Take Your Marks: Young Lions

Brennan and Harrington take a look at some of the first- and second-year Penn State players, many of whom are featured in the upcoming edition of Fight On State The Magazine.

Welcome to the latest edition of Take Your Marks, the occasional series where FightOnState.com staffers Mark Harrington and Mark Brennan discuss and debate topics related to the Penn State football team. In this version, they tackle a theme that will be highlighted in the next issue of FOS The Magazine, “Young Lions.”

WHICH REDSHIRT FRESHMAN WILL MAKE THE BIGGEST IMPACT IN 2008?

Brennan: I'll start with safety Drew Astorino. I know everyone is clamoring for tailback Stephfon Green, and I'm sure he'll have his share of highlight reel plays. But I'm guessing Astorino is going to emerge as an every-down player in the secondary. Good sources are already telling us he's the best defensive back on the roster.

Harrington: I'll buy into the hype and go with Green. The reports from FOS sources have been glowing since he arrived on campus and position coach Galen Hall even said he brings something to the backfield he hasn't seen during his time on the Nittany Lion staff -- a true homerun threat. Evan Royster is still expected to be the workhorse, but Green will be the explosive backup who really gets the ground game rolling.

WHICH REDSHIRT FRESHMAN IS MOST LIKELY TO WIN ALL-AMERICA HONORS AT SOME POINT OF HIS CAREER?

Harrington: I am going to go with linebacker Nate Stupar. The guy has been described as a machine and physically is ahead of where both Dan Connor and Paul Posluszny were at a similar stage of their respective careers, according to Connor. Stupar has the athleticism, speed and -- most importantly -- instincts to make a run at being the next great All-American for Linebacker U. The guy in close second for me is tight end Andrew Szczerba.

Brennan: Defensive tackle Devon Still, but with a twist -- only if he is moved to offensive tackle. The staff is being tight-lipped about implementing such a move. But to me it would make a lot of sense. Gerald Cadogan graduates following this season and Dennis Landolt is gone after the next. Still has a huge frame (6-foot-5, 302), long arms and moves well for a big man. Plus, he is coming back from an ACL and recently sustained a broken ankle. PSU has a history of shipping defensive linemen with leg problems over to the offensive line. Even with the early injury problems, I think the big man has a world of potential.

WHICH REDSHIRT FRESHMAN DESERVES MORE HYPE THAN HE IS GETTING?

Brennan: I'd keep an eye on another defensive tackle, Chima Okoli. With Chris Baker and Phil Taylor having been jettisoned from the program, not to mention Still's latest injury, Okoli will be part of the regular rotation at DT. He is a bit lanky for a DT (6-4, 298), but has good strength and is improving at the leverage game.

Harrington: A guy many folks seem to forget about is defensive end Eric Latimore. Latimore grayshirted in 2006 and had to recover from two shoulder separation injuries sustained during his senior year of high school. He saw second-team reps in practice last season behind Maurice Evans, despite redshirting and not playing in any games. At 6-6, 262, Latimore is said to be extremely difficult to handle because he has the quickness and size to take an offensive tackle out of his comfort zone. Latimore had a concussion problem early in the preseason. If he gets past that I look for him to see serious playing time in 2008.

WHICH TRUE FRESHMAN WILL MAKE THE BIGGEST IMPACT IN 2008?

Harrington: This is tough given the limited open positions on the two deep. I am going to go with Michael Zordich, who is turning heads at fullback behind Dan Lawlor. With impressive blocking and receiving skills, he's a versatile fullback who can add another dimension to the “Spread HD” backfield combinations.

Brennan: I'm looking for linebacker Mike Mauti to emerge as a frequent contributor on defense. Enrolling in January gave him the opportunity to work at all of the linebacker positions and even safety in the spring. In instances when the team wants to get eight men in the box, I envision Mauti coming in as the extra linebacker, since he has at least some experience covering wideouts in twin formation to a particular side.

WHICH TRUE FRESHMAN IS MOST LIKELY TO WIN ALL-AMERICA HONORS AT SOME POINT OF HIS CAREER?

Brennan: Boy, the coaching staff is going to LOVE seeing this kind of hype being piled on a rookie. Since Penn State linebackers seem to receive a lot of attention, I'll say Mike Yancich. I'm not sure how much -- if any -- he will play in 2008. But he sure seems to be cut from the same mold as Posluszny, Connor and Sean Lee -- namely arriving on campus a bit on the thin side but with plenty of speed and lots of room to fill out.

Harrington: I am going to go with DeOn'tae Pannell. The 6-5, 295-pound offensive tackle has a great frame for the position. Add in good mobility and footwork, and he could quickly help a position with limited depth. I see him having a long, productive career at Penn State with really good things happening by the time he is a junior and senior.

WHICH TRUE FRESHMAN DESERVES MORE HYPE THAN HE IS GETTING?

Harrington: I am going to go with James Terry. Though he reported for preseason practice too heavy (6-3, 331), the offensive lineman has been praised for his sound fundamentals. It is obviously important for him to drop some weight. If he can pull it off, he should have a bright future.

Brennan: Since he is getting zero hype at the moment, I'll give a shout out to walk-on defensive back Evan Lewis. He's small (5-10, 167), but I'm hearing he's doing some nice things in preseason practice. Lewis was the Pennsylvania AAA Player of the Year at Gettysburg High last fall, where he played quarterback, defensive back and handled kicks and punts. He is smart and athletic, and if he can add a bit of bulk while redshirting in 2008 I could see him fighting for playing time in the secondary down the line.


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