IN FOCUS: Stefen Wisniewski

With a major void at center, the coaches have tapped standout veteran lineman Stefen Wisniewski to step into the role. Get an exclusive in-depth assessment of his progress so far this spring.

THE PLAYER

Stefen Wisniewski, C (6-foot-3, 305 pounds)

Dealt a major blow on the line thanks to the departure of A.Q. Shipley to the NFL, Penn State's coaches are charged with the task of replacing the All-American, Rimington Award winning center. Although a tall order to fill Shipley's shoes, all eyes were quickly focused on Wisniewski.

"Wiz came in [to Penn State] and immediately started turning heads with his physical abilities," one observer said. "But he's also super smart - not a lot of folks realize how cerebral the center's role is with reads, adjustments and calls. It's a physical and mental role. But Wiz fit the bill on both sides."

As observers indicated from the outset of spring drills, he "has really taken charge of the (offensive) line out of the gate. I know some were concerned he'd let his underclassman status (as a sophomore academically) hold him back, but I think the coaches pulled him aside and told him he needs to command the line in his new role (as center)."

The consensus is that he has really embraced the role and had no issues moving from guard to center. "You don't always see that with guys. Some are fixed on playing a certain role and don't want to get out of their comfort zone, but he's really tackled the challenge and that is what this team needs."

THE ASSESSMENT

Approach: Wisniewski is "captain material" as one observer said. " I would not be surprised to see him as a captain, but the title is irrelevant to what he does for this team. He's what you want in a captain though; he flies straight, puts the team first, takes care of business on the field and classroom and is about a humble as they come. Plus he'll rip your head off on the field and hand it to you with a smile." Previously called a "once in a decade player" due to his early impact on the offensive line as a true freshman, Wisniewski's approach was a major factor in shifting him to center. "He's the type of guy with the drive to get whatever you put in front of him done. I am blowing smoke, whether it's his coaches or teammates, they trust him to do his job and do it great."

Mobility: Wisniewski's footwork was "a major factor in getting him action as a freshman." According to one observer, "The biggest issues for freshman linemen when they arrive are footwork and technique. You don't need to be the biggest guy to set and hold a block. A.Q. [Shipley] often gave up two, three, four inches to his assignment, but his footwork and technique helped him control the other guy." Observers point to Wisniewski's quick footwork as a major asset, however they point to his need to "nail down the snap. You got a guy in your grill and you have to deliver the ball and set your block, it's significantly different than the added space you get on the line as guard."

Attitude: Described as "upbeat" and "positive," he's "a player who guys tend to gravitate towards." However Wisniewski is also "very fierce on the field and will go at the defensive linemen." This is something the offensive coaches have actually encouraged more in recent years. "The line needs an attitude and can't be afraid to get into a guys facemask and have a few words."

Improvement: Physically Wisniewski is "solid" and he has the zone blocking approach and general scheme of the line down, given his extensive experience. The biggest issue is learning the role of the center with the "responsibilities to make the adjustments based on what he sees." As one observer explained, "He's gotten reps [at center] previously, but he doesn't have that veteran ahead of him to learn from. I think he's doing well. He's got hulk part down and he has the head to learn it. Most importantly he has the heart - he wants to get it done and that is the biggest part of the challenge - embracing the move 100 percent."

Impact: With guys like Quinn Barham and freshman Ty Howle behind him, Wisniewski is "the man" at center and "he knows he needs to step in and get it done and I think there's much doubt he will." The consensus is that Wisniewski could be a solid, if not outstanding center that helps to quickly shape a line that lost its entire left side. "A lot of guys on the line look up to Wiz and the fact he is pushing so hard to do this is a great example for them all."

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