REDSHIRT REPORT: Part I

Get an exclusive, inside update on how the Penn State rookies who are redshirting this season have progressed to date in practices and conditioning.

While a handful of Penn State true freshmen played in 2009 — QB Kevin Newsome, S Gerlad Hodges, WR Devon Smith, WR Curtis Drake, DE Sean Stanley, CB Stephon Morris — most members of the Nittany Lions' 2009 recruiting class are redshirting this season.

But that doesn't mean the players who are sitting out lack talent. The list of Penn State greats who have redshirted is extensive, including All-Americans like Ki-Jana Carter, Kerry Collins, Michael Haynes, Larry Johnson and a host of others.

The best part about redshirting as a true freshman is it allows a prospect to immerse himself in the strength-training program. Each Friday during the season, while most everyone else on the team is off, the redshirting rookies are put through brutal workouts at Lasch Building.

With that in mind, we believe it is important to track the progress of the redshirting freshman. Here is Part 1 of our exclusive Redshirt Report series:

Eric Shrive, OL, No. 75

THEN: Listed as a 6-foot-7, 300-pound, 5-star tackle out of West Scranton High School, Shrive was said to be "quick and powerful" out of high school and had an impressive frame to grow into a dominating lineman. He dominated competition at the prep level, and "had little need to depend on technique to gain leverage — he just blew up guys."

NOW: In preseason drills Shrive sustained a "minor" MCL sprain which limited him in drills for a short period. "It slowed him down a bit since he was just getting into things." This season he has focused significantly on his footwork and techniques, "particularly off the blocks." As one observer explained, "He's more comfortable controlling his size, but needs to use his hands better. He's got good strength and will be dangerous as he learns to use it." Shrive is listed at 6-6 and 298 pounds.

Though easily the most heavily hyped member of the Class of 2009, Shrive is said to have checked his ego at the door and willingly accepted constructive criticism and direction from the coaching staff and strength staff.

Anthony Fera, K, No. 30

THEN: As a senior out of St. Pius, Fera had a "monster" leg and was among the most highly sought-after kickers in the Class of 2009. Fera not only showed great power, but also had great size, tipping the scales at upward of 220 pounds at 6-2. Fera was an early enrollee at PSU with Newsome, Hodges and Ty Howle.

NOW: The coaches had Fera penciled in as the backup kicker to Collin Wagner and took him on the early road trips this season. However, in the end they did not use him, allowing him to redshirt. In the preseason, Fera was said to have had control issues related to a groin injury. As he overcame this, Fera was said to post kickoff hang times in the 4.0-second range. One head-scratcher, though was the the coaches' attempt to change Fera's field goal kicking motion, with shortened steps. Fera is said to have the leg and if he can stay healthy and get confident is expected to make a run at the kickoff/field goal jobs this off-season.

Nate Cadogan, OL, No. 76

THEN: Listed as a 6-6, 250-pound lineman from Portsmouth, Ohio, the younger brother of Penn State standout Gerald Cadogan chose PSU over Cincinnati and Purdue. Cadogan had a "good frame" but needed to add size and improve his overall technique. Coaches were impressed by his athletic ability and endurance.

NOW: Cadogan spent the season working on adding strength and size to his frame and now tips the scale at 285 pounds and is listed at 6-5. "He's aggressive off the snap and has the strength to pick up the rush. He needs to work on his using his feet to stop [assignments] from getting around him," one observer said. Cadogan had seen work early on at the guard and tackle positions, but currently the coaches have him penciled in at tackle. The question is which side he'll end up on -- left or right. "They'll work him on both, but there's hope that he's able to manage the weak side like his brother."

Derrick Thomas, WR, No. 25

THEN: The Greenbelt, Md., product was looked at by programs like Maryland and Illinois as a cornerback thanks to his 6-foot, 175 pound frame and 4.45-range 40 speed. The question was if he had the coverage skills to play corner at the collegiate level.

NOW: After a quick look with the secondary, Mike McQueary liked the basic receiving skills Thomas displayed. And with what was thought to be a depleted wideout corp in the preseason, the coaches opted to move him over to offense. "He did pretty well [at wideout]. He needs to tighten his routes up and play more relaxed, but he made a nice transition [from corner]."

Once it was decided that Thomas would redshirt, he moved back over the defense for the majority of the season.

Where will he be in the spring?

"It depends how the off-season works out," an observer said. "There are some pretty good freshmen receivers coming." Thomas has added a bit of size, but more importantly, strength to his frame.

This is one player Joe Paterno was referring to when he suggested the staff redshirted several top athletes who could have helped PSU on special teams this year.

Ty Howle, OL, No. 60

THEN: Howle was an early enrollee with Newsome, Hodges and Fera. This past off-season, Howle primarily saw third and fourth-team reps at center.

NOW: At 6-foot, 297 pounds, Howle's height "basically has him slotted at center." With Wisniewski back for his senior campaign, Howle will likely be battling for a second-team spot in the spring. Observers feel Howle's size may be an issue but they like his versatility and abilities. This season he has been "heads down" on trying to improve his technique and overall quickness. Howle has worked on his footwork, but has shown consistency with his snaps in drills. As one observer explained, "He's a guy who has to work harder and longer than the other guys on the [depth] chart, since they have size and athletic advantages over him. He's been sold on putting the work in, so this off-season will be key to his progress."

Howle is also a solid long-snapper, which could be important with Andrew Pitz graduating.

Michael Wallace, DB, No. 14

THEN: The Olney, Md., native came out of Our Lady Good Counsel High as an undersized defensive back at 5-9, 180 pounds. He grabbed four interceptions during his senior year and was invited to play in the first annual Maryland Crab Bowl.

NOW: Wallace is now listed at 5-9, 182 and has seen reps with the safeties this season. Described as a player who can "deliver a hit," he is said to do well squaring up on his tackles. The area where he has been focusing on improving is his footwork, back-peddles and reads. "He's a bit undersized, which already poses a challenge. The big issue the coaches have been stressing is for him not to get flat-footed. If a player makes a bad read, if he plays up and quick he can make up for it, but if he plays flat-footed he's done and 99 percent of the time won't be able to recover."

Stay tuned for more progress reports on Penn State's freshmen redshirts, exclusively on FightOnState.com.

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