Penn State: More Playing Time For Trinity Grad Yancich
Sunday, April 11, 2010
By Ron Musselman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Mike Yancich has been surrounded by talented linebackers throughout his career.
Two years ago, he was one of three linebackers from Trinity High School who signed with Division I college programs.
In his first two seasons at Penn State, Yancich was stuck behind the trio of Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull.
But with last year's top tacklers gone and preparing for the NFL draft, Yancich is hoping to become a much bigger contributor this fall.
A 6-foot-2, 235-pound redshirt sophomore, he was the second-string middle linebacker behind senior Chris Colasanti in Saturday's Coaches' Clinic scrimmage at Beaver Stadium.
"I am getting a decent amount of action this spring," Yancich said. "I'm enjoying it. I didn't feel like I was getting as much work the last few years as I needed.
"I'm just going to keep working hard and do my best and see where it puts me at the end of spring."
Yancich was a first-team Class AAA all-state linebacker as a senior at Trinity, when he had 118 tackles and 17 sacks. He also gained 1,616 yards and scored 21 touchdowns as a running back.
In his first season on the field last year at Penn State, he contributed primarily on the punt and kickoff return teams, playing in 10 games.
"Mike's progressing well," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "I think he's on course to play a lot of football for us. He's very versatile and can play any of the three linebacker positions.
"He's a tough kid. He has good instincts and he can run a 4.6 [seconds in the 40-yard dash]."
Yancich said Lee, from Upper St. Clair, Bowman and Hull helped school him on the ins and outs of playing linebacker.
"They could break it down easier than some of our coaches could," Yancich said. "They knew the defense inside and out."
Nathan Stupar and Bani Gbadyu, part-time starters a year ago due to injuries to Bowman and Lee, are the Nittany Lions' first-team outside linebackers this spring. Gbadyu is a fifth-year senior and Stupar a redshirt junior.
Sophomore Gerald Hodges, a former safety, and redshirt sophomore walk-on James Van Fleet were at outside linebacker with the second team Saturday. Yancich was calling the defensive signals.
Glenn Carson, a member of the 2009 recruiting class who took a grayshirt last year, is the No. 3 middle linebacker, while true freshman and early enrollee Khairi Fortt took snaps at outside linebacker with the third team.
"We have a very disciplined group of linebackers," Yancich said. "Whoever we throw out there, they will tear it up."
Redshirt sophomore Michael Mauti, recovering from an ACL injury that sidelined him last season, is the X factor. He has been participating in non-contact drills. If healthy, he is expected to be one of the leaders of the defense this season.
"Mauti is way ahead of where he should be in his rehab, but he's not going to be handed a starting job when he comes back," Bradley said. "He's going to have to earn it. He has the athletic skills to be real good."
Highly touted true freshman Mike Hull from Canon-McMillan, a member of the 2010 recruiting class, is expected to join the mix this summer.
"I played against him in high school -- I was a senior and he was a sophomore -- and he really opened up our eyes," Yancich said. "We game-planned around him.
"He's going to be a great player, but whether he gets onto the field this year is up to the coaches."
NOTES -- No. 1 sophomore quarterback Kevin Newsome struggled with his passing, missing his first four throws in the 7-on-7 drill, and going 1 for 4 on his first drive. But he engineered a 65-yard scoring drive, set up by his 25-yard, third-down scramble. Backup redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin completed passes of 45 and 42 yards and third-string true freshman early enrollee Paul Jones (Sto-Rox) was relegated mostly to handing off. ... Senior Stefen Wisniewski (Central Catholic) was the starting right guard after playing center last year. Redshirt sophomore Mike Farrell (Shady Side Academy) was the second-team left tackle and redshirt freshman Adam Gress (West Mifflin) the third-team right tackle. ... Wide receiver Christian Kuntz injured his left knee. ... The Blue-White Game is April 24 and will be televised by ESPN2.
Young Penn State football team looks rough around the edges in scrimmage
By BOB FLOUNDERS, The Patriot-News
April 10, 2010, 6:00PM
Penn State center Stefen Wisniewski (61), shown here with running back Stephfon Green, worked some at right guard during Saturday's scrimmage as the coaches continue to experiment with line combinations. JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-NewsSTATE COLLEGE – Joe Paterno and his coaches took the wraps off their 2010 football team for the first time Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.
That first glimpse was a little hard on the eyes, too.
The occasion was an intrasquad scrimmage, a nice little warmup for Penn State's Blue-White game April 24. And the Nittany Lions looked exactly like a team replacing quarterback Daryll Clark and defensive stars Jared Odrick, Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee is supposed to look on the second weekend in April.
The Lions looked uncertain.
There were bad throws, bobbled snaps, fumbles, missed tackles and more than a few blocking attempts by some unproven offensive linemen that ended up horribly awry.
Roughly five months remain until the Lions travel to Tuscaloosa for a Sept. 11 meeting with defending national champion Alabama. And there is much for the coaching staff to sort out.
But enough about the regular season. Let's get to the meat of Saturday's scrimmage.
O-LINE COMBINATIONS: Early word is that Paterno and O-line coaches Dick Anderson and Bill Kenney were doing some serious tinkering to figure out who are PSU's best five players.
So it was no surprise to see the first-team unit break the huddle with Stefen Wisniewski, a returning first-team All-Big Ten center, aligned at right guard.
Wisniewski played that position in 2008 and he figures to stay at center. But the coaches want to know what they have in senior Doug Klopacz, who was the first-team center on this day.
De'Ontae Pannell worked at left guard – he could be headed to tackle, though – and the starting tackles were Quinn Barham (left) and Lou Eliades (right).
The second-team offensive line was comprised of Mike Farrell and Chima Okoli at left and right tackle, respectively, Johnnie Troutman and John Urschel at left and right guard and Matt Stankiewitch at center.
Assembling an O-line will Paterno's second-biggest off-season project. PSU lost both starting tackles from 2009 – Dennis Landolt and Ako Poti – and there was trouble at the left guard spot for much of the year.
WORKS IN PROGRESS: Quarterback is Paterno's top priority and three contenders for Daryll Clark's old job took turns attempting to dent coordinator Tom Bradley's defense. With little success.
Sophomore Kevin Newsome, Clark's backup a year ago, worked with the first-team offense at the start. The best part about the dual-threat's game right now is his legs. He was hard to catch when he broke free of the rush.
The passing part was a struggle for Newsome. Several of his passes sailed, leading to incompletions. And the righty's three-quarter release point -- he throws from the side, not over the top -- is going to lead to some deflections.
Matt McGloin, the former walk-on from the Scranton area, threw a pair of nice deep balls to wideouts Shawney Kersey and Graham Zug. He also fumbled a snap and tried to complete a screen pass to Okoli, his tackle.
January enrollee Paul Jones didn't get a lot of reps and looked like he wasn't quite used to the speed of the college game on some of them.
CIRCLE THESE NAMES: A few players not expected to be in Paterno's first-team plans stood out – linebacker Mike Yancich, defensive tackle Brandon Ware and walk-on running back Hykeem Brodie.
Yancich, a 6-1, 235-pound redshirt freshman from Trinity High in western Pennsylvania, flew around the field and went looking for contact, even when it was unnecessary. Ultra-aggressive would be one way to describe him.
He scuffled briefly with Stankiewitch after one play. Later he timed his blitz up the middle just right, flying past PSU's blockers to sack Jones.
For the record, the Lions' starting linebackers were Bani Gbadyu and Nate Stupar on the outside with Chris Colasanti in the middle. Yancich is a backup to keep an eye on.
So, too, is Ware, the former Harrisburg High star who is not quite out of Paterno's doghouse after battling weight and academic issues last season.
Ware, a redshirt sophomore, is listed at 6-3, 341 pounds. He worked with the third-team defensive line and none of the Lions' interior offensive linemen had much success with him in drills or in the scrimmage.
One Ware scrimmage play stood out: his fork lift of redshirt freshman offensive lineman Mark Arcidiacono on his way into the backfield.
Neither of Penn State's top two tailbacks, Evan Royster and Stephfon Green, did much Saturday. Royster participated in drills but was spared from scrimmage work.
Redshirt freshman tailback Curtis Dukes scored on a touchdown run – and redshirt sophomore fullback Mike Zordich scored twice – but it was Brodie, a 223-pounder who played with Newsome in high school, who caused a bit of a stir.
Brodie displayed very good acceleration getting up the field on one attempt and later carried 255-yard true freshman defensive end Kyle Baublitz a few yards on another.
YOUNGSTER WITH GIDDY-UP: Finally, here's one more PSU player to look out for if you're planning on attending the Blue-White game in two weeks – true freshman running back Silas Redd.
The 5-10, 190-pounder displayed vision and burst on a couple plays, taking one handoff and bouncing it to the outside for an 18-yard gain.
Later, Lions defensive tackle Devon Still dropped Redd for a 6-yard loss inside the red zone.
Undaunted, Redd came back later and scored on a 2-yard run to the right corner, taking an option pitch from Newsome. Redd might be young, but those jets are legit.