With the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, we here at Black Shoe Diaries are about to dive deep into our coverage of our beloved Nittany Lions who will soon be gracing some lucky NFL rosters. Before we look forward to the futures of the stars of tomorrow, we're going to take a look at some stars of the past.
While the Penn Staters in the league today have become pretty centralized around a few select positions, the Nittany Lion presence in the NFL is still as strong as ever. Today, I'm going to attempt to create the ultimate starting roster of men who once wore the blue and white, and are now making names for themselves as professionals. Wish me luck (particularly in the secondary).
Quarterback: Matt McGloin
This one is too easy. On a team full of natural-born leaders, you need someone to step up and take control. It takes someone cocky and popular to do that. Enter Moxie. McGloin's fire, passion and precision in the passing game will help lead the offense to overachieve.
Half Back: Evan Royster
Royster is still floating around in NFL free agency as we speak, which means he's still up for grabs in this fantasy world in which my team exists. Penn State's all-time leading rusher actually had a decent few seasons with the Washington Redskins while healthy, even scoring in the team's playoff loss in 2012. While he eventually lost his job (to his backup at Penn State), he still might find a place to contribute before all is said and done.
Fullback: Mike Zordich
Z is a perfect addition to this backfield, as he will help keep McGloin upright while simultaneously providing another passing option out of the backfield. Also a free agent, Zordich should get a shot at least once more in the NFL before he decides to turn his career in another direction. Perhaps the Texans could give him a tryout.
Wide Receivers: Allen Robinson, Jordan Norwood, Chris Hogan, Derek Moye
Allen Robinson is the obvious number one of this unit. His supreme play-making ability will help give this offense some flash, and will hopefully save it from being over-matched by the NFL's corners. Norwood has managed to stick around in the league for some time, and will play the role of possession receiver on my team. Finally, the third leading receiver in Penn State history (isn't that nuts?) will be the wild card of this unit. Derek Moye has the size to win jump balls with ease, even against professional defenders. Hopefully Moxie's been working on his fade routes.
Tight Ends: Brett Brackett, Andrew Quarless
For those of you wondering, yes, Brackett is still floating around in the NFL (to be fair though, I only know this because the Seahawks signed him for a few days last year). All three of these guys (even Hogan, despite the fact that he played lacrosse at PSU, not football) have the potential to be very solid NFL tight ends. They add some size and toughness to the receiving options.
**EDIT-Hogan has been moved to wide receivers. The scout who put him at tight end has been let go.**
Offensive Line (LT-LG-C-RG-RT): Garry Gilliam, AQ Shipley, Stefan Wisniewski, John Urschel, Rich Ohrnberger (Backup: Johnnie Troutman)
Since Penn State only has one true tackle in the NFL currently in Garry Gilliam, we're improvising on the line here. Hopefully Ohrnberger will be able to hold his own at right tackle, at least until Donovan Smith is drafted and can take his spot. Aside from that spot though, this would be a decent line. The guard-center combo of Shipley, Wiz and Urchsel is rock solid, and Gilliam showed enough at tackle to keep his spot on the loaded Seahawks roster. All in all, the line is probably better than you thought it would be.
Defensive Ends: Tamba Hali, Cameron Wake (Backups: Jack Crawford, DaQuan Jones)
Now we're talking. If there was any doubt that the defensive side of the ball would be the more talent-laden side of this team, that doubt should have been erased with these first two names. Any quarterback would be trembling in terror if he had two all pro defensive ends flying off the edge coming straight at him (which will play into the defensive strategy that will soon be unveiled). Hali and Wake can both play the run as well, which makes them a defensive end duo unlike many others in the league today.
Defensive Tackles: Jordan Hill, Jared Odrick (Backup: Devon Still)
Jordan Hill was quickly becoming one of Seattle's two or three best defensive linemen (which is saying something) before going down with injury. He'll be back this season, and should continue to develop into one of the most promising pass-rushing tackle options in the entire league. Odrick has been a dominant force on the line for the Dolphins for some time now. Though in real life he will be taking his talents to Jacksonville, he'll be pairing with Hill here to gobble up any quarterbacks who step up in the pocket to avoid the rush.
At this point in this exercise, I've run into an issue. Penn State literally does not have one cornerback or safety currently in the NFL. Yet, I still have seven spots on the defense to be filled. You can probably already tell where I'm going with this.
ALL OF THE LINEBACKERS: Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti, Glenn Carson, Paul Posluszny, Sean Lee, Nate Stupar, NaVorro Bowman
I figure with the defensive line that I have, the linebacker army I have back here really only has to cover their receivers for a second or two before the rush hits home. Therefore I'll put Hodges and Bowman on the outside to hopefully press their men to death, or use their athleticism to stick with them for a few moments, while Mauti, Carson, Poz, Lee and Stupar unleash some combination of blitzes and field patrolling over the middle. Naturally it is Poz who will be leading the charge in the middle, with Stupar and Mauti playing in front of the slot receivers and taking on blitzing roles from the outside. Lee and Carson will supplement Poz in the middle as he tries to out-wit any opposing quarterbacks in this incredibly risky defensive style. It will be quite the defense to watch.
Kicker: Robbie Gould
Just think of him as a placeholder until Ficken is drafted.
Punter: Open Tryouts
Since Jeremy Kapinos is no longer in the league, Penn State is out of luck here. But who needs punting anyway, right?
Returner: Gerald Hodges
Another easy pick.
Head Coach: Bill O'Brien
Is there any doubt that Bill would be able to make this offense click? Give him McGloin back with a slightly more established batch of receivers, and this PSU team's offense should be able to over-perform. O'Brien will probably be a little concerned about having three guards on the line protecting his quarterback, but that just means even more short passes! Robinson will get back to his dominant ways on the screen pass, Norwood will be the beneficiary of plenty of first down catches, and Chris Hogan will probably become the most productive tight end in NFL history.
Now that I've built my team, what do you think of it? Did I forget anyone? Do you see a better option for the set-up? Should I have kept Hali at linebacker, promoted Crawford to starter and demoted Stupar to the bench? Should I have included Silas Redd, Justin Brown and Khairi Fortt? What say you?