In his three years on the Nittany Lions' offensive line, Stefen Wisniewski has had his share of uncertainties, but playing time has never been one of them: He has been a fixture in 33 games, 26 of them starts. It's where he will play that is perpetually up in the air, and the beginning of each season finds Wisniewski settling into a new role.
This is an article from the Aug. 16, 2010 issue
The 6' 3", 297-pound senior has only his versatility to blame. The rare lineman to start as a true freshman, Wisniewski lined up at both guard spots in his first two years. Last season he slid over to center and had his best season yet. He earned first-team All--Big Ten honors while anchoring a line that keyed the conference's fifth-best rushing attack (169.8 yards per game) and allowed the third-fewest sacks (17).
It was the kind of performance that would afford most players a return engagement, but for Wisniewski it only led to switching roles again—this time back to right guard. Not that it bothers him. "It was a nice changeup," says Wisniewski of his time at center, "but I don't mind switching back to right guard. Whatever the team needs, I'm willing to do."
The Nittany Lions are counting on him to stabilize a line that was unsettled for much of last year; they tried five combinations, including four in the first six games. This year only two starters return: Wisniewski and senior Lou Eliades, who's also changing positions, from right guard to right tackle.
Finding the right mix up front would help ease a transition at quarterback. Sophomore Kevin Newsome began the off-season as the favorite to replace Daryll Clark, but freshman Paul Jones drew even with Newsome after a sparkling spring game, in which he threw the only touchdowns (both to redshirt freshman Shawney Kersey). Whoever starts will have a bevy of playmakers at his disposal: senior tailback Evan Royster, who is 481 yards from becoming the school's alltime rushing leader, and wideouts Derek Moye and Graham Zug, who combined for 94 catches, 1,385 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.
Wisniewski, as always, will embrace the coming changes. "We'll just keep working hard to make the most out of the potential we have," he says, "which is high."
CONFERENCE Big Ten
COACH Joe Paterno (45th year)
2009 RECORD 11--2 (6--2 in Big Ten)
FINAL AP RANK 9
RETURNING STARTERS 13
Offense 8, Defense 5
4 Youngstown St.
11 at Alabama
18 Kent State
2 at Iowa
23 at Minnesota
13 at Ohio State
20 Indiana (in Landover, Md.)
27 Michigan State
The team's leading returning tackler (62 in '09) is healthy after having surgery last January to repair a torn labrum.
A blend of size (6' 5") and speed (two Pennsylvania high school sprinting titles), Moye emerged as a playmaker in '09.
After considering turning pro, Royster (1,169 yards, six TDs in '09) will again be the catalyst of the attack.