FOS Six Pack: Key Players

We take a look at the Nittany Lions who are most vital to the team's success in 2009. Crack open the six pack to see if you agree with our picks.

Summer may not officially start for a week or so. But here in Happy Valley, the dog days have settled in. Spring practice for the Penn State football team is in the rearview mirror and the Nittany Lions are now enduring the drudgery of off-season workouts.

But as a fan, there is no reason you can't enjoy Penn State football 12 months out of the year. With that in mind, we've come up with the perfect way to combat the dog days of summer - with a series of six packs.

In each installment of this series, we crack open a key issue facing the Nittany Lion football program. We start by looking at the six players who are most instrumental to Penn State's success in 2009.

Daryll Clark, QB: We might as well start with the easiest pick. With a true freshman as his backup, the direction of Penn State's season is heavily dependent on the health of the All-Big Ten quarterback. Sure, PSU could find success with Kevin Newsome at the helm. But Clark's experience, abilities and leadership skills make finding that success more likely.

Jared Odrick, DT: A true weapon on the defensive line with the ability to consistently disrupt the opposition's pocket, Odrick should be the wrecking ball Larry Johnson's unit needs to help ease of pressure on the young defensive ends. The veteran will be instrumental in the deep DT rotation, but look for him to see more reps than anyone else at the position because he is by far the best of the bunch.

Stefen Wisniewski, C: The junior already has a year and a half of starting experience, albeit at guard. He is moving to center to replace three-year starter A.Q. Shipley, and has the size, athletic ability and intelligence to pull it off. With three new starters on the line, Wisniewski will be looked to as the glue that holds together the group.

Drew Astorino, FS: Considered by some to be Penn State's best tackler, Astorino has the fundamentals and discipline to boost the depleted secondary. He's smart on his reads, sharp on his runs and has a great nose for the ball. The defense will need him to be consistent to lead a secondary that many teams will look to test this season because it is replacing all four starters. Astorino is an under-the-radar athlete, as evidenced by college football preview guru Phil Steele not including him among the nation's 44 best free safeties (but he does include PSU's Nick Sukay at No. 40). We think by the end of the season Astorino will be viewed in a much more favorable light.

Jack Crawford, DE: You may not know Jack. But you will soon enough. With its top three defensive ends from 2008 gone, Penn State needs at least one player to step up an be a consistent force at the position in '09. Though only a sophomore, Crawford has the size and athletic ability to get the job done. The key will be gaining experience, and the Nittany Lions' less-than-threatening non-conference schedule should allow him to do just that.

Brett Brackett, WR: We don't expect the redshirt junior wideout to single-handedly replace departed starters Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams. But we do expect his receiving numbers to increase dramatically and for him to emerge as a strong leader in the rebuilt receiving corps. The Nittany Lions have some outstanding young pass catchers already in the program and more will arrive when most of the freshman class enrolls later this month. Brackett and classmate Graham Zug are being counted on to set strong examples for the entire crew.

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