Penn State's guards and centers are spending more time this spring with a group of guys that they'll spend a lot of time with on Saturdays this fall: Penn State's offensive tackles.
Center Matt Stankiewitch will anchor an inexperienced Penn State line.
In previous seasons, Dick Anderson had coached the guards and centers, while Bill Kenney would coach the tackles and tight ends. On Bill O'Brien's staff, John Strollo is in charge of the tight ends, while new offensive line coach Mac McWhorter is coaching all five positions on the line.
"Now when you're watching tape, you're watching all five guys," Penn State center Matt Stankiewitch said. "Instead of last year, when we'd watch the guards and centers and sometimes the tackles."
All of the offensive linemen are in the meeting room at the same time. And when the Nittany Lions perform individual drills, they're all with McWhorter. Stankiewitch, the line's lone returning starter, likes the new routine.
"It makes us more of a unit," Stankiewitch said. "We have more chemistry that way. We're all in the same meeting room, all know each other's expectations."
McWhorter, a former all-conference guard at Georgia in the 1970s, came to Penn State after spending 13 months in retirement. He had previously been the offensive line coach at Texas from 2005-2010, helping the Longhorns to a BCS championship in 2005.
"He's very positive but he tells you the negatives. He's going to tell you what you're doing right and doing wrong," Stankiewitch said. "He has a lot of knowledge. It rubs off in the media room and it rubs off at practice. It's been a pleasure playing for him."
The other big change for Stankiewitch and Penn State's other linemen has been the Olympic-style lifts (squats, power cleans and snatches) they've done under strength coach Craig Fitzgerald. Stankiewitch acknowledges that he's gotten stronger, but also pointed out the emphasis the coaches are putting on flexibility in the workouts.
"We're not in the weight room to become body builders," he said. "We're in the weight room to become the best football player we can be."
The linemen can't afford to have tight hamstrings if the Nittany Lions are going to run the no-huddle offense they've been practicing. Little time between plays can wear on the big men but Stankiewitch sees the benefits, too.
"We're going to get out of breath," Stankiewitch admitted. "But we're going to keep the defense on the field, and keep them on their heels."
The communication and the chemistry the linemen are developing in the meeting room needs to pay off if the no-huddle is going to work, Stankiewitch said.
"Once you get up to the line with the no-huddle, everyone has to be on the same page," he said. "It's not just the center helping them out; everyone on the offensive line has more of an expectation to know their assignments.
"Expectations are higher for the guards, tackles, wide receivers, running backs. That's what makes the no-huddle very effective."