Taking Center Stage

Wisniewski is comfortable making the move from guard to center on the Penn State offensive line this spring.

It's getting mighty crowded in Stefen Wisniewski's world. The junior offensive lineman recently moved from guard, where he's started for Penn State last season, to center and is finding there's a lot less elbow room than there was at his former position.

“You really have a lot less space to work with as a center with the nose guard right on your face,” Wisniewski said. “[At] guard, you've got a solid yard of space to work with. That's been the biggest adjustment, getting used to dealing with that lack of space and how fast that nose man is on you. But I'm really enjoying it. It's a good challenge for me.”

It's a challenge he appears entirely capable of conquering. In addition to starting at guard, Wisniewski was Penn State's backup center behind All-American A.Q. Shipley last season. He didn't find out until the off-season that he was being made a full-time center, but the switch didn't faze him, and his coaches are confident it's the right decision. Alluding to Wisniewski's family history -- father Leo was a star defensive lineman at Penn State and uncle Steve an All-America guard -- Joe Paterno said he expects the Bridgeville, Pa., native to adapt well to his new surroundings. “His uncle was a great player here; his father was a great player here,” Paterno said. “Young Wisniewski will be fine.”

Steve Wisniewski recently told his nephew to watch tapes of former All-Pro centers Dwight Stephenson of the Dolphins and Dermontti Dawson of the Steelers to help him get a feel for his new position. The younger Wisniewski said he hasn't done that yet, but he plans to get a hold of some videos soon.

But he doesn't have to scour the NFL Films archives to find an example of how the position ought to be played. He need only look back to his experience as Shipley's backup. Shipley enjoyed a marvelous career at Penn State, winning the Rimington Trophy last year as the country's best center. Wisniewski said Shipley had a bit of a physical advantage in that he was two inches shorter and as such was better equipped to get leverage on opposing blockers. But he said he has his own set of skills, and he doesn't feel any pressure as he gets set to replace his All-America predecessor.

“I'm excited to be filling in for the best center in the country, because I got to learn from him,” Wisniewski said. “I got to work with him last year, asking him how he blocks things, and he's been around this spring working out. So I've been bugging him all the time with questions -- How do you step here? How do you use your hands here? -- and it's really been a blessing to have him around helping me out. So I really don't look at it as pressure but as an opportunity to try to match what he's done.”


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