The Lion's Lounge (Offense) - January edition

PSU would love to sign another quality group. Who are the coaches zeroing in on? Which bluechips have we offered?

Ok first things first. We had an exciting season, full of memories that will last a lifetime. A great group of seniors began the season on a mission to put Penn State football back on the map. With Michael Haynes breaking sack records, Jimmy Kennedy elevating himself into potential first pick status in the April NFL Draft, Bryant Johnson exibiting the awesome abilities we all knew he had, Brian Scott and Shawn Mayer showing they have "next level" potential, the senior offensive lineman playing as a cohesive, healthy unit the entire season, and LJ blowing by everyone's expectations on his way to 2000 yards, I think this group succeeded where others have failed.

Although our Capitol One Bowl Game finale was not successful, I for one, am not on the ledge ready to take the plunge like so many message board posters have stated. This team returns a ton of talent--young talent. It wasn't so long ago that Ohio State was not a very good football team. Now they are the defending National Champions (congrats Buckeye fans). You never know what the future holds for this squad of Nittany Lions. Players like BranDon Snow, Donnie Johnson, Maurice Humphrey, Patrick Hall and J.R. Zwierzynski are just a smattering of young guys who have me pumped for the Blue-White game.

Live It, Love It, Bleed It......... We Are......... Penn State

* * * * * - Penn State verbal commitment!
* * * * - Penn State leads or co-leads.
* * * - Penn State will get a definite official visit.
* * - Penn State may get an official visit.
* - Penn State has been mentioned but is not in the picture.
* - Penn State has not currently offered.

Quarterback: (3) Zack Mills (Jr.), Michael Robinson (So.), Chris Ganter (So.)

It's all but official, Penn State will not take a quarterback with this class. Some may argue that the coaching staff could be leaving themselves to thin in case of potential injury, especially with Robinson utilized in a slash role. That's a very valid argument. Realistically though, it shows how committed Penn State is to running a spread offense--one which showcases an athletic quarterback who can both pass and run. It has been mentioned before that the Lions are already all over current Wilson HS (West Lawn, Pa.) junior Chad Henne. Rumor has it, Chad's interest in the Lions began as very lukewarm, but now he seems to be warming up to Happy Valley. He has attended at least four home games that I am aware of. A early verbal would be a fantastic way to pique the interest of some skill players, but don't expect this one to easy, especially with Miami, Georgia, and others involved. In the coming months a lot of quarterback names will surface. Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey have a couple players the Lions will take a good, long look at. There is always the possibility Penn State could take two signal callers, ala Zac Wasserman and Zack Mills, but that will be something which will evolve over time.

* Chris Leak - Committed to Florida
* Kevin McCabe - Committed to Virginia
* Andre Woodsen - Committed to Kentucky
* Marcus Stone - Committed to North Carolina State

Running back: TBs (4) - Michael Gasparato (Jr.), Pete Gilmore (Jr.), Tim Shaw (So.), Donnie Johnson (Fr.);
FBs (5) - Ricky Upton (5Sr.), Paul Jefferson (Sr.), Sean McHugh (Sr.), BranDon Snow (Fr.), Chris Wilson (Fr.)

Donnie Johnson and BranDon Snow both benefited greatly from the bowl game practice sessions. Rumor has it, DJ now weighs in at a solid 215 pounds. No one should annoint Austin Scott starting runningback just yet. Snow would look good in a combo back role, similar to Michigan's B.J. Askew. BranDon's blocking has become stuff of legend over the past few months, but his running ability is what has the coaching staff excited. Tim Shaw brings another big body with speed to the position. Mike Gasparato may open as the starting runningback versus Temple next year, but he will have to fight tooth and nail to keep the position. His pass receiving skills are second to none though, giving him a slight advantage over the younguns.

Austin Scott - Allentown, Pa. (Parkland HS) 6-1, 205, 4.4
* * * * *
When Temple comes to town for the opening game of 2003, all eyes will be looking for Austin. Depending on who steps up in the spring and fall practices, the staff may actually have the opportunity to redshirt him. Some will have to step up big however, because as we have all seen, Austin ranks right there with the greatest in Pennsylvania preps history. Please do not take the rumors of him visiting Texas colleges seriously, it's a much different situation than Jason Evans.
official visits - Penn State (12-13)

Rodney Kinlaw - Goose Creek, Sc. (Stratford HS) 5-10, 185, 4.3
* * * *
If Rodney signs with Penn State, he will begin his career as a runningback. All the talk of moving him to cornerback should be ignored. He brings a style similar to Fred Russell/Eric McCoo with him to the table. He's small and shifty, but delivers a solid hit to opposing linebackers and dbs. Right now, Penn State appears to be in excellent shape with Rodney. So much so that the Nittany Lions should be considered to, at the very least, be his co-leaders.
official visits - Clemson (1-10), Penn State (1-17) , South Carolina (1-20), and Virginia Tech (1-24)

* Jason Evans - Commited to Stanford

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: WRs (7) - Tony Johnson (Sr.), Ryan Scott (Jr.), Gerald Smith (Jr.), Ernie Terrell (So.), Kinta Palmer (So.), Terrance Phillips (So.), Josh Hannum (Fr.); TEs (3) - Casey Williams (Sr.), Andrew Richardson (So.), Isaac Smolko (So.)

Spring practice could get very interesting as the fight for wide receiver opposite Tony Johnson begins. Both Terrell and Smith appear to be the front runners. Kinta Palmer showed up well in the spring, but it did not translate onto the field. Terrance Phillips could be a candidate for defensive back, which looked like his more natural position on film. Has Ryan Scott even seen a play yet in his Penn State career? Josh Hannum has big time play potential, according to a couple of insiders. Many questioned his toughness but not his speed. Reports have him as a very gutsy player, willing to get in and mix it up.

Terrell Golden - Norfolk, Va. (Lake Taylor HS) 6-4, 205, 4.4
* * * * *
Terrell should have the chance to come right in and contribute for Penn State. On paper, his physical stats match up well with soon-to-be former Nittany Lion, Bryant Johnson. Those who griped about his slow forty time at the Nike Camp, should know now that he ran it in socks. Terrell has enough speed and athleticsm to scare Big Ten d-coordinators for the next four years.
official visits - Penn State (12-6) and Virginia Tech (12-13)

Dorien Bryant - Swedesboro, Nj. (Kingsway HS) 5-10, 170, 4.3
* * *
Dorien is as complex as a recruiting case as there has been since former Florida Gator wide receiver John Capel committed to seemingly every team in the South. Dorien has consistently said that Boston College has been his favorite since the beginning. At first he was going to commit early, then late. Tennessee used to be held in high regard right beside Boston College. He visited Purdue, though doesn't really speak much of the Boilermakers during interviews. He didn't like Penn State as a kid, but made 2 unofficial visits to State College this year for games and mentioned the possibility of a third after his NC State visit. Speaking of NC State, they were not mentioned for a while and his visit there was cancelled at least once. Now he has said it will probably come down to the Wolfpack and the Golden Eagles for his signature. A very captivating and funny kid, Dorien will make the fans at whichever school he chooses, very happy folks. This is one kid who likes to play the recruiting game.
official visits - Purdue (11-8), Boston College (12-6), Penn State (12-14) , and North Carolina State (1-11)

* Tyson DeVree - Commited to Western Michigan
* Preston Brown - Committed to Tulane

Offensive Line: (13) Damone Jones (5Sr.), David Costlow (5Sr.), Chris McKelvy (Sr.), Nick Marmo (Jr.), Scott Davis (Jr.), Tyler Reed (So.), John Wilson (So.), Tommy McHugh (So.), E.Z. Smith (So.), Mark Farris (Fr.), Robert Price (Fr.), Chris Auletta (tFr.), Lee Lispi (tFr.)

Our O-Line play was much improved this season, but still lacked the physical domination of times long ago. Rumor has it that young stud, Tyler Reed, will be moved outside to play tackle next season. Former tackle, Chris McKelvy, may join him unless 5th senior Damone Jones or John Wilson steps up their play. E.Z. Smith should start at one guard after more than holding his own this season. Juniors Nick Marmo and Scott Davis should see some playing time, but they have not played well enough to be counted on as constant contributors. Tommy McHugh might be our least heralded lineman, but he has enough athletic ability to be either a tackle or guard. Freshman Mark Farris might be good enough to contribute solid minutes. Don't be surprised to see 5th year senior Dave Costlow start at center.

Dan Mazan - Carteret, Nj. (Carteret HS) 6-4, 305, 5.0
* * * * *
Dan's a big, athletic kid who likes the Big Ten style of offensive line play. Expect a redshirt, but Dan's athletic ability could allow him to come in and contribute at either center or guard.
official visits - Boston College(12-6) and Penn State (12-13)

Joel Holler - Lancaster, Pa. (McCaskey HS) 6-6, 335, 5.4
* * * * *
Like Mazan, don't count out Joel Holler on coming right in and challenging for a spot on the line. He's talented enough to contribute if his weight stays down at a managable number. Joel was very nimble and quick in the agility drills at the April Nike Camp, an especially awesome sight because he was way heavier then he is now. Having seen Joel at a number of games this season, he appears leaner than he did in the spring. Joel became an extremely important recruit when it was learned that Brian Borgoyn would not be able to continue with his football career because of injury.
official visits - Ohio State (11-23), Virginia Tech (11-30), Penn State (12-6), and Miami, Fl. (12-13)

Brandon Nixon - Pottstown, Pa. (Pottstown HS) 6-7, 310, 5.2
* * *
It looks as if Penn State will get the last shot at Big Brandon. Maryland may still hold the advantage, for the moment, but Penn State should really be a player with Brandon until the end. In a recent Lionnews' interview , Brandon admitted that the Terps held a slight lead, but playing tackle opposite Joel Holler, particularly intrigued the big fella'. At 6'7'', Brandon has long arms and the great reach that many pro and college scouts love in protypical left tackle (see Bryant McKinnie).
official visits - NC State (12-6), Maryland (12-13), West Virginia (1-10) , and Penn State (1-17)

Mike Jones - Oak Lawn, Il. (H.S. Richards HS) 6-5, 307, 5.1
* * *
With the commitment of Jeff Zuttah to Michigan, it appears that Mike Jones will not have a scholarship available from the Wolverines. But will he visit the Nittany Lions. Don't bet the farm on it until he steps onto campus. Even if he does get into Happy Valley for an official, Mike's decision comes down to Iowa and Notre Dame, presumably with the Hawkeyes in the cat bird seat.
official visits - Notre Dame (12-6), Iowa (12-13), Miami, Fl. (12-20), Tennessee (1-17), and Penn State (1-24); and Michigan (???)

Jorrie Adams - Jasper, Tx. (Jasper HS) 6-7, 285, 4.9
* * *
Rumors surfaced after the Louisiana Tech game that the Jasper HS combo of Joseph Bryant and Jorrie Adams visited Penn State on official visits. These rumors were denied by the players involved, but months later we find out they were, in fact, there. Jorrie Adams would be a great get for any school in the country. It's a testiment to Coach Brian Norwood's recruiting skills that he was able to coax the Jasper boys into visiting Psu, but signing them might be an even greater task. Since Jorrie remains very reluctant to talk to the media about his college choices, we can only take solice in the fact that he has visited Penn State and has some level of interest in attending school there. He looked excellent in the National All-Star game.
official visits - only Jorrie knows!?!?!?

Dan Pribula - Strongsville, Oh. (Strongsville HS) 6-6, 315, 5.2
* * *
Dan will make an official visit to Penn State on the 24th of January. He has previously visited Syracuse, but that was for track, not football. Notre Dame has also been in contact for track after their football staff ended their recruitment of Dan by removing his scholarship offer from the table. Dan hinted that Penn State may be in a position to offer him on his visit. It remains to be seen what happens between Dan and Penn State, but with Zuttah's surprise announcement to Michigan, a scholarship offer along the O-line appears to be open.
official visits - Syracuse (12-6), Penn State (1-24); Notre Dame, and Tennessee

* Jeff Zuttah - Commited to Michigan

JsT's Overall Analysis:
Although we have had the setbacks of losing Jason Evans to Stanford and Jeff Zuttah to Michigan, the Penn State coaches have done a great job at bringing in good players at the positions of need. Austin Scott more than lessens the blow of Evans' jumping ship. The best player in Pennsylvania should challenge for immediate playing time, once he steps onto campus. Like Scott, Terrell Golden is a physically gifted athlete, poised to contribute early. Four lineman would have been the ideal number of Olineman, but I think the staff only brings in three. The tackle combo of Joel Holler and Brandon Nixon could be particularly impressive in the future. In Rodney Kinlaw, you get a kid who can run and catch, which gives him the manuverability in case a position change occurs in the future.

ship #1 Austin Scott
ship #2 Rodney Kinlaw
ship #3 Joel Holler
ship #4 Dan Mazan
ship #5 Brandon Nixon
ship #6 Terrell Golden

note - I expect the players in italics will sign with Penn State on February 5th, 2003.

Finally, please keep in mind, if you have any burning questions or information that you feel will be relevant to any future columns, please feel free to email me at . Also, this material is premium and cannot be discussed on any other message board.

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