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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Coach talk: OG Tanner Hartman

By Josh Moyer

What kind of player is Penn State getting here in Tanner Hartman? And what can fans expect?

NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows most what Hartman is capable of on the field -- Frank Rocco, his high school coach at Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian Academy -- and asked what separates him as a player, how he first noticed Hartman's ability and when he especially showcased his potential.

OG Tanner Hartman, Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian, 2 stars, No. 113 at position
6-foot-4, 265 pounds

Rocco, on what separates Hartman from other players at his position: "Well, I think his future potential is what I would say. He's a big, athletic kid but still very much growing into his potential. And at 245-250 pounds is where he finished up our senior year, but he's already up to 265. So he's got a tremendous work ethic that has kind of led him to put another 20 pounds on after the season, and I think that's the thing that's going to continue to separate him from the others -- being a big body who's athletic and is willing to work hard. I have no reason to think that won't continue at the college level."

When he first knew Hartman would be special: "I would say, really, just in the latter part of last year. He really appeared to want to make a commitment toward getting bigger and stronger. As a sophomore, we tried him at tight end, and that just didn't work out for a lot of reasons -- so we decided to put him in as a tackle and hopefully kind of beef him up his sophomore and junior year. He played at 210 pounds as a sophomore and probably 225 pounds as a junior and then, this offseason, you could start seeing him really putting some meat on. We knew, as I said, he was athletic for a tall, rangy guy -- but he was often very lean and had some difficulty pushing around 300-pound guys. But, at 265, he'll match up against anyone in the near future. But I would say it was really about a year ago today, as we were going into the spring, where you could see things start.

When Hartman surprised him or really showcased his ability: "I think the second half of this season, in his senior year. As a team there was a time when we were 2-1, and it really could've gone either way. We had to play some young guys and blend them together, and Tanner was one of the guys we were counting on because he was a three-year starter. And until we could get those younger guys going, we told Tanner we needed him and some senior guys to hold us together and get us over the hump. Certainly, midway through the year and all the way down the stretch, Tanner played tremendously and was a leader on both sides of the ball. He also played defensive end for us.

"So shortly after we got out to a 2-1 start -- somewhere in the mid part of the year -- we played Christian Hackenberg's team at his place, and we ended up beating them 36-33. Tanner had a very good game in that one. Actually, Coach O'Brien was down there watching it. And as the season progressed, as fate would have it, we played Fork Union again in the state championship and beat them pretty handily. So I tell you that story to let you know that the progression of our team directly correlated to the progression Tanner made as a leader and then, No. 2, as a dominant player. As he got better, we got better."