This version could also be called Time to Step Up: Dick Anderson or Time to Step Up: Bill Kenney (raise your hand if you remember which of our offensive line coaches coach which positions)(I'm kidding, put your hand down), because there are very few accounts of Johnnie Troutman which do not mention his natural talent. I've long asserted he is a next-level talent, but nobody in his or her right mind would go so far as to say his career has been dominant. More accurately, his career has been littered with question marks, perhaps the most important of which has been about his motivation. And that's a challenge for the coaches, Joe Paterno included.
Johnnie Troutman arrived on the team in the heralded 2007 offensive line recruiting class that included JB Walton, Josh Marks and Stefen Wisniewski. He promptly redshirted that freshman year and began studying under Seniors John Shaw and Elijah Robinson, Juniors A.Q.Shipley, Rich Orhnberger and Gerald Cadogen & even then-sophomore Dennis Landolt. His first appearance on the red side of the ledger was when Chris Baker sang to the po-po that he saw Troutman, (along with 8 others, including Phil Taylor and Stabby McStabberson), kicking a dude on the ground in the Oct 2007 Hub fight. The next time he popped up, again not too favorably, was as a RSFR in Joe Paterno's broadcast of the 2008 Blue White Game, when Joe called him 'lousy.' 2008, you may recall, was a pretty good year, and an extremely good one for one of our best offensive lines of the decade. While fellow classmate Wiz was able to break through and contribute on that line, Troutman continued to fight for playing time.
And with the graduation of three All-Big Ten linemen, the 2009 spring battles looked like Troutman would be in contention for a starting role. And while he made it through the Blue White Game itself relatively unscathed, his name popped up in the news again as one of the actual residents of the apartment that was raided that weekend for the wacky weed that turned out to be one of the last straws of what would have been an amazing career for Maurice Evans. Coming into the 2009 season, it looked like a battle between Troutman and Matt Stankiewitch (still no comment from him regarding any possible awkwardness over nicknames with new committment Anthony Stanko) for the starting left guard position, but Troutman tweaked a hamstring and pissed JoePa off with some weight issues, and Stank was named the starter to begin the season (link contains some ominous notes about DeOn'tae Pannell's own slow development).
Now you may also recall that the beginning of the 2009 season was a little rocky, despite wins against Akron and Syracuse. Offensive line cohesion was an issue and new Center Wizniewski voiced his frustrations about Troutman's absence due to JoePa pettiness (my words, still can't find a good link for this; I'm remembering them from post-game quotes), and the next week he started against Temple. The following week was the offensive line disaster of a game vs. Iowa which sadly and hilariously brought us this:
We didn't win. Granted, it was one of only two losses on an otherwise very nice season, but it was a brutal beat in the Big Ten opener. At night. At home. Troutman, for his part, was maybe the least egregious weakness, at least in this Still Life breakdown by former BSD contributor carolinaeasy (we miss you Mr. Easy!) Troutman played in the next 5 games, all wins, before re-injuring his hamstring against Ohio State (the team's second loss) and didn't reappear again until the mud bowl win against SEC speedsters LSU.
The 2010 season began similarly for Troutman: in the doghouse, because of weight, and Pannell started in front of him at LG the first two games. In both those games, Troutman subbed back in during the third series and against Kent State in Week 3, he started again and did so the rest of the 7-6 season. At times during last season, he looked really great. Certainly against Northwestern in Week 9, when Penn State's offense looked the best they did all season in running off five straight touchdown drives full of balance and domination and win to come from behind and get Joe's 400th W. And also in the first half vs brutus when he contributed to a rather quiet Cameron Heyward and some rather loud boos from the home fans in the Shoe. But at other times, he looked downright slow. Mostly, when asked to pull. Against Indiana in Week 11, he was so flat of foot that Royster had to visibly hold up to wait for Johnnie to finish pulling across the line to meet his blocker. He pulled nicely with Wiz against Michigan in Week 8, tho, so he's definitely capable.
And that, my friends, is probably the essence of Johnnie Troutman's career so far at Penn State: inconsistency. He's shown flashes of talent, some occasional domination, plenty of knuckleheadery (including as recently as January for a DUI), and some long stretches of meh. Penn State's got another deep stable of running backs this year, and if they hope to improve on last year's 7-6 campaign, Johnnie Troutman needs to step the hell up.