TYM: PSU Preseason Prep

Welcome to the latest edition of Take Your Marks, the occasional series where FightOnState.com staffers Mark Harrington and Mark Brennan discuss and debate various topics concerning the Penn State football team. In this installment, they tackle general issues as preseason practice nears.

WHO IMPRESSED YOU MOST AT LIFT FOR LIFE?

HARRINGTON: Several guys impressed me, so I am going to pick a young gun and a veteran. In terms of the young gun, true freshman linebacker Chris Colasanti looks like a veteran. At upward of 235 pounds he has already created a buzz within the program. Dan Connor praised the true freshman linebacker, saying Colasanti looks to be way ahead of where he was at a similar point of his career. In terms of the veterans, Derrick Williams was impressive — he has shed some of the weight which seemed to slow him down last season and has made a commitment to getting in top shape this off-season. Aside from putting 185 pounds (also his current weight) up 15 times on the bench-press at LFL, he also threw on a 25-pound weight vest after the event, something he regularly wears to help build his physique when he's not drilling.


Williams' weight vest.

BRENNAN: Austin Scott. It is kind of sad to say, but just like most people who follow the Penn State program, I'm taking a wait-and-see approach with Scott. I believe the talent is there. But what about the drive? If LFL was any indication, the senior is backing up the talk that he has rededicated himself to the game. I like that he challenged himself by joining one of the top LFL teams and performed very well. He was clearly in great shape, at one point sprinting while carrying a pair of 100-pound weights. I'm still waiting to see how his season unfolds, but so far, so good, even in this skeptic's eyes.

AFTER SEEING LFL, WHICH TRUE FRESHMAN DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO MAKE THE BIGGEST IMPACT IN 2007?

BRENNAN: Offensive guard Josh Marks has the strength to play right now. But I'm sure he has to work on technique and footwork before cracking the two-deep. I'll bet the staff wants him to drop 15 pounds or so, too. The way things have played out in the secondary, Nick Sukay is looking like a genius for enrolling early. I don't see him vying for a starting position this season. But with a full spring practice under his belt as well as seven months in the PSU conditioning program, he ought to be in the mix for a second-team spot and will be used as a special team's cover man. Sukay is definitely more put together now than when he arrived on campus in January.

HARRINGTON: Although I gave some praise to Colasanti, the linebacker unit is anything but light on talent right now, so I don't see him making an immediate impact. I agree with you on Marks, but Devon Still could be a major factor on either line, depending on where the staff likes him. He has an impressive physique, the frame to add more size and solid overall strength. While he could help to add some depth on the offensive line, he could also be impressive enough to break into Larry Johnson's defensive line rotation.

BASED ON WHAT WE SAW AT LIFT FOR LIFE, IS THERE A TRUE FRESHMAN YOU THINK IS A HIDDEN GEM?

HARRINGTON: “Hidden” makes it a bit tough, but I like what I have seen from the outset with Sukay — smart, ambitious, aggressive and strong. He has the makings to be another in a long line of solid safeties at Penn State. He was an early enrollee and he seems to have taken full advantage of the jump on his career so far.

BRENNAN: I doubt he plays this year, but receiver Derek Moye has some serious raw materials. He is every bit of 6-foot-5, we all know about his speed and at LFL the 185-pounder wasn't nearly as out of his element as I thought he might be. I wouldn't call him strong, by any means, but he was hardly weak. This kid can be a special talent if he adds some muscle.

OK, ON TO OTHER STUFF. WHO WOULD YOU NAME AS TEAM CAPTAIN(S)?

HARRINGTON: I will tell you few receive the praise of being a vocal leader that Terrell Golden does. Although he does not have the on-field resume some of the other players do, he has been compared to Tim Shaw, who was a consummate leader and nearly voted a captain last year. I think it said something that Golden was taken to Big Ten media days along with Connor and QB Anthony Morelli.

BRENNAN: At the risk of disrespecting some talented seniors, I don't think any of them have the combination of talent, charisma and natural leadership ability redshirt junior center A.Q. Shipley brings to the table. Shipley is a senior academically, has played on both sides of the ball, has never been in trouble off the field and is currently looked to as the lynchpin of the offensive line. Junior captains may be rare at Penn State. But Shipley is a unique character, and in sizing up this team he sure seems like a player everyone will look to as a leader.

NAME A VETERAN PLAYER WHO WILL HAVE HIS HANDS FULL HOLDING OFF AN UNDERCLASSMAN.

BRENNAN: This became apparent near the end of spring practice. Linebacker Tyrell Sales has been a dedicated backup throughout his career, patiently waiting his turn to move into the starting lineup. He manned a first-team outside post in the spring but as drills drew to a close, it was clear the staff was taking a long, hard look at redshirt freshman Navorro Bowman at the position. Sales is the bigger of the two but Bowman has better speed. The way the PSU linebacker corps has been operating in recent years, quickness has become a much more valuable commodity than sheer size.

HARRINGTON: With high hopes for offensive guard Rich Ohrnberger, keep an eye on redshirt freshman Lou Eliades. Eliades has good size, sound fundamentals and a nasty attitude. He has been seeing some first-team guard reps this off-season and if Ohrnberger cannot shake some of the mental mistakes — like false starts and missed assignments — Eliades could have a real opportunity in front of him.

HAVE YOU HEARD OF ANY NEW WRINKLES IN THE OFFENSE?

HARRINGTON: Believe it or not the passing game has been working more on middle routes this off-season — slants, underneath passes, crossing routes — and more in the intermediate range of 15 to 20 yards, which could be a major weapon with the speed of a receiver unit boasting Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, Derrick Williams and Chris Bell. The big question is when and how the offensive staff decides to use these types of plays.

BRENNAN: Three words: Red-zone offense. You talk about speed, but in this area size comes into play, and with Bell, Golden, redshirt freshman Brett Brackett and tight end Andrew Quarless, the Lions figure to be much more effective while in scoring position this year. The staff has been tight-lipped on the new wrinkles, and with good reason, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out how Galen Hall and company can put all of that size to work in the red zone.

WHO DO YOU PREDICT AS THE UNSUNG HERO OF 2007?

BRENNAN: Place-kicker Kevin Kelly had a tough go of it in 2006, struggling in part because of an injury in the … gulp … pelvic area. Kelly downplayed the issue. But he clearly was out of sorts for most of the campaign. By all accounts he is healthy now (did anyone else notice that none of the kickers participated in LFL?) and I'm thinking he's primed for a breakout season. Kelly has the ability and confidence. Now it is time to pull it all together.

HARRINGTON: The poor guys who kick the ball rarely seem to get their due. With Jeremy Kapinos off to the pros and arguably the most missed senior everyone forgets, the punting position will need someone to step in and help the Lions win those ever-important battles for field position. With Jeremy Boone showing inconsistency this off-season, keep an eye on true freshman Ryan Breen, who holds the Michigan state punting distance record (72 yards) and averaged 41 yards per boot as a senior. He can also help out as a kickoff specialist.

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