To say Brandon Ware's time so far in Happy Valley has been a disappointment would be like saying Brandon barely likes to eat at the Old Country Buffet. The mammoth (6-3, 337lb) junior to be has spent more time on Twitter, JoePa's Doghouse, and the bench than he has anywhere near the field. By all accounts Brandon is a funny kid, one would only need to look at the registered name of his Twitter account for that (Oliver Klozoff). What Brandon hasn't learned yet is that being the funny fat kid won't get you out of Joe's Doghouse or into Larry Johnson's defensive line rotation.
Ware was a late addition to the 2007 recruiting class. A two star prospect out of Harrisburg, many fans envisioned the second coming of former Nittany Lion defensive lineman, and resident large man, Jimmy Kennedy. After three years in the program, Ware has yet to make the leap. His last meaningful playing time came during the 2007 Big 33 game. The 2011 season is Brandon's time to crack the rotation. If he can't, well it looks like his window of opportunity will be closed.
2010 was not kind to the Nittany Lion defense. Brandon saw action in 11 of the contests, but only recorded 2 assisted tackles. Lucky for him, the finger won't be pointed at him for late collapses and pick sixes thrown by the QB. Brandon has some pretty substantial obstacles in front of him limiting his playing time. If Brandon can showcase some of the brute strength and quickness he posses (for such a large man) it will go a long way in securing him a spot in the four man rotation come September. In order to do that, Ware will need to unseat these players:
- Jordan Hill,Junior (6-1, 309): Hill was able to crack the lineup as a true freshman for the Nittany Lions. He played both defensive end and defensive tackle. The coaches like his ability to handle all four spots on the defensive line. Hill finished 2010 with 36 tackles and .5 sacks. Hill is a lock for the rotation.
- DaQuan Jones, Sophomore (6-3, 309): Jones also saw the field as a true freshman recording 6 tackles. Jones has the making of a superior talent, he just needs a little more seasoning.
- Devon Still, Senior (6-5, 311): Still is the one man on this last that has been hyped since he stepped foot on campus but hasn't fully realized his potential due in large part to a string of nasty injuries. Still was a starter in 2010 along side now departed captain, Ollie Obgu. Still finished the year with 39 tackles and 4 sacks. Hill is a lock to be a starter, and potentially on All Big Ten selection.
- Evan Hailes, Freshman (6-1, 307): You Tube sensation (and winner of the BSD Lift for Life donation challenge) Hailes took a redshirt in 2010 and looks to compete with Ware for the one up for grabs. From all accounts Hailes is a strong, stout kid that would make plays in the middle (think a slightly taller Anthony Adams). Hailes will need to make some plays during spring and summer to jump into the mix.
As you can see, Ware has a pretty steep hill (no pun intended) to climb if he wants to see the field in 2011. Three spots are set in stone (Still, Jones, Hill) so Ware will need to show the coaches this spring that he is ready to shed the dunce cap and get to work. Ware doesn't want to be on the receiving end of the dreaded "maybe you should just graduate and not come back for your senior season" to open up a spot for a true freshman or former walk-on.
Talent has never been the with Ware, conditioning has been his Achilles hill. Ware has battled the bulge most of his life. JoePa is not too keen on 380lb defensive lineman, just like at Kennedy. And while he hasn't reached Kennedy's 400lb mark, he got pretty close early in his career. With his weight now under control, Ware has the potential to be an outstanding run stuffer, which in turn would create room for linebackers Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, and Nathan Stupar to run and make plays.
Some fans have been saying for a few years now that Ware is a wasted scholarship and we should go in another direction. Projecting kids out of high school is tough. Some kids are late bloomers (Michael Robinson, Rodney Kinlaw) and some kids just don't get it (Austin Scott, Maurice "Maserati Mo" Humphrey). With Alabama's Trent Richardson and the stable of backs Wisconsin is bringing to the table, Penn State is going to need Ware's size in the trenches. The biggest question that remains to be seen is if Brandon can put down the Uncle Chen's this Spring and be ready to finally contribute to this football team.