Hand Darryl Clark the Big 10 MVP

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By Paul M. Banks

When the Big Ten MVP award is handed out today, many people think it will be either Wisconsin RB John Clay or Northwestern QB Mike Kafka. If those two names and the numbers behind them don’t overwhelm you, it’s because this year has no true front-runner. There’s no clear-cut number one. Preseason player of the year Terrelle Pryor has proven himself to be more overrated than Miley Cyrus. No one else on Ohio State, or Iowa for that matter comes close to deserving it.

Obviously, I think it would be really cool if a player on the team I cover (Kafka) won the award, but I’m not going to let that bias my choice here. Kafka just hasn’t accounted for enough TDs to win the award, and I think more of his success lies with the excellent work of his coaching staff (And Pat Fitzgerald deserves Big Ten Coach of the Years honors, in my opinion). The guy who has accrued touchdowns aplenty is Penn State QB Darryl Clark, who set the school record for TD passes in a season, and in a career on Saturday. Think about that. All the great players to play the top spot at a school that is top 5 all time in victories. Clark has truly impressed, and I asked his Offensive Coordinator Jay Paterno all about it after the Northwestern game on Halloween.

“Some of the throws he’s made the last couple of weeks have been fantastic, he’s in a rhythm and hopefully, people around the country take notice of him…“I certainly don’t think there’s anybody better at quarterback in the nation right now. Whether that makes him Heisman worthy or not that’s for other people to decide, but you have to show me a guy who’s having better year than he is. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody,” said the man likely to inherit the program from JoePa. Jay is also the man said to be actually pulling the strings in Happy Valley right now.

In recent years, Penn State deity/head coach Joe Paterno and company have gotten away from the traditional I-formation sets in their base offense and today rely on the “Spread HD.” PSU quarterbacks today are more often mobile, dual threats (Zack Mills, Michael Robinson) instead of the classic drop back passers of yesteryear (Kerry Collins, Todd Blackledge). Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game.” 2008 All-Big Ten quarterback Darryl Clark is the latest in the line of total offense generating machines being produced in Beaver Stadium.Darryl-Clark

“I think the biggest thing with darryl is that he’s even-keeled, and that’s one of the things you have to do if you want to be a big time quarterback, you can’t be too emotional. The game’s gonna be good and its gonna be bad. You’re going to miss throws, guys are going to miss protections,” Jay Paterno said.

Darryl Lawrence Clark is a 6-2 233 pound senior from Youngstown, Ohio. He was quite loquacious at Big Ten Media Day, which should serve him well as he works towards his second college degree in journalism- he finished his first degree in telecommunications last December. When asked who might win the Big Ten, if Penn State does not, Clark responded: “I don’t even want to answer that because I want to win the Big Ten. The conference is so unpredictable; you never know who the sleeper teams are, who’s going to creep up. Not to sound cocky or nothing like that, but we were predicted {in ‘08} what 5th? 6th? And we won it, so you just never know.” This season most experts predicted PSU to finish 2nd. So most forecasters pretty much got it right.

In ’08, he did sort of come out of nowhere to accomplish A LOT. He became just the second QB in Nittany Lion history to become an All-Conference first team quarterback as he threw for 2,592 yards (third highest in school history) while tossing just 6 interceptions against 19 TDs, leading Nittany Nation to a 11-2 record, the aforementioned conference championship and a Rose Bowl appearance. He was among the best passers in the nation, but also ran for 9 TDs on the ground and 282 yards. The 29 touchdowns he accounted for was a school record. If there were fantasy leagues for college players, Clark would no doubt be a first round pick. And this year, individually he topped those numbers. So basically he’s earned it.

Penn State has Loads of NFL Talent on the Line

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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.Joe_Paterno_Sideline_PSU-Illinois_2006

“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.

Big Ten QB Power Rankings

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By Paul M. Banks

The Big Ten has a historical reputation for being a “black and blue” type conference like the old NFC Central in the NFL. Woody Hayes and his “3 yards and a cloud of dust” comes to mind. But today, it’s all about the spread-option, and having a quarterback who can run the ball almost as well, or better than he can throw it. The Big Ten’s best are the guys who can beat with you with their legs in addition to beating you with their arm.

1. Ohio State- Terrelle Pryor.
He’s the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and will only get better. The only question remaining is, why wasn’t he one of the three players selected by THEEEEEE Ohio State University to attend Media Day in Chicago? Instead OSU brought one mediocre player, one guy that might not start, and another who’s scout team level in talent.

2. Illinois- Juice Williams and Penn State- Darryl Clark
It really is a toss-up between these two mobile QBs. Both have led their team to the Rose Bowl, both got smoked in that Rose Bowl, and both have developed towards the back-end of their collegiate career. Juice is a better runner and will put up bigger numbers this fall, but Clark is a better decision maker and commits less mistakes.

4. Minnesota- Adam Weber
Like the first three, he’s mobile and he’s got a gun. But does WR supreme Eric Decker make him look better than he really is? Guess we will find out next year when Decks is gone.

5. Northwestern Mike Kafkajuice-williams-arrelious-benn-440
He’s known as “the guy who broke that QB rushing record” to most, as he really hasn’t done much else outside of… the record shattering 217 yards he scrambled for in a season-defining win at Minnesota last fall. But he has potential, and now with C.J. Bacher’s departure, he has a chance to be the man and carry this team.

6. Iowa- Ricky Stanzi
Has high potential to rise above this spot; playing with the luxury of his stellar defense and the great blocking in front of him will help him get there.

7. Michigan State- Kirk Cousins/Keith Nichol
Cousins looked ok when he got some playing time in the Citrus Bowl last year (if the credit card company that bought the rights to that game wants publicity, they can give me a cut, until then it’s the Citrus Bowl to me!). Nichol is yet another qb transfer who bails on his program when he finds himself lower on the depth chart. But when you realize that he had to contend with Sam Bradford at Oklahoma, can you blame him? They’ll name their starter in a couple days.

8. Indiana- Ben Chappell
He’s got a good arm, but he’s no Antwaan Randle El. He’s not even in the same class as Kellen Lewis.

9. Purdue- Joey Elliot
He’s the like the Chester Frazier of Big Ten football- already focused on coaching once his college career ends. Last year, the Joe Tiller era ended. This year ends the era of Purdue QBs putting up good passing numbers and having draft potential.

10. Michigan ???
Familiar with the term “hot mess”? I don’t really know where to begin, expect by asking them to start over with whoever is the highest rated youngster at the position in their program.

11. Wisconsin ???
The Badgers deserve this spot simply because of what happened today with Bret Bielema’s “depth chart” release, an extreme let-down that said nothing. Junior Scott Tolzien and redshirt freshman Curt Phillips were listed as co-starters ahead of senior Dustin Sherer, who started the final seven games in 2008. They won’t bother telling us who’s winning the position battle. But we can figure out that Sherer is JUST AWFUL.

Penn State QB Darryl Clark: Interview/Profile

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By Paul M. Banks

In recent years, Penn State deity/head coach Joe Paterno and company have gotten away from the traditional I-formation sets in their base offense and today rely on the “Spread HD.” PSU quarterbacks today are more often mobile, dual threats (Zack Mills, Michael Robinson) instead of the classic drop back passers of yesteryear (Kerry Collins, Todd Blackledge). Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game.” All-Big Ten quarterback Darryl Clark is the latest in the line of total offense generating machines being produced in Beaver Stadium.

Darryl Lawrence Clark is a 6-2 233 pound senior from Youngstown, Ohio. He was quite loquacious at Big Ten Media Day, which should serve him well as he works towards his second college degree in journalism- he finished his first degree in telecommunications last December. When asked who might win the Big Ten, if Penn State does not, Clark responded: “I don’t even want to answer that because I want to win the Big Ten. The conference is so unpredictable; you never know who the sleeper teams are, who’s going to creep up. Not to sound cocky or nothing like that, but we were predicted {in ‘08} what 5th? 6th? And we won it, so you just never know.” This season most experts are predicting PSU to finish 2nd.

Last year, he did sort of come out of nowhere to accomplish A LOT. He became just the second QB in Nittany Lion history to become an All-Conference first team quarterback as he threw for 2,592 yards (third highest in school history) while tossing just 6 interceptions against 19 TDs, leading Nittany Nation to a 11-2 record, the aforementioned confernce championship and a Rose Bowl appearance. He was among the best passers in the nation, but also ran for 9 TDs on the ground and 282 yards. The 29 touchdowns he accounted for was a school record. If there were fantasy leagues for college players, Clark would no doubt be a first round pick.

Of course, last year Clark benefited from having a great supporting cast and a stellar offensive line. In 2009, questions on the O-Line surface from JoePa and football experts alike. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great offensive line coach at every level, so I’ve never worried about one player not coming to play,” Clark said. Aside from Center Steven Wisniewski and Tackle Dennis Landolt, the big boys up front this year are highly uncertain and far from intimidating.

Clark expressed no concern. “You just to have to trust in your guys that they’ll make the plays for you., they’ll step up for you, they make that block for you in tough situations like 3rd & 1. Our O-Line has to make that push for our running backs,” he said. He’ll need his hogs in front of him to step up if he hopes to duplicate (or perhaps build upon and grow) 2008’s success. Last year, Clark was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell awards. He’ll no doubt be on the watch list for those awards, as well as All-American, Unitas Award and the Silver Football. He currently projects as a 6th-7th rounder in the NFL Draft.