Nittany Lion Light Brigade

Penn State's front five values power and speed over bulk. Sophomore guard Stefen Wisniewski is a good example.

Stefen Wisniewski weighs 294 pounds these days according to the most recent Penn State football depth chart. The conventional wisdom says that's a little on the light side for a Big Ten offensive guard. But Wisniewski and his Nittany Lion coaches say otherwise.

“Dick Anderson is a big proponent of being lean,” Wisniewski said, referring to the Lions' longtime offensive line coach. “It's all about conditioning and athleticism. In the fourth quarter of games, we're going to be at our best where other lines are tired.”

The way Wisniewski sees it, bigger isn't necessarily better. “Those 30 pounds of fat are just slowing other lines down in my opinion,” said the sophomore starter from Bridgeville, Pa.

Wisniewski is definitely in sync with his head coach on that score. Joe Paterno continues to advocate speed and agility over sheer size.

“If you're over 22 percent [body fat], I don't care if you weigh 400 pounds, you've got to get down,” Paterno said Tuesday. “You've got to get down to where the percentage of your body fat would be under 22 percent. If you're a wideout and you're over 8, 9, 10 percent body fat, you're too heavy. Weight is not the answer. It's strength and the power that you can generate, the shock, the quickness, all those kinds of things.”

The Lions' current offensive line embodies that philosophy. The team has only four 300-pounders on its two-deep, left tackle Gerald Cadogan being the heaviest Penn State starter at 314 pounds. (Feel free to disregard the typo that has defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu checking in at 2989 pounds.) That didn't prevent Penn State from running wild on Coastal Carolina in the season opener. The Lions amassed 334 rushing yards in the 66-10 victory.

But Coastal Carolina was, well, Coastal Carolina. Members of the Football Championship Subdivision, the Chanticleers were outclassed from the start. This week's opponent, Oregon State, is presumed to pose a different kind of challenge even after giving up 36 points in a loss to Stanford last weekend.

Penn State's senior-laden offensive line has been hailed as its best in years, possibly its best since the heyday of Jeff Hartings and Marco Rivera in the mid 1990s.

Wisniewski agrees that the line is playing with more confidence than it did a year ago, when the Lions finished fifth in the Big Ten in rushing. But he doesn't want to make any grandiose claims, saying instead that it's “too early to tell” how good this unit can be.

“I think we have the makings of a very good line,” he said. “But we have to play some better teams.”


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