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.
Here is a review of what the Lions lose at center and how they may go about minimizing the loss next season.
Current Starter: Described as an "ideal lead-by-example guy," Shipley is among the most respected and feared players on the current PSU roster.
"The guy is nicer than nice on the field," one observer explained. "But he acts like he will rip your head off when you line up against him." As another observer said, "He great at getting a mental edge out there. He's aggressive and really gotten into the heads of some guys."
A captain on the 2008 squad, Shipley not only has an impressive physical package with good agility off the snap, but also has a good head for the game. "Center can be pretty challenging — adjusting the line and making the calls. But he is a heady player and really mastered the role well," one observer told us.
Center Candidates: Of the three lost starters on the offensive line, Shipley will be the most difficult to replace. "It's a tough role, but you toss in his leadership and attitude and that is a big loss for the unit," an observer said. "All three guys are great, but Q is a real rare one."
Doug Klopacz (6-foot-3, 287): In the preseason of 2008 Klopacz backed up Shipley at center. However, he was sidelined early in the year with an ACL injury. This facilitated starting guard Stefen Wisniewski seeing added center reps. The impact of Klopacz on the center position will depend on his recovery, which seems to be progressing as expected at this stage. Klopacz is currently a redshirt sophomore.
Stefen Wisniewski (6-3, 294): Wisniewski has been called a "once in a decade type lineman," making an early contribution to the line and emerging as the starting right guard as a true freshman. Though he has focused on the guard positions, Wisniewski has also learned the center position and several observers feel he is likely to get a look there thanks to his "consistent play and head for the game." He is a true sophomore now.
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 good 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 and will likely get looks at both spots this off-season.
The (Early) Verdict: If the staff feels it can find a capable replacement for Wisniewski at guard, it will be a no-brainer to move him to center. He is experienced and extremely intelligent. Otherwise, we think it will be a race between Barham and Stankiewitch.
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