com's Prospect Key:

-- Penn State has a verbal commitment from the prospect.
-- Penn State leads or co-leads.
-- Penn State will receive an official visit.
-- Penn State may receive an official visit.
-- Penn State has visited this prospect.

(Note: The number in front of the player's name is his Scout.com ranking. All heights, weights, and college lists come from Scout.com.)

Quarterback

Positional Outlook: With current starter Anthony Morelli finishing up his eligibility this year, Penn State will need to find a new starting quarterback in 2008. The battle seems to be between Darryl Clark, a sophomore, and Pat Devlin, a redshirt freshman, with both Paul Cianciolo (Jr.) and Kevin Suhey (So.) adding depth. Penn State is recruiting two major talents and landing one would certainly make life easier in terms of depth and the future of the position.

No. 2 E.J. Manuel: Bayside, Va. (Bayside HS) 6-5. 210 [Florida State]

Penn State fans have been quite fixated on Terrelle Pryor (see below) when it comes to filling their quarterbacking need, and rightly so. But after a huge spring, do not sleep on Virginia's No. 1 player, E.J. Manuel. Manuel is a statuesque quarterback—think JaMarcus Russell-lite—with a laser arm and refined skills. He could be qualified as a pocket passer with escapability when he needs it. Penn State, along with most of the nation, has been on him hot and heavy but in a press conference last week, Manuel verbaled to Florida State.

No. 1 Terrelle Pryor: Jeannette, Pa. (Jeannette HS) 6-6, 210

Although Pryor had been a "big-time" name in Western Pennsylvania because of his commitment to Pittsburgh for basketball as a sophomore, he skyrocketed to national prowess and Scout.com's #2 overall ranking following a dominant junior season which led to a State Championship. A tremendous athlete, Pryor's style of play instantly brings Vince Young to mind—an elusive runner and a strong-armed, yet raw passer. Earlier this spring, he narrowed his college list down to Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama, Texas, Florida, West Virginia, Penn State, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Michigan Sate. Popular sentiment has Ohio State and Penn State leading the pack with West Virginia a distant third and Pittsburgh, the team he committed to early in the process, eliminated because playing in front 64,450 mustard-colored fans was not appealing.

Running Back

Positional Outlook: Sparse! After Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw graduate, the Nittany Lions will be left with only sophomores Evan Royster and Brent Carter (whose best position might be safety). Penn State would be best served to sign at least two running backs in this class to alleviate any depth concerns.

No. 7 Brandon Barnes: Bunn, Nc. (Bunn HS) 6-0, 180 [North Carolina State]

A very versatile back who can run and catch the ball with the best of them had an early interest in the Nittany Lions, but narrowed his choices to six schools -- Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Michigan, NC State, and Virginia Tech before recently choosing the Wolfpack on June 26th.

No. 41 Brandon Beachum: Youngstown, Oh. (Cardinal Mooney HS) 6-0 220

Beachum, a bruising runner and teammate of Penn State commit Michael Zordich, has had an interest level in Penn State that has been difficult to gauge. He has visited Happy Valley at least twice, including attending the recent camp. Yet, when asked about potential favorites, schools like Florida State, West Virginia, Nebraska, Lsu, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin get mentioned with great frequency. He will enroll early in school, making him an attractive athlete to a school in desperate need of a big, physical back.

No. 13 Cyrus Gray: DeSoto, Tx. (DeSoto HS) 5-11, 190

A speedster from Texas with a 4.4 forty, Gray has mentioned being recruited heavily by Brian Norwood of the Nittany Lions and wanting to potentially take a visit to Happy Valley in the future. At this point, Penn State has made his ten finalists with Oklahoma State, SMU, Texas A&M, California, Arizona, Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida, Miami and Kansas. He could be a great candidate to visit during one of the late home games that Penn State plays this fall.

No. 21 Dontavius Jackson: Franklin, Ga. (Heard County) 5-11, 196

Already a message board fan favorite, Jackson has narrowed his Georgia, Clemson, Alabama, Louisiana State, and Penn State. While the Nittany Lions are the only school that reside north of the Mason-Dixon Line, they also have the most open depth chart. Jackson has mentioned that he will visit Penn State this summer to visit a relative in the Aliquippa area. So while the Nittany Lions have absolutely no chance with the relative, Jackson is not the long shot that his geographical location might suggest.

No. 1 Darrell Scott: Ventura, Ca. (St. Bonaventure HS) 6-1, 203

Potentially the top running back prospect to come out of high school since former Oklahoma star Adrian Peterson, Scott combines tremendous power, speed, agility, and vision. Many observers feel that he will leave California for his football because of the depth at USC and his childhood, which saw him live in Florida, Texas, and California. Scott is currently mulling a potential visit to Penn State for the Notre Dame game in September. He has mentioned California, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, UCLA, and USC as schools of interest.

No. 25 Michael Shaw: Dayton, Oh. (Kettering Alter HS) 6-0, 187

Ah, the story of Michael Shaw. While a major self-inflicted roadblock has transpired recently regarding the recruitment of Shaw, the Nittany Lions are still in the hunt for the talented Ohio ‘back. He is scheduled to take his much anticipated unofficial visit to Penn State in late July, where a verbal commitment could be in order if the aforementioned roadblocks are finally cleared. In the meantime, Shaw is still considering Penn State (his "dream school") along with Michigan, Clemson, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee.

No. 30 Ryan Williams: Monasses, Va. (Stonewall Jackson HS) 5-10, 205

Another tough running back with speed, Ryan Williams was mentioned prominently with the Nittany Lions early in spring but his interest has seemed to wane. Recently at the Pittsburgh 7-on-7 Passing Camp, he listed Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Tennessee, Notre Dame, and NC State.

Others (not offered): NR Mike Cox: Avon, Ct. (Old Farms HS) 5-11, 205; No. 19 Darius Willis: Indianapolis, In. (Franklin Central HS) 5-11, 205

Wide Receiver

Positional Outlook: With many of the first and second team wide receivers moving into their junior year, Penn State needs to establish depth and not get in the same predicament they are with running backs this year. Two wide receivers would be a perfect compliment to the last two classes.

No. 6 Brice Butler: Norcross, Ga. (Norcross HS) 6-3, 189

With E.J. Manuel committing to Florida State, many have written off Butler as a lock for the Seminoles. As Seminole alum and current ESPN "commentator" Lee Corso would say, "not so fast, my friend!" Butler has narrowed his list to ten schools -- Florida State, Notre Dame, USC, Arizona State, Penn State, Georgia, Oregon, Oregon State, Florida and LSU—having taken unofficial visits to many of the schools on his list. He has said recently that he has a serious interest in the Nittany Lions stemming from a friendship struck up current Nittany Lion Deon Butler. Would be another great candidate to get on campus for one of the early night games.

NR Marcus Davis: Virginia Beach, Va. (Ocean Lakes HS) 6-4, 225

A quarterback/athlete on the high school level, Marcus Davis has been offered by Penn State as wide receiver. Obviously his versatility adds extra value because if Davis does not work out at wide receiver, a move to tight end, linebacker, or even defensive end could be an option. While Scout.com has been unsuccessful reaching Davis, it appears that the Nittany Lions are trailing Virginia Tech for his signature at this point.

No. 25 DeJuan Miller: Metuchen, N.J. (Metuchen HS) 6-5, 200 [Oklahoma]

Miller committed to Coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma on June 7th over Penn State and Rutgers. The rangy wide receiver from New Jersey cited his family in Oklahoma and the uncertainty about Joe Paterno's coaching future as reasons for his decision.

No. 10 Kenny Tate: Hyattsville, Md. (DeMatha HS) 6-4, 195

Can you hear the crickets? That has basically been what fans hear when searching for a Kenny Tate update due to his basketball obligations and recruitment being mainly handled by his coach, Bill McGregor. There are various sources that keep pumping the Nittany Lions' chances of landing Tate, but until he actually comes out and states it, Penn State does not seem to be a priority in his eyes. Florida, Maryland, Ohio State, and Tennessee have been mentioned.

No. 8 Deion Walker: Christchurch, Va. (Christchurch HS) 6-3, 185

Like Brice Butler, Deion Walker has a higher interest level in Penn State than many National recruiting analysts have stated. Walker is about to embark on a barn-storming unofficial visit tour with his father of many of the schools on his list, including Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, and Colorado. He has already visited Penn State this spring and left high on the Nittany Lions. It would not be shocking to see him take an official visit to Happy Valley this fall.

Others (not offered): No. 68 Rotell Jenkins: Richmond, Va. (Huguenot HS) 6-2, 180

Tight End

Positional Outlook: With Andrew Quarless established as a bona fide stud, Penn State has to establish quality depth for the position. Mickey Shuler, Jr., Jordan Lyons, Francis Claude, Brennan Coakley, and Jon Ditto all appear to have talent, but each is unproven. Also, it appears that Andrew Sczerba may outgrow the position, so Penn State could certainly take a tight end with this class.

No. 4 Jake Stoneburner: Dublin, Oh. (Dublin Coffman HS) 6-5, 220 [Ohio State]

After a short flirtation with other schools, including Penn State, Stoneburner received an Ohio State scholarship offer and committed to the Buckeyes on March 26th.

No. 21 Mark Wedderburn: Springfield, Pa. (Cardinal O'Hara HS) 6-7, 235

The younger brother of former Nittany Lion Floyd Wedderburn, Mark Wedderburn brings an athletic, big body to the tight end position. Although he has stated that he would like to take his time, possibly using his five official visits before he makes a decision, the Nittany Lions will be very difficult to beat out for the signature of Wedderburn. He lists Boston College, Miami (Fl.), Louisville, Pittsburgh, Michigan, and Tennessee in addition to Penn State.

Offensive Line

Positional Outlook: Penn State needs to add two tackles into the program about as much as Charlie Weis needs bib and a wet-nap at the South Bend all-you-can-eat Mongolian Barbeque. Contrary to rumor, the Nittany Lions will not be using the 4 guard, one center offensive arrangement after 2008.

No. 15 Matt Stankiewitch: Schuylkill Haven, Pa. (Blue Mountain HS) 6-4, 290 [Penn State]

A future center or guard prospect, Stankiewitch really gets after his defender on film, finishing blocks with an aggressive mean streak that the Penn State offensive line hasn't consistently shown in recent years (excluding Levi Brown). Because he committed so early, Stankiewitch (who should certainly be called "Stanky" for typing purposes) often gets overlooked but he's a four-star type talent who grew up as a die-hard Nittany Lion fan. He choose Penn State over offers from Pittsburgh and West Virginia on April 14th.

No. 14 James Bennett: Alexandria, Va. (West Potomac HS) 6-8, 275

Bennett -- a tall, but thin prospect -- could be the No. 1 true offensive tackle on Penn State's list. He looks like an "awe, shucks" kind of kid, but on the football field, Bennett keeps his quarterback clean from his left tackle position. The Nittany Lions are in great shape with Bennett, who also lists West Virginia, UConn, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Michigan State and Clemson.

No. 11 Dalton Freeman: Pelion, S.C. (Pelion HS) 6-6, 270

One of a number of Southern linemen the Nittany Lions are after, Freeman plays guard in high school but he may project at tackle. His frame could easily handle another twenty to thirty pounds. Penn State may be in line for an official visit, but at this juncture the Clemson Tigers lead for Freeman in what might be an insurmountable advantage. He also lists South Carolina, NC State, North Carolina, Duke and Maryland.

No. 25 Kyle Long: Charlottesville, Va. (St. Anne's-Belfield School) 6-7, 290 [Florida State]

Thought at one time to be an Ohio State lock (who isn't?), Long surprised many recruiting fans by spurning the game his father, former Oakland Raider Hall of Famer Howie Long, played professionally choosing to attend Florida State on a baseball scholarship. In Long's defense, a 6-foot-7, left-handed pitcher who throws in the 90 mile-per-hour range is a rare find. He may never step on the collegiate baseball diamond however, as he is expected to be a high Major League Baseball draft choice.

No. 3 Lucas Nix: Pittsburgh, Pa. (Thomas Jefferson HS) 6-5, 280 [Pittsburgh]

In a shocking turn of events, Nix, a Bill Cherpak player at Thomas Jefferson, chose to attend the University of Pittsburgh late last week. He will join his brother Nate, a freshman linebacker, playing in the rugged Big East at Pittsburgh.

No. 9 Kenneth Page: Columbia, Sc. (A.C. Flora HS) 6-4, 285

A strong, tough blocker, Page probably projects as a guard on the next level. It has been rumored that he recently took an unofficial visit to Happy Valley and it would seem the Nittany Lions are a strong contender to make his first cut of schools, which could also include North Carolina, South Carolina, Clemson, Notre Dame, Florida and Florida State.

No. 31 Deon'tae Pannell: Birmingham, Mi. (Groves HS) 6-5, 300

Pannell has seen his stock skyrocket recently after grabbing offers from Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan. Those three schools make up his top three, but the Nittany Lions may be the "odd man out" after the Wolverines offered. He hopes to make a decision in the near future.

No. 6 Vinston Painter: Norfolk, Va. (Maury HS) 6-5, 309

Like Maryland in '05, Penn State has made a concentrated effort to repave its inroads into Virginia this recruiting season. Painter, a hulking guard or tackle prospect, has been drawn to the Nittany Lions by the success of a Norfolk native and former Penn Stater, the Arizona Cardinals 1st round selection Levi Brown. Despite his admiration for Brown, the lure and familiarity with in-state school Virginia Tech might be too difficult to overcome. While Penn State should get an official visit, they might be fighting with Florida and Virginia for second place.

No. 13 Graham Pocic: Lemont, Il. (Lemont Township HS) 6-6, 313 [Illinois]

After a whirlwind tour of schools, including Penn State, it appeared that the Nittany Lions were sitting pretty with Pocic. Recently however, he narrowed his choice to Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, and Illinois, committing to the Fighting Illini on June 22nd.

No. 6 J.B. Shurgarts: Klein, Tx. (Klein HS) 6-7, 310 [Ohio State]

Although his father grew up in close proximity to Penn State's campus, Shugarts pledged to the Buckeyes on April 24th.

NR Michael Via: McLeansville, Nc. (Northeast Guilford HS) 6-6, 250 [Virginia Tech]

An offensive lineman with a great frame to add weight after a redshirt season, Via committed to his "dream school" -- Virginia Tech -- on June 12th.

Others (not offered): No. 50 Neal Deiters: Elmhurst, Il. (York Community HS) 6-8, 325; No. 32 Tyler Sands: Boyertown, Pa. (Boyertown Area HS) 6-4, 285

Stay tuned to Fight On State for Jamie's defensive Lions' Lounge report later this week and continuing in-depth coverage of Penn State's recruiting efforts.

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