Friday, November 30, 2012
Position review: Offensive line
By Josh Moyer
Every day during the next two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at each position and how Penn State fared over the course of the season.
Up today: Offensive line
The Penn State offensive line saved its best for last, helping Zach Zwinak run wild on the Wisconsin defense.
There were some early growing pains, especially when Donovan Smith's injury forced Adam Gress and Mike Farrell to play musical chairs. But, by the end of the season, this unit evolved into a team strength -- one of Penn State's deepest positions that capitalized off the new strength program.
Two starters (Matt Stankiewitch and John Urschel) were named to the All-Big Ten First Team, while Farrell earned an honorable mention. Miles Dieffenbach was relatively solid, and Smith -- when he was healthy -- flashed some NFL potential.
Pass-protection seemed to be an issue at times, even during the second half of the season, but this unit opened up some big holes for Zach Zwinak and usually gave Matt McGloin enough time to throw. Some backups, such as Angelo Mangiro and Ty Howle, saw a lot of time and also contributed heavily to the success here.
NittanyNation rating: B
Season highlight: Nov. 24 vs. Wisconsin. There were a lot of choices here -- holding Purdue's Kawann Short to just one tackle, running over Northwestern, Urschel's block against Nebraska that sprung Zwinak for a 50-yard TD -- but the most impressive performance definitely came against the Badgers.
Wisconsin boasts an elite defensive line, ranked No. 12 nationally in run defense, but Penn State's offensive line won the war by helping the Lions to a 163-yard rushing performance. When Zwinak outrushes Montee Ball, that isn't just a statement about Zwinak.
What was missing at this position?: Picking up the blitz. When Ohio State decided to bring an extra rusher, the offensive line just couldn't figure it out. When teams blitzed, PSU was sometimes inconsistent or had trouble in pass protection. Overall, the line was relatively solid, but that seemed to be its Achilles' Heel.