Nittany Notes: Position Battles Revisited

Another review of the competition for playing time at several key spots for Penn State. Get an inside look at the action 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, last Friday the Lions were dealt a major blow as Sean Lee was sidelined with an ACL tear. This in itself adds another dimension to the position-battle situation for PSU.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
Bani Gbadyu vs. Andrew Dailey

With Lee sidelined, questions have swirled about who will step in for the would-be captain. Gbadyu has handled the top job since Friday and has played "impressively well," as one observer said. "He really had a solid day [in Saturday's scrimmage]. Bani was attacking the ball and really showed off some nice reads and pursuits."


Bani Gbadyu

The redshirt freshman Dailey is currently backing up Gdabyu. While sitting out last season, he saw a good portion of his practice reps at the "Fritz" outside position, but has seen increased activity at the "Sam" role this spring. Dailey has shown impressive "speed and instincts" and is "pretty decisive on reads. But [position coach Ron Vanderlinden] is working on his anticipation play." Lee has also worked with Dailey on his outside technique.

Who has the edge? At this point "it's Bani's job to lose," according to one observer. "He's just ahead of [Dailey] at this point and has a good complete package for the position. If there is a silver lining in this, though, it's that Sean [Lee] will basically be coaching them all season."

QUARTERBACK
Pat Devlin vs. Daryll Clark

This partisan race among Nittany Lions fans also has generated debate among practice observers. With the departure of veteran Anthony Morelli, the starting signal-caller position is open and has been the most talked-about battle this spring. Although the two "tend to split Drill 6 [7-on-7] reps," according to one observer. "Clark's been getting more first team 11-on-11 work." And this does not appear to be isolated to the open scrimmage on Saturday, where Clark was "almost exclusively with the first team"in 11-on-11 action, according to FOS editor Mark Brennan, who was in attendance.


Daryll Clark

When asked now about the strengths of both quarterbacks observers tend to say they like Clark's strength and power and "versatile intermediate game," saying "he has made a lot of things happen in the intermediate flat (runnning and passing)." They also like his confidence. However, observers are concerned that Clark's "exposed" running style could result in a serious injury. "He just doesn't close up when he's hit," an observer explained. "He'll leave his arms and torso exposed when he's about to get hit, which doesn't protect him or the ball."

In terms of Devlin's strengths, observers continue to praise his mechanics ("he's incredibly fluid") his ability to run through his progressions with "his wide view [of the field]," and his ability to make "smooth roll-outs as things breakdown." Seeing a significant amount of second-team reps, "the backup [offensive] line has had him running for his life at times, but he's still managed some nice plays."

Who has the edge? At this stage with coveted 11-on-11 first-team rep splits favoring Clark, it would certainly seem that he has the edge in the QB race. Some observers continue to maintain that this race will go well into the preseason session, so the next race indicator will be the Blue-White Game this coming Saturday.

RUNNING BACK
Stephfon Green vs. Evan Royster

Royster, a redshirt sophomore, continues to show great vision and footwork, which are making up for a lack of breakaway speed. "Evan shows great patience," one observer said. "He really seems to understands how to use his blockers and waits for them to get in position to make his move." Royster illustrated this on a on a 2-yard touchdown run in the red-zone drills where he waited for a key block to get into the end-zone.


Evan Royster

The redshirt freshman Green, who has impressed observers with his "break-neck speed" and wowed onlookers with a 45-yard burst in a previous open scrimmage, has been running exclusively with the second team in drills. "Steph still needs to focus on using his directional shifts and blocks to get open — he can't just put it into top gear on every play. Defenses will figure that out," an observer said.

Who has the edge? Royster appears to be the clear-cut starter at tailback as the team heads into the home stretch of spring practice.

Right Guard
Stefen Wisniewski vs. Mike Lucian

With the offensive line intact from 2007, FOS broke the news last week that Stefen Wisniewski has moved ahead of Mike Lucian at right guard. This has resulted in shifting Lucian to a backup center role.


Stefen Wisniewski

Wisniewski's intensity, aggression, agility and strength are pointed to as key factors in his progression to the first-team position. "He's consistent with his technique and understands how to grab the advantage on leverage out of his stance," one observer explained to us.

Who has the edge? Clearly Wisniewski does. He's gotten the bulk of first-team right guard reps over the last three practices and as of right now seems to have solidified his position as the starter. Though Lucian was getting second- and third-team reps at center, to be surprised if he moved back to guard should one of the starters sustain an injury.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER
Chris Colasanti vs. Josh Hull

With the departure of All-American Dan Connor, Linebacker U. is working to fill a void in the middle position. Hull, who saw action in 13 games last season, continues to see the bulk of first-team reps with the sophomore Colasanti, who saw action in seven games in 2007, backing him up.


Chris Colasanti

Observers still feel that Colasanti is a "special player" who is "too talented to keep off the field." Previously, one observer told us, "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." As another observer said, "Colasanti single-handed increases the tempo of the defense. He's one of those guys who helps to elevate the play of those around him."

Who has the edge? Although most observers point squarely to Colasanti as the guy who should ultimately land the starting job because he iss "the type of player [Vanderlinden] loves," Hull has remained at the starting position through the first 11 spring sessions. "They still want Chris to direct his aggression. He can be a hot-head at times, but he's too good, and with Sean [Lee] out, they need to get whatever boost to the unit they can." However, as another observer said, "For whatever reason, PSU [coaches] seem to love the walk-on-to-starter story, so that may be to Hull's advantage too."

Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for continuing unmatched, original Penn State football coverage.

-30-


Fight On State Top Stories