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.
You can see two of the freshmen in this report, Barham and Latham in this exclusive FOS Lift For Life video.
Quinn Barham, Offensive Lineman, 6-foot-2, 295 pounds
Barham had has ups and downs during his redshirt season. He was on track early, adding significant size to his frame and seeing the bulk of his scout team work at right guard with some limited center snaps. Unfortunately, Barham suffered a severe ankle injury which has sidelined him since. As one observer said, "It was nasty; his ankle was practically at a right angle." The injury occurred during a pile up. Defensive tackle Chris Baker landed on Barham, causing the injury. "It sucks, but it happens. One guy rolls on another wrong and you're out," an observer said.
Size: Prior to the injury observers were impressed with Barham's dedication to his conditioning routine and his ability to add weight to his frame. As one observer explained, "He's added a good 10 to 12 pounds since he got on campus."
At around 295 pounds, the coaches like his size and his ability to "handle it." According to another observer, "He's pretty big, but he's also able to manage his frame well. He's a fairly mobile guy off the blocks."
Technique: Barham's main focus this season has been on his basic fundamentals — base, stance, hands and feet. "He's one of those linemen who used their size and power to dominate other guys [in high school]. He didn't have to worry about technique too much. [The coaches] had him work on getting wide and low, which takes some work for a guy his size.
"He's also been making progress with his feet and keeping his shoulders square and hands up." The injury throws things off a bit for him, but if he continues to tackle rehab I'd expect him to be able to get back up to speed pretty quickly." Barham is already off crutches, so chances of him being ready for spring ball seem good.
Strength: Barham's power "comes from his back and hips, but he has been working on his upper-body and legs." According to one observer. "He really gets a good surge off the snap, but had been focused on working those thighs to help him maintain stability when the opposite guy tries to hit him off his saddle."
Overall: Although he made good progress during the off-season and early portion of the regular season, his ability to make an impact will be determined by his recovery from the severe ankle injury in November.
Nathan Stupar, Linebacker, 6-foot-1, 220 pounds
Stupar has received consistently high marks from practice observers this past season for his scout team performances. In fact, Stupar was said to be impressive when playing the part of Illinois linebacker J. Lehman. Due to the fact that fellow freshman 'backer Chris Colasanti saw playing time this season, many have nearly forgotten about Stupar.
Fundamentals: One of the biggest assets for Stupar's development is the time he has had with junior linebacker and would-be captain Sean Lee. "Sean has worked a lot with the younger backers like Colasanti, [Andrew] Dailey and Stupar. Working their reads, technique and general approach to the position," one observer said.
Approach: Although he has been shadowing Lee, Stupar's intensity has been called a "major asset" to his game. Seeing primarily scout team reps at the "Sam" 'backer position, another observer told us, "Obviously there is a lot of depth [at linebacker]. A few years ago and he would have been on the two-deep [as a freshman]. He'll work his way up though — he's sound all around — once he picks up the playbook he'll be big time."
He's one of those textbook guys [position coach Ron Vanderlinden] loves; they come in with a great foundation, but most importantly they are coachable — they want to learn — and they have great humility."
Size: Stupar's current size has been compared to Dan Connor's when he arrived on campus. "He's not nearly the size of Colasanti (at 235 pounds) — Chris is one of those rare players who just come in and have the size and speed put together. But Nate has the frame to add some size. The staff is looking to eventually get him up to Sean's size (around 232 pounds).
Stupar has shown good all-around strength. "He's one of those guys who are borderline nuts about workouts," an observer said. "Maybe it's because Sean and Dan rub off on him, but he's focused on upper bogy strength, his legs and core [this season]."
Overall: Stupar will continue to add strength and power and refine his technique, but most observers feel he is prepared to make a significant contribution to the team in the future and provide added depth to the linebacker unit with the departure of Dan Connor. In San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl, teammates are praising Stupar for his scout-team work. His athleticism is helping the offense prepare for Texas A&M's 4-2-5 defense.
Devon Still, Defensive End, 6-foot-5, 283 pounds
If there was one player among the redshirt freshman who the smart-money was on to contribute this season, it was Devon Still. That was until he tore his left ACL in the preseason, forcing him to redshirt. As one observer said immediately after the injury, "That [really] sucks. There is a ton of depth on this team, so there are not a lot of [freshman] players who were going to make an immediate impact, but Devon was among the few on the short list." By mid September Still was off crutches and without the heavy brace on his knee, but the coaching staff wanted him to redshirt to ensure a full recovery from the injury.
Size: Still's massive frame helped him to turn heads in the preseason. "He towers over Maurice Evans, who is not exactly a tiny guy [at 6-3]," one observer shared. "He's huge and that really helped him to knock back the tackles and pick up penetration.
Still's size comes with impressive strength. As another observer said, "If you don't square up on him, he'll just level you — just run you right over. He's got mass, but his height really makes him a handful."
Technique: During the preseason the coaches had Still working on his block-shedding technique. "[Larry Johnson] was working him a lot on the rip technique and dropping that inside shoulder on the end-around."
Still's stance fundamentals "are solid." As another observer told us, "He gets pretty low. He'll stick his feet out back of him, which he was correcting, but he balls up his energy and explodes it out into the trench." He needs to work on his hand use, but showed early promise, which is a big reason Johnson had him penciled in to see playing time before the ACL injury.
Speed: Still's size coupled with his quickness are what make him a challenge off the snap. "He moves his feet well and has quick lateral cuts in his game. I don't think a lot of guys expect a guy so big to move so fluidly."
Early on though, the staff was working with Still to manage his over-pursuits on the pocket. "He just needs to anticipate more and be ready for the ball carrier to make a move. He took himself out of plays at times because he didn't have a handle on his speed and the guy just side-stepped him."
Overall: Another player whose future impact depends on his recovery, Still appears to be on track to get back into regular action this coming off-season. As an interesting aside, his name has come up among the list of candidates who could get a look at offensive tackle given "his towering build and wide wingspan." However, it is expected that "L.J. will put up a fight" to keep him on the defensive side of the ball.
See our previous Redshirt Reports: