We went to a wide variety of practice observers to get the lowdown on six guys who have been getting it done under the radar.
Here's a review of those six players:
Nate Stupar, LB: With a ton of depth across the linebacker unit and headliners like Lee and Navorro Bowman leading the charge, Stupar is a guy who received impressive reports last season when he was a "a head-hunting, punt-blocking special-teams force," as FOS editor Mark Brennan put it.
At 6-foot-1, 226 pounds, Stupar has still seen special teams work this preseason and has seen his 'backer reps on the outside, primarily backing up Bowman. With Bowman out in recent practices due to a minor injury, Stupar logged added first-team work.
"He's a hard-nosed player with a ton of heart," one observer said. "He's quiet, so he tends to get overlooked, but his technique has been outstanding and with that determination, he'll be a key impact guy for this team."
Joe Suhey, FB: Another "quiet," "under the radar" guy, Suhey is a fullback who should be a factor in the running game, particularly in short yardage situations. He is also an outstanding pass-catcher.
Suhey, who has been running at first-team fullback, has bulked up from about 200 pounds when he arrived on campus to 240 pounds. With good speed for his size and terrific hands, observers believe he is poised for a breakout season.
His blocking has also progressed and his added size and power has served him well in opening up holes for the tailbacks this preseason.
Devon Still, DT: The converted defensive end is now 6-foot-5, 305 pounds and inside at defensive tackle. After a rough bout with injuries the past two seasons, Still has been getting progressively better since returning to the field late last season.
"He's really come along," an observer said. "He was tentative for a while, but now he's back in it and really hungry to finally get some playing time. Still in slated to be in the tackle rotation with Jared Odrick, Ollie Ogbu, Chima Okoli and Brandon Ware.
The transfer of Abe Koroma "opened up the path a little, but there are a lot of talented guys vying for reps," another observer explained. Still's increased size has brought with it increased strength. His technique has improved, something he had to work for given the length of time he had been sidelined over the past two seasons. Still "has a deep desire to break the rotation, but he'll have to not be tentative. He's got to play reckless for him to fit into [Larry Johnson's] scheme."
Andrew Quarless, TE: The 6-foot-5, 253-pound senior is on his last go-around in Blue and White. Things have been quiet concerning Quarless, and that's good. As one observer said, he's been "all business" on the practice field this preseason. Word is he was impressive in the weight room and during informal winter passing drills, spring ball and preseason sessions.
Most of the attention has been on the new crop of receivers and the re-constructed offensive line, so Quarless, and the tight ends as a whole, have been overlooked. But Quarless has shown good hands and improved blocking, although there are still those wondering if he can "fly straight" this season.
Quarless, who has seen a lot of second-team and some first-team reps, once had the look of a can't-miss NFL prospect, but repeated discipline issues have sidetracked his career. He has the skills to be an impact player at the next level. Observers have indicated his "head is screwed on" this preseason, but he'll have to carry that into his games.
Mickey Shuler, TE: Speaking of tight ends, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Shuler saw significant reps in all 13 games in 2008 with six starts to his credit. On the year he pulled in nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Shuler's real strength, though, was on blocking and creating protection for Daryll Clark and space for ball-carriers. He's expected to continue in this role this coming season and most have him penciled in as a player who will be instrumental in a variety of sets.
Shuler has seen the bulk of his reps with the first-team unit this preseason and is another guy who has been lost in the spotlight which has been fixed on the receivers and offensive line.
Stephfon Green, RB: With increased celebration for Evan Royster and a Rose Bowl injury that knocked him out of action in the spring, Green is a player who went from being over-hyped last season to under-hyped this year.
Green was among the most anticipated redshirt freshmen in 2008 thanks to speed that was described as "blazing." This preseason there has been less anticipation after Royster posted strong numbers in 2008.
Green has been running second team this preseason and is slated to be instrumental in the ground game this season. The PSU staff is on record as saying it will user formation that include Royster and Green.
He saw action in all 13 games in 2008, carrying the ball 105 times for 578 yards and four touchdowns. Some observers feel that if he can stay healthy, he should be able to top that. "Steph's an amazing athlete and with a year under his belt. He's smart with the ball and has a better feel for his role and responsibilities in the scheme," as one observer put it.
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