Nittany Notes: Position Battles

With preseason practice almost at the halfway point, the Penn State football team continues to search for answers at certain positions. Get an inside look at some key spring battles in this edition of our exclusive Nittany Notes.

It's no secret (barring injury) who will start at positions like defensive end, center, wide receiver and a host of other spots for Penn State this fall. However, while many jobs are all but wrapped up, there are still some key areas where the coveted first-team job is still up for grabs. Here is a look at some of those positions and how the battles are stacking up:

Pat Devlin vs. Daryll Clark

With the departure of veteran Anthony Morelli, the starting signal-caller position is open and has been the most talked about battle this spring. Since the kickoff of drills, both Devlin and Clark have "basically gotten even first-team snaps," a situation that was significantly different during winter Drill 6 work, when Clark "saw most of the position one reps."

Pat Devlin

We asked several observers to list the top three assets of each helmsman. For Clark, the top three were strength/power, leadership and attitude. In terms of strength, one observer said Clark "is big and strong — built like a running back." Another explained, "He has a big, physical presence and he's tough." As for attitude, "He's always talking guys up and has one of those upbeat, 'let's-get-it-done' type demeanors."

For Devlin, the top three were his game approach, progressions and mechanics. "Pat is pretty consistently relaxed in the huddle and handles pressure pretty well. He doesn't have that cool-customer look about him, but he's shown it [this spring]," one observer said. According to another, "I really like his release on balls. He's got to continually work on the consistency, but he really delivers crisp, tight passes for the most part."

Daryll Clark

Who has the edge? This one was even through the first six practices. Several observers feel that Clark's bowl performance and vocal leadership approach will win him the job, while others are saying Devlin's arm and grasp of the position (things like mechanics, look-offs) will help him to win the position. Stay tuned.

Evan Royster vs. Stephfon Green

Described as "burst vs. brain" by one source, most observers point to Evan Royster as the expected starter for the Coastal Carolina game. However, "Steph is really giving Evan a run this spring. But you're looking at two totally different types of backs."

Evan Royster

Praised for his "pre-snap vision" and called a "cerebral player," a few observers consistently point to Royster's ability to "read shifts in the trenches and 'backers to identify defensive weak points." As one observer said, "We talked before about him continually scanning the defense before the snap — he'll sit there and see the [linebacker] shift over and adjust the route he takes before the ball is even snapped. There are times where, I mean they'll run an outside sweep or something and he'll cut well inside and pick up 15 yards. A coach or [player] will ask him what happened and he'll say he saw an opportunity or the opening moved inside."

As for Green, "he's all speed, all the time." As one observer said, "He hits the top gear so fast, but he needs an open road, so the coaches are working on him knowing when to switch direction or even when to change up his speed in traffic. But he's fun to watch." Green continues to break open big plays and has had several runs of 30 to 50 yards in drills this spring. "He's tough to get an angle on, but he has tendencies and the 'backers and safeties are able to read him more and more."

Stephfon Green

Who has the edge? Royster, given his experience and understanding of the position. However, "Green adds a great option in the ground game." At this point it would appear that this two-deep is all but set.

Stefen Wisniewski vs. Mike Lucian

A rare true freshman who impacted the offensive line in eight games last season, the staff has gotten Wisniewski more first-team reps this week at guard and has also asked him to work on getting the center position down more to "expand the depth he provides." "Stef brings a boost of intensity and is pretty quick off the line," an observer said. "He's consistent with his technique and understands how to grab the advantage on leverage out of his stance."

Stefen Wisniewski

Among the most pleasant surprises of the 2007 season was Lucian. Lucian spent the early part of his career shifting around between positions like tight end and defensive end. "He really latched on at the guard spot — it plays to his strengths well and really provides a lot to that interior core," one observer shared. Lucian has been focused on enhancing his run-blocking fundamentals and "getting to the second level of defense and setting blocks in open space."

Who has the edge? Given the fact that he started seven games last season, Lucian is expected to maintain the starting right guard position. However, as one observer put it, "The versatility and technique Wiz shows could have him starting by the conference schedule. It really depends on how things play out, but he definitely adds a big boost to the depth of the inside [of the offensive line]."

Chris Colasanti vs. Josh Hull

With the departure of All-American Dan Connor, Linebacker U. has a void to fill in the middle. Currently Hull is seeing the bulk of first-team reps with sophomore Chris Colasanti backing him up. Hull saw action in all 13 games last season, pulling down 18 tackles on the year. Colasanti saw action in seven contests, grabbing three take-downs.

Josh Hull

"People tend to forget that Hull is a walk-on, so to even get first-team reps at linebacker at Penn State is huge," one observer said. "But if I am being honest, I have no idea how [the coaches] are going to keep Chris off the field. He's got great instincts, he's quick and hits like a small pickup."

Chris Colasanti

Who has the edge? Most observers point squarely to Colasanti as the guy who "should" have the starting job. "He's the type of player [position coach Ron Vanderlinden] loves. If he can control his aggression, nails down his reads consistently and keeps up with the calls, I think he'll be the guy," an observer said.

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