March 18, 2011

Phil Grosz's Inside Look at Penn State Football

With spring practice beginning tomorrow, what I thought I'd do in this "Phil Grosz's Inside Look at Penn State Football" is relay to our Lions Den subscribers some pieces of information I've picked up from my contacts about several players during winter workouts getting ready for spring practice.

But, before I do that, I'd like to state my opinion about Penn State's QB situation with spring practice starting tomorrow.

There has been a great deal of debate here in the Lions Den over the past several months since winter workouts began back in January about what should take place with the QB position in the spring.

First, let me say I'm not surprised by the fact Penn State's quarterback coach, Jay Paterno, told ESPN that there could be an open competition for the starting QB position in spring practice.

It's my personal belief that neither Matt McGloin nor Robert Bolden performed well enough this past fall to enter spring practice being declared as the "QB to Beat."

I don't have a favorite for the starting job, and I'm convinced that the performance of McGloin, Bolden, Paul Jones and, even to a small extent, Kevin Newsome in spring practice should be the sole determining factor which QB enters preseason practice as the frontrunner for the starting QB position.

I want the QB that ends up being the starter this fall to have the talent level necessary to take Penn State's program to the next level, to once again become a legitimate contender for the Big Ten title on a yearly basis and have a legitimate opportunity to play in a BCS Bowl Game on a regular basis.

Presently it's my opinion Bolden is the quarterback with the God-given ability to give Penn State the best chance to make that happen.

Does that mean I believe Bolden should automatically be given the job this spring? There is no way I believe that should happen before the spring competition begins.

Competition brings out the best in athletes, and I believe the competition between Bolden, Jones and McGloin will be the highlight of Penn State's spring practice session.

I'm anxiously waiting to see the results at the Blue White Game in April.

I'll give more attention to this topic on Monday when BWI starts its position-by-position look at Penn State's football team on both offense and defense.

We'll begin that analysis with the quarterback position.

Now, let's turn our attention to some tidbits of information I've been told about some players during winter workouts:

1. The tight end position is a big question mark going into spring practice.

The Penn State coaching staff is so concerned about this position they made the decision to move redshirt freshman Brad Bars (6-3, 232) to the tight end position at the beginning of March.

The situation surrounding Andrew Szczerba is still uncertain to say the least. He is expected to participate in spring practice tomorrow, but the extent of the work still needs to be determined.

At Pro Day Szczerba told the media he had back surgery in October to relieve pain on his sciatic nerve.

At this point it's not known how much contact work he'll have in spring practice.

Redshirt sophomore Garry Gilliam is still recovering from ACL surgery and won't see any contact work in spring practice.

That means Kevin Haplea (6-4, 252) will enter spring practice as No. 1 at the tight end position.

Also, don't be surprised if you see redshirt sophomore Nate Cadogan (6-5, 297) split time between TE and the left tackle position on the offensive line.

Bill Kenney was particularly impressed with the way Cadogan performed as the second tight end in the Red Zone during the second half of the 2010 season.

He had good explosion off the ball and did an excellent job of getting to the second level with his blocks.

"Coach Kenney felt it was Cadogan's blocking the second half of the season from the tight end spot that allowed (Evan) Royster to run so well in the Red Zone," BWI was told by its contacts, "When Nate (Cadogan) was in there at tight end, we had a dominant offensive line in the Red Zone."

2. BWI has been told redshirt freshman C.J. Olaniyan has made great strides during winter workouts!

"Physically that is where he has improved the most over the spring," BWI was told, "He's added between 12 to 15 pounds to his frame."

Olaniyan now tips the scales at about 245 pounds. His development will be critical this spring with both seniors, Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore, having questionable status for spring practice.

3. Miles Dieffenbach is making a push for the starting center job.

As early as the middle of last season, Dieffenbach was pushing redshirt sophomore Ty Howle for the No. 2 center job behind Matt Stankiewitch.

"Miles really made great strides in December with Matt out of action with mononucleosis," BWI was told, "I believe if he doesn't win the starting job this spring he might be moved to one of the guard positions to compete for playing time

"That's how much they are impressed with him."

Dieffenbach reportedly is now up to 295+ pounds.

4. Here is what BWI is being told the starting offensive line looks like going into spring practice tomorrow:

LT - Quinn Barham
LB - DeOn'tae Pannell
C - Matt Stankiewitch
RB - John Urschel
RT - Chima Okoli

"Right now (Johnnie) Troutman is in the same position Andrew Quarless was after his DUI incident," BWI was told, "It's up to Troutman to prove to Paterno he understands what it means to play at Penn State."

That's crucial this spring because Dick Anderson and Bill Kenney both believe Troutman has the potential to be Penn State's best offensive lineman and has the ability to play in the NFL.

5. Another redshirt freshman that has impressed in winter workouts is Khamrone Kolb (6-5, 328).

Kolb worked at both tackle positions on the scout team last fall and impressed the coaching staff.

"If he learns to control his weight, I believe he has the opportunity to prove himself to be the best offensive lineman, next to Dieffenbach, Penn State recruited in last year's class." BWI was told, "At the end of December's practice session Penn State felt he had moved ahead of some of the other redshirt sophomore offensive linemen.

"If he controls his weight, he can push for playing time this fall. He also might be tried at one of the guard spots this spring with Troutman in Paterno's doghouse."

Kolb might end up being the biggest surprise of Penn State's Class of 2010.

6. Finally, here are some weights of some of the redshirt freshmen coming out of winter workouts.

Paul Jones (6-3, 242), Zach Zwinak (6-1, 230), Alex Kenney (6-1, 195), Miles Dieffenbach (6-4, 295), Khamrone Kolb (6-5,
328), Alex Mateas (6-3, 306), C.J. Olaniyan (6-3, 243), Kyle Baublitz (6-3, 255), Evan Hailes (6-1, 298), [/db]Luke Graham (6-4,
289), [db]Mike Hull (6-0, 218), Dakota Royer (6-2, 225), and {db]Tom Ricketts[/db] (6-5, 277).

It should be noted Graham was moved to the 3-technique DT spot during the off week last October on the scout team.

Baublitz is also a critical performer in spring practice with Crawford and Latimore on the injury list. Baublitz will push for playing time at the strongside DE position and compete with Olaniyan for the spot in spring practice.

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