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.
Kevion Latham, Defensive End, 6-foot-2, 240 pounds
Latham saw the bulk of his drill time with the scout defensive ends, with some limited work with the third team at times. Latham showed solid progress through the season.
Size: At 240 pounds, the staff is looking to have Latham add some size to his frame to help him "handle things off the snap better." Latham has shown a "good initial burst," off the line, but doesn't "have the speed of [Aaron] Maybin, and lacks the size of someone like Mo [Evans]." Observers feel he needs a solid 10 to 15 pounds to help him make a run at the two-deep this spring. "This is an important off-season for him," one observer explained.
Speed: Latham is quick off the line, but "has been focused on building his endurance. His motor gives out on him sometimes when he is rushing the pocket." Latham worked on his technique with Larry Johnson and Maurice Evans to help him improve his footwork and fundamentals to "shed blocks and make the corner."
Strength: Latham worked on building strength throughout his "core," but really focused on "his back and legs to help him get under his assignment and break inside," as one observer put it. Latham has a good foundation to work with, particularly with the "strength from his back and shoulders. But if he can get his legs to contribute to his power he could really make an impact (next season)."
Overall: With players like Evans, Josh Gaines, Eric Latimore, Aaron Maybin and the expected return of Devon Still and Jerome Hayes, the defensive end position has a lot of depth for Latham to deal with. If he can get a handle on his fundamentals and add some size and power he could contribute in coming years, although he has work to do to achieve that.
Chaz Powell, Defensive Back, 6-foot, 188 pounds
Powell saw most of his practice time with the scout-team secondary at both safety (strong and free) positions. Powell saw limited reps at corner in situation work, but most observers indicated they anticipate him to end up as a safety, with many pointing to the free position.
Speed: Powell has good speed with a "fluid stride" that "brings a lot of power from his thighs and hips." He used his speed well in drills, but at times "looses control of it on an angle or over-pursuit." One observer said, "I like his aggression, but he needs to get a handle on controlling his runs. At times he goes top gear and completely takes himself out of a play — he blows right by the (ball-carrier)."
Technique: Playing safety in high school, most observers feel Powell "has generally good technique, particularly on wrap-ups. He will latch on to bring a guy down." Powell's major focus last season was on on his pursuit skills. "[The coaches] have run a lot of pursuit drills with guys like Powell and [Nick] Sukay. They have been trying to get it to be second nature to just see the runner and instinctively hit the right angle. It can really be tough to get that down."
Physique: Powell has a good build and "carries his weight well." Observers feel he is at the weight the coaches want him at. "I think he has good all-around endurance. He's not easily winded on runs and he really hits them hard."
Overall: With some work most observers feel Powell has a good shot to make a run at the two-deep this off-season.
Johnnie Troutman, Offensive Tackle, 6-foot-4, 308 pounds
A grayshirt, Troutman saw reps at both tackle positions with the scout, third and second teams. Most of his practice time was spent at left tackle, backing up starter Gerald Cadogan.
Strength: Troutman showed improvement, "building up his strength to get more power from his shoulders and back," however he continues to work on his upper-body. "John really needs to get solid in this area, he's been blown up at times. Mo [Evans] has run right over him. He basically stood right up to overpower him and Mo just leveled him — right onto his back."
Fundamentals: Troutman "uses his feet well" and "sets a good base" off the snap. He has focused on using his hands more effectively and "keeping his shoulders square to his [assignment]," as one observer explained. Generally he has shown consistent technique, although he has had to work on keeping his center down to avoid getting "knocked off his saddle."
Overall: Troutman has work to do to pull together his strength and technique, but has made progress. He'll need to improve to provide valuable depth the to vital left tackle position in coming seasons.
See our previous Redshirt Reports: