With the departure of All-Big Ten pick Rich Ohrnberger to the NFL, Penn State has significant shoes to fill at left guard for the 2009 season. "Rich was very consistent once he got his head screwed on," one observer explained. "I think a lot of people took him for granted. It will be a challenge to get that consistency now, which will be vital to protecting Clark's blind side."
Throughout springs drills, the position has seen an "impressive battle" between redshirt sophomore Johnnie Troutman and redshirt freshman Matt Stankiewitch, which has "gone back and forth." Troutman started spring drills on the first team, but in recent sessions Stankiewitch has stepped in to work with the starters.
Johnnie Troutman (6-foot-4, 322 pounds)
With an additional 11 pounds added to his frame since last season, Troutman is "bigger and more powerful" this spring. As one observer said, "I really like what he did this winter and he's carrying the added size well."
During the winter, there was debate on whether to play Troutman at a tackle or guard spot. But it seems he has settled in at the guard position.
In terms of his power, observers like his overall strength and feel he has the ability to assume the starting role "if he can get his technique to match his footwork." As an illustration of this power, Troutman put up the most 225-pound bench press reps on the squad this off-season with 35.
Strengths: On the whole, Troutman "keeps his feet moving," "sets a good stance base" and "gets a good surge off the line." He also has impressive power and "is aware of his fellow [linemen], which is so vital."
Needs: Although he has improved in this area, observers feel he has to keep his shoulders square. "Sometimes he'll shift and lose his footing, providing a break the [defensive] tackle just attacks. You can't give that to one of [D-line coach Larry Johnson's] guys or they will devour it." Troutman also has to work on improving the use of his hands.
Matt Stankiewitch (6-foot-3, 290 pounds)
Many observers expected Stankiewitch to make a run at the open guard position and to most he has not disappointed. "He still has some progress to make, but remember, he's still a redshirt frosh."
Said to be "put together well," Stankiewitch is has really benefited from the redshirt season last year. "He's got some good power, plus he's smooth off the snap — he's up quick and really uses his legs well."
Stankiewitch began seeing first-team reps a week or so into spring ball. "He picked up the zone blocking pretty quick and seems pretty fast on picking up on calls and shifts," one observer said.
Strengths: Good footwork and quick off the snap, Stankiewitch has "solid technique" and has shown "consistent power" in the spring. He also is "coachable," and has worked with Stefen Wisniewski to help his play at guard.
Needs: Stankiewitch "needs game experience; there's nothing like seeing actually game reps and he needs that now to really get his play together," according to one observer. "The practice reps help a lot, but they only can take a guy so far, although he has been going against a good set of [defensive] linemen." He's also at a "bit of a size disadvantage" compared to Troutman, giving up 25-plus pounds, but observers feel that his mobility may help him to make up for this.
PSU has two candidates that observers feel could provide decent depth at left guard, although both with different strengths and weaknesses. Stankiewitch has shown impressive consistency with his technique and has greater mobility, while Troutman has the edge on strength, size and experience, having seen action in six games last season. Though Stankiewitch is currently seeing first-team reps, many feel Troutman could just as easily get the nod come the preseason, once he refines his footwork.
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