Yet the buzz around the current recruiting class typically overshadows the news about these redshirt freshmen. So we thought this was the perfect time to remind people about the terrific prospects who are already on campus working out with the team.
With a season of scout team work under their belts, we've been collecting reports on several Class of 2007 members who redshirted this year. Get a look at both the strengths and areas of improvement for some of these players as they work to make an impact on the Nittany Lion squad in coming years.
Chimaeze Okoli, Defensive End, 6-foot-4, 278 pounds
Okoli is a name that was seemingly forgotten during the 2007 season with the early defensive line buzz getting dominated by Devon Still. Okoli has seen the bulk of his reps on the scout team at defensive end with some periodic work with the third team unit, however recently he has been given a look at defensive tackle, although his lack of size may pose an issue at the inside position.
Footwork: Okoli has good basic stance technique. "He's really tall, but not too heavy," one observer said. "He gets his frame low and squares his shoulders. He gets those feet out to give him the ability to surge off the snap." He's been working on stepping out and getting his lateral shifts down to "make the end-around run on a rush."
Speed: "'Maeze is more quick than fast," according to another observer. "He's sharp off the line and is quick to set his hands and engage his guy." He is not considered a speed rusher in the mold of Arron Maybin or Jerome Hayes, but has shown the quickness to require "the [offensive] tackle calling for help, which can help open things up." As another observer explained, "He can't just set his feet, he needs to keep that momentum and keep his feet moving."
Strength: Okoli has had "a solid season in the weight room." This year he has focused on strengthening his back and legs to help engage his assignments. Strong arms and good hand technique have helped him to improve his block shedding, although he is working on "using his hands to maintain breakaway space."
Overall: "A pretty quiet guy, [Okoli] has shown a good work ethic and aptitude to pick up the finer points of the defensive end position." However, some observers feel that his massive wingspan and good footwork could eventually get him a look at the offensive tackle position, albeit at least a year down the road.
Nick Sukay, Safety, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds
An early enrollee, Sukay has displayed consistent physical play and is "in excellent condition." Sukay has seen most of his reps on the scout team and at third-team strong safety this season.
Approach: Called "aggressive," "physical," and "intense," when asked about his style of play, observers have likened his approach to the game to current strong safety Anthony Scirrotto. "He is has worked with Anthony at times, which has paid dividends." At times, however, this aggressiveness has resulted in "over-pursuits and situations where he has taken himself out of the play."
Reads: Perhaps the biggest focal point for him this season has been understanding the playbook and role of the safety position. "It's not a position where you just go out there and run — you have to anticipate and really understand how to run and angle. Nick has good instincts, but he needs to learn to trust them," one observer explained.
Attitude: Sukay is said to be a coachable player who is "eager to improve his play." He was disappointed with position coach Brian Norwood's departure to Baylor and took a few days to decide if he wanted to stay at Penn State. But he will travel with the team to San Antonio and he is expected to make a run at the two-deep this spring.
Overall: Sukay has the tools and fundamentals to make an impact in the secondary, "he simply needs the comfort and confidence to use his abilties out there." Most feel that once he has this he will be ready to provide depth to the secondary unit.
Derek Moye, Wide Receiver, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds
This season Moye has made an impression on the coaching staff, enough so that he earned a coveted spot on Penn State's 70-man travel roster two road games. To put this in perspective, Evan Royster earned a similar honor last season for his impressive performances in practice. I shoulder injury midway through the season ended any thoughts the staff had of pulling Moye out of his redshirt.
Speed: Moye is "not a blazing fast runner, but he is crisp and precise. Couple that with his size and he has the acceleration off the line to create separation and make some plays," as one observer told us. Moye is a physical player who has been working on "smoothing out his stride" to enhance his speed.
Hands: "Derek came in and right from the start showed sharp technique with his receiving skills," another observer explained. "He fans out a good target, looks the ball in and really tucks the ball in." Moye's been focusing on his technique pulling in longer passes. "He can stop, set a target and pull in a pass, but [the coaches] have him working on making those catches in stride for extra yardage, something the younger quarterbacks have been working on with him as well."
Routes: "He is crisp on transition routes — when they have a break or a post — he really attacks transition point to get open." This season he has been working on "keeping tight on the out routes," an observer said. "He gets loose at times and will get pulled off the path, giving the corner the upper hand, which can lead to batted balls of interceptions."
Overall: Overall the staff has been impressed with Moye's attitude and physical play. He has some work to do in areas of his game, but they feel that his size, approach and progress, working with Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler, could have him making an impact next season. He is already described as a more polished route-runner than sophomore Chris Bell.
Andrew Dailey, Linebacker, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds
Dailey is another redshirt freshman who has seemingly been forgotten this season with fellow 'backer Chris Colasanti's domination of the practice reports. Dailey has had the opportunity to work quite a bit with junior linebacker Sean Lee, which has "really elevated his game."
Reads: Dailey has seen many of his practice reps at the "Fritz" outside position. He has shown "good speed and instincts, which the position demands." A player with sharp, fluid pursuits, Dailey is "decisive with his reads, but has been working on his accuracy here." Lee has worked with him on different aspects of playing outside — "what to look for, how to understand what the [defensive] line is doing, how to wrap up."
Approach: Dailey's aggressiveness has increased as the season has passed. "There's nothing better than seeing impressive players play your position," one observer said. "He has watched Dan [Connor], Sean [Lee] and even Chris [Colasanti] — these guys are hyper-aggressive but very disciplined. Anyone can play like a wild animal; the great players know how to control and channel their aggression. Andy isn't there yet, but he's made strides." Dailey also needs "to settle down a bit. He's anxious at times and he is so focused on making a play he forgets the basics."
Tackling: With good engagement technique, Dailey needs to "finish the takedown. He gets in there and hits the target, but he needs to focus on the takedown — get the guy to the ground. Drive him down until the whistle blows." Dailey has had significant work on this aspect of his game with with Coach Vanderlinden, but has also spent time with Connor and Lee.
Overall: He has good technique, attitude and aggression. But Dailey has some work to do on his game, and with Lee guiding his play this coming year, observers feel confident that he will progress to where the staff needs him to be to provide make an impact in the spring.
Stay tuned to FOS for more Penn State football reports on PSU's reshirt freshmen.