Daniel Greenwald: For this position group battle, let’s try something different, shall we? It’s quite simple, as I’ve compiled two matching head to head stat profiles and written two descriptions, one for Line A and another for Line B. Read them each without bias or team allegiance and the answer is obvious.
2015 Totals: Team Rushing Yard: 1,868 Rushing TDs: 15 Yards/Carry: 4.1 2015 Sacks Allowed: 39 Returning All-Conference: 1) Third Team Right Tackle
This unit was an up and down group last year. They led the charge for a 1,000-yard rusher, but weren’t terribly efficient in doing so with a slight 4.1 yard per carry average. Their pass protection was a disaster. They allowed 39 sacks last season ranking 111th in the nation. That on the heels of allowing an even more dreadful 44 sacks the year before, that’s dumpster fire-esque. Their quarterback who took the brunt of the beating was most indicative of the units negative effect on the team. He was a young, highly sought after 5-star stud QB on the heels of a solid freshman season. After which, he visibly regressed in both his sophomore and junior years before bolting early for the NFL. Think that might’ve had to do with being dropped like a bad habit a handful of times every game? His head was probably still ringing on the way out of town.
2015 Totals: Team Rushing Yard: 2,459 Rushing TDs: 19 Yards/Carry: 4.8 2015 Sacks Allowed: 29 Returning All-Conference: 2) First Team Left Tackle, First Team Left Guard
This team returns four of five starters from last year and another experienced contributor from a line that’s been nothing short of road graters the past two seasons. Two years ago they paved the way for a conference player of the year at running back and followed that by blocking for a lead back that won conference offensive freshman of the year. They plowed to a robust 4.8 yards per carry average and found pay dirt 19 times on the ground. It’s not often a team has the luxury of deploying first team all-conference performers at both left tackle and left guard, as this squad boasts.
So which line would you trust to serve as the anchor of your offense unit, and your quarterback’s personal security team?
ADVANTAGE: Line B
Jarrod Prugar: In the previous three seasons, it has been a trend for the Penn State quarterback to routinely pick himself up off the ground after a sack or hurry because the offensive line for the Nittany Lions resembled Swiss cheese. This year, with coach Matt Limegrover coming from Minnesota, the offensive line should be much, much better. For Pitt, the blind side of Nate Peterman will be will well protected by upperclassmen in Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson.
ADVANTAGE: Pitt. Pitt’s offensive line on paper looks much better than what the Nittany Lions have put together in the past.
JP: Penn State must replace three guys who are currently on NFL rosters, leaving big shoes to fill for those who are currently on the team. Kevin Givens, a redshirt freshman, looks to play a big role up front for the Nittany Lions. Garrett Sickels returning at defensive end gives Penn State a veteran presence on an otherwise young defensive line. As from Dewayne Hendrix, Pitt is loaded with seniors on the defensive line. Ejuan Price, Shakir Soto and Tyrique Jarrett look to anchor the line for the defense of the Panthers.
ADVANTAGE: Pitt. Replacing a three-headed-monster like Carl Nassib, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel is a daunting task for any team. Could the Penn State defensive line exceed expectations? Absolutely, but for a Week 2 matchup, the advantage goes to Pitt.
DG: Penn State’s big boppers from a year ago are gone. Gone is NCAA sack leader (16 sacks)Carl Nassib. Gone are two other defensive line starters, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel. Gone. Pitt on the other hand still retains their QB sacking ace, Ejuan Price. Price was no slouch himself last season, piling up 12 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Pitt’s also stocked with interior bullies Shakir Soto, Tyrique Jarrett, Dewayne Hendrix and Rori Blair among others. The Panthers have a deep experienced front line, and Penn State has just the opposite.