Andrew Szczerba, TE (6-foot-6, 260 pounds)
After a redshirt season in 2007, Szczerba has his fair share of impressive practice reports. However, the recent Blue-White Game really introduced the young tight end to Penn State fans and served notice that the suspension of projected starter Andrew Quarless may not have been that big of a deal. In the first half of the spring game, Szczerba hauled in five catches for 65 yards, doing most of his damage across the middle of the flat.
Szczerba saw the bulk of his reps with the second team in the spring, behind Mickey Shuler. Although previously there was speculation of a possible position shift for Szczerba to shore up offensive tackle depth, he has remained with the TE unit through the entire off-season.
Currently Szczerba is 260 pounds. That, coupled with the undetermined status Quarless, means he will more than likely stay put at tight end for 2008. Toss in the fact that he has shown impressive hands and it "would take a ton of lobbying [by the coaches] to justify moving him over," as one observer put it.
Approach: As a true freshman, Szczerba saw his practice reps at scout team tight end and "progressed well, picking up the role quickly." As one observer said, "He's one of those guys who gets right up with the coach and asks questions about how to get better if he gets beat [on a play] or doesn't run it as well as he thinks he can."
Build: Described as "towering," he has shown "great control for such sheer size. His burst off the line is tough to contain. The younger guys will try to jam him and just get knocked [back]." Most observers feel that Szcerba can carry some added weight "north of 260 [pounds]" and feel that his height "really can create mismatches in the flat."
Mobility: As one observer explained, "He's by no means a burner, but he's deceptively quick off the line, which is really what counts [with tight end]. Breaking clean off the snap and getting to your spot quickly [are important] so the coverage has to play catch-up." According to another observer, "He has surprising speed for his size. [He] comes out of his stance with one quick, fluid motion."
Hands: His hands were described as his strongest asset well before his Blue-White Game performance. In fact, he's received consistent praise for his catching ability and "ridiculous hands," as one observer put it, since he arrived on campus. "He really sets and spreads a nice target and is soft with the ball. He's working on the pull-in motion to really protect it, but he's shown good technique."
Blocking: This off-season, one area Szcerba has focused on is with his "blocking basics." "He has that good agility to get up and out [of his stance] and in position. Now he is working on absorbing the surge off the line — setting those feet correctly." As another observer explained, "He moves well, he just needs to get more consistent on holding his block and moving with his [assignment]."
Improvement: Szczerba continues to work on "nailing down the playbook so that it's just second nature," and improving his overall blocking skills.
Impact: With the issues swirling around Quarless, Szczerba has a "real opportunity ahead of him." One observer we spoke to probably put it best, saying, "I know a lot of [fans] are probably concerned with the issues Quarless has had, but [Szczerba] has the ability to make those people forget about [Quarless]. If I were [Quarless], I'd take notice."
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