By Paul M. Banks
It’s the most unheralded position on the field, some would say the most boring. But they, the Penn State offensive linemen, are just as critical as the quarterback (they have a really good one in Darryl Clark) into getting accomplished the things offensive coordinator Jay Paterno is trying to do. O Linemen don’t even have a statistic to reference if they wish to hang their numerical productivity hat. But in Happy Valley they have a really solid group, and a few of them will play on Sundays next fall.
It’s ironic, because during the preseason the O Line was considered one of the biggest question marks. “We knew it was going to be a question mark, cuz when you lose three players of the quality that we did, people are going to wonder if you’re going to have players step up and contribute that kind of quality,” said Tackle Dennis Landolt, one of those names you’ll see in NFL Mock Drafts. Another guy you’ll see on draft day is Center Steve Wisniewski. I recently spoke with him, asking what he thinks he needs to work on to reach the next level.
“I got to be a little better blocking 2nd level, I did alright, but I’d like to be a little bit more dominant- as opposed to just staying on guys, as I work out the intricacies of playing center well,” he responded. A major reason the OL is so strong (and we can’t forget the Tight Ends, Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler: NFL scouts say positive things about them as well) is the fact they practice against a defense filled with athletes that will likely join them in the NFL.
“That helps tremendously. What happens in the game ends up being easier than practice is, cuz you block guys like Jared Odrick, Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee. If you can block those guys, even for a little bit that makes everything so much easier,” Wisniewski stated.
Playing offensive line may be a thankless job that everyone overlooks, but at least these guys get to do it at Penn State, under the most legendary coach in history, Joe Paterno. And they also get to have a few laughs along the way, because JoePa is like the Jerry Seinfeld of football press conferences.
“He’s a lot funnier than people give him credit for. It’s pretty awesome that one day I’m going to be able to tell my kids that one day I played for the winningest coach in college football history.”
Who knows, maybe now Hollywood is focusing on OTs (there’s a Sandra Bullock film, “The Blind Side,” based on Michael Lewis’ best-selling book about a Left Tackle being released Friday) perhaps the popularity of offensive linemen will soon grow as large as the physical stature most of them possess?
Ok, probably not.