POSITION PREVIEW: Left Tackle

With All-Big Ten pick Gerald Cadogan leaving, check out the (very) early favorites to take over his position in 2009.

Sure Penn State still has to face an opponent to be determined in the Rose Bowl. But here at FOS, it is never too early to start getting ahead of ourselves. We're nothing if not cart-before-horse thinkers.

Which is exactly what we're doing in this new series, where we look a head to 2009 to see how Joe Paterno and his staff will deal with key personnel losses.

The best place to start, of course, is on the offensive line, where first-team All-Big Ten picks A.Q. Shipley, Rich Ohrnberger and Gerald Cadogan are all moving on following this season.

This leaves the PSU staff with the tall order of rebuilding the left side of the offensive line in 2009. Here is a review of what the Lions lose at left tackle and how they may go about minimizing the loss next season.

Left Tackle

Current Starter: Cadogan has quietly become a dominating force, protecting Daryll Clark's weak side. In fact, he and his teammates on the line only gave up 10 sacks this season and no more than two in a single game.

Cadogan has impressive power and solid technique, but his agility is said to be what really made him a force on the corner. "He's great with the snap count and up and out quick. He's fluid and quick to engage and does a good job of forcing guys high and wide — that gives Clark extra time," an observer explained.

Cadogan also did well on plays where he was asked to pull to block for the running backs.

LT Candidates: There are a few candidates the offensive line staff could turn to to shore up the left tackle:

DeOn'tae Pannell (6-foot-5, 295): Only a true freshman, Pannell has seen action in seven games behind Cadogan. Said to have a good frame for the position with solid mobility and footwork, Pannell "could be the answer the staff needs on the left side," as one observer put it.

Dennis Landolt (6-foot-4, 303): The staff could move the veteran starting right tackle to the left side, to ease some of the pressure from Pannell. Although he has the experience needed to make such a move, observers feel he is likely to stay put.

Lou Eliades (6-4, 313): After playing guard earlier in his career, Eliades spent the 2008 season as the second-team right tackle behind Landolt. But we don't think he has the build of a prototype left tackle, and is more likely to be in the mix to replace Ohrnberger at left guard.

Nerraw McCormack (6-5, 297): McCormack, a junior college transfer, has struggled periodically. In fact, he had issues with his preseason conditioning test which forced him to miss a few practices. He eventually redshirted. "He has the size, but really has to work on his footwork and agility to manage the corner," one observer said. Look for him to be a backup at one of the tackle spots.

Ako Poti (6-3, 305): Another JUCO transfer, Poti, like McCormack, did not see any game snaps this past season while redshirting. Most of his practice reps have been at the right tackle position behind Landolt.

Johnnie Troutman (6-4, 315): Troutman has seen second-team reps at guard this season. He played tackle in the spring, though. He "uses his feet well" and "sets a good base" off the snap. He's also gotten better "keeping his shoulders square" this season.

Mike Farrell (6-6, 282): The true freshman has seen practice work at both tackle positions while redshirting this season. He's "had the opportunity to work with Dennis [Landolt] and [Gerald] Cadogan" and has focused on his feet and leverage off the line. He has work to do on "getting low to pick up the rush," but many expect he could be in the mix to provide needed depth.

The (Early) Verdict: Pannell is the odds-on favorite to step up at left tackle. He'll get a bunch of reps vs. PSU's outstanding defensive line in bowl practices and then expect the staff to throw all sorts of pressure at him in the spring. If Landolt stays put, Pannell's biggest push will come from Troutman, in our view.

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