POSITION PREVIEW: Left Guard

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

Sure Penn State still has to wrap up the 2008 season with a trip to the Rose Bowl to face probably opponent USC. 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 ahead 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 guard and how they may go about minimizing the loss next season.

Previously we reviewed the left tackle position. This time we review the left guard spot manned in 2008 by Ohrnberger.

Left Guard

Current Starter: "Intense," "aggressive" and "determined" are all words observers have used to describe Ohrnberger, a three-year starter at guard, including the last two on the left side.

"Rich's best physical trait is his strength, he's just so powerful," an observer said. "His best overall trait, though, is his game approach. He's hilarious -- always joking. But on the field he flips a switch and will rip your head off and put it in his back pocket."

Ohrnberger has good quickness and mobility and has shifted well on pulls and rolls this season, helping to supplement the mobility of quarterback Daryll Clark.

LG Candidates: What makes filling in the left guard spot even more challenging is that Mike Lucian, a reserve at both guard spots in 2008, is also graduating. So here is who the staff will likely consider for the position.

J.B. Walton (6-foot-3, 297): Walton has seen reps during his career at both guard spots. "J.B.'s got a good frame and has added some size, he just needs to work on getting out of the blocks and holding his engagements," one observer explained. Walton is currently a redshirt freshman who is listed behind Stefen Wisniewski at right guard.

Johnnie Troutman (6-4, 319): We had Troutman as a candidate at left tackle as well, and expect the coaches to give him a look at a couple of spots to find his ideal fit. Troutman has seen second- and third-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, according to observers. He's also gotten better "keeping his shoulders square" this season. Troutman is another redshirt freshman.

Lou Eliades (6-4, 313): After playing guard earlier in his career, Eliades spent the 2008 season as the second-team right tackle behind Dennis 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. Eliades has made progress with his technique and the scheme and "certainly has the attitude," as one observer put it. He is currently a redshirt sophomore.

Quinn Barham (6-3, 287): Barham has seen reps at guard and center since the last spring, working mostly with the third team. As you may recall, he suffered a severe ankle injury in 2007. He has made a good recovery, though, seeing action in six games this season. "He comes off the line well and has improved on driving his assignment. He just needs to get his endurance up to help with his consistency," an observer told us. Barham is a redshirt freshman.

Matt Stankiewitch (6-3, 293): Stankiewitch is "put together pretty well, he's solid, but he needs to get some experience and exposure outside of practice," an observer said. He's said to have a grood frame and has focused on adding size and power while redshirting this season. "He is really killing it in the weight room," an observer said. "This redshirt has been great for him." He's also worked on his footwork and getting his center down. While working with the foreign team, the true freshman has played center and guard.

The (Early) Verdict: This is likely to be a three-horse race between Eliades, Troutman and Walton. It's likely to see Eliades and Troutman battle is out with the odds favoring Eliades at this point.

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