As Black Shoe Diaries celebrates its 10-year anniversary, we're marking the occasion by reflecting on an eventful decade for Penn State sports. Today, we look back at the best offensive players at each position since BSD's birth back in 2006.
QB: Daryll Clark
Many expected prized recruit Pat Devlin to claim the starting job heading into 2008, but the less-heralded Clark proved too good to keep on the sidelines. Clark displayed stunning arm strength and accuracy for a dual-threat quarterback who could also pick up major yardage when he decided to scramble. His biggest weakness may have been a tendency to force throws in clutch moments, but had the last laugh by leading an epic drive to defeat LSU in the Capital One Bowl in his final game as a Nittany Lion. Clark received back-to-back All-Big Ten honors and boasted a 22-4 career record as a starter. Long live the fist-pump.
RB: Evan Royster
Of the long list of greats to play running back at Penn State, not many could claim the ability to see the entire field quite like Royster. Never the fastest or most powerful back on the team, his vision allowed him to make cuts at just the right time to elude defenders and pick up extra yardage. He became one of the team's primary backs in 2007 as a redshirt freshman before becoming the starter in 2008 on his way to claiming the title as the all-time rushing yards leader in Penn State history. Also, did you know he played lacrosse?
RB: Tony Hunt
If you're an old-school football fan, you assuredly had a man-crush on Tony Hunt during his time at Penn State. Hunt entered the program as "the other back" to Austin Scott, but quickly took the role as the team's lead ballcarrier as a freshman. Hunt was an extremely powerful back who seemed to get stronger as the game went on. By the fourth quarter it seemed as though defenders were flat-out tired of tackling him. Hunt had a remarkable senior season in 2006, gaining 1,645 yards from scrimmage (1,386 rushing) and 14 touchdowns. In his final game as a Nittany Lion, Hunt racked up 158 rushing yards to lead the team to an 20-10 upset victory against #17 Tennessee.
OL: Levi Brown
Brown's senior season in 2006 coincided with the very start of the BSD era, but he has been the most celebrated Penn State offensive lineman of the past two decades. He started a total of 45 games throughout his Nittany Lion career and protected Anthony Morelli's blindside in his senior year, leading a line that gave up 23 sacks on the season, a number that seems incredibly small following the past two disastrous seasons of quarterback protection. He also helped lead the way for a physical rushing attack led by Tony Hunt, which often wore down defenses and was the heart and soul of the 2006 offense. More recently, Brown returned to Penn State to earn his master's degree.
OL: John Urschel
One of the smartest people to ever wear shoulder pads, Penn State was lucky that Urshel eschewed scholarships from MIT and other elite schools to continue his dream of playing football. Urschel came to Penn State at just the right time- not only did he dominate in the trenches when the offensive line was in a bit of an upheaval, he became the face of a wounded program that many argued represented all that was wrong with college athletics. Along with Mike Reid, Urshel is easily one of the most beloved and well-rounded people to ever come through the program.
OL: Stephen Wisniewski
One of the many legacy players from the Paterno era, Wisniewski was a key contributor from the start of his career that spanned from 2007-2010. he shifted back-and-forth from center to guard based on where the team needed him at the moment, and provided steady leadership as the unit regrouped in 2009 following a Big Ten title, and again in 2010 with an extremely young offense. Wisniewski earned all-conference and All-American honors during his time at Penn State, and was equally impressive off the field as a three-time Academic All-American.
OL: Rich Ohrnberger
Ohrnberger was known as a goofball off the field, but had one of the nastiest streaks of any Penn State offensive linemen in recent memory. He had a reputation for clearing holes that you could drive a MAC truck through, and always played to the whistle. If you're a true football nerd that loves the big uglies up front, Ohrnberger was an absolute joy to watch push people around all over the field. It can be argued that Ohrnberger was Penn State's most underrated player of the decade.
OL: A.Q. Shipley
All in all, probably the best offensive lineman to play for Penn State during the BSD era. With Shipley and Ohrnberger playing next to each other, the interior of the Nittany Lions offensive line could move mountains. Shipley was honored as the best center in the nation in 2008 with the Rimington Award. Surprisingly, he lasted until the seventh round because of his "short arms." Eight years later, he's anchoring the offensive line for one of the best teams in the NFL.
WR: Allen Robinson
An argument can easily be made that Robinson had the best career of anyone on this list, as well as the greatest wide receiver to ever play at Penn State, topping legends like O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram. Some Penn State fans thought the team had wasted a scholarship on Robinson when he committed, and boy did he prove them wrong. After a three-catch season as a true freshman, Robinson would go on to obliterate the record books in 2012 and 2013. It was often clear Robinson was a man among boys in the college ranks, even when facing off against some of the nation's best defensive backs. He could burn past defenders for a deep ball, outleap anyone in tight coverage and turn a simple screen pass into a long touchdown scamper at the drop of a hat. Robinson waited until the end of the second round to hear his name called in the NFL draft because of a sub-par 40-yard dash, but is once again proving critics wrong by quickly shaping into one of the top receivers in the NFL.
WR: Deon Butler
Butler entered the program as a walk-on defensive back on a 4-7 team and left as the school's all-time leader in receptions with two Big Ten Championship rings. A major, perhaps primary, reason the program had a renaissance season in 2005 was the much-needed boost in talent in the receiving corps. Along with Justin King, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood, Butler helped lift the offense to new heights as the rest of the Big Ten didn't know what hit them. Butler finished his storied career with 179 receptions (first in program history), 2,771 receiving yards (second in program history) and 22 touchdown receptions (third in school history). Year in and year out he produced, and was a model of consistency as well as being one of the more vocal leaders during his era with the Nittany Lions.
TE: Andrew Quarless
Despite briefly being dubbed as "Tight End U." during the Bill O'Brien era, Penn State doesn't have many dominating tight ends that played at a high level throughout their Nittany Lion career. Quarless was probably the best of the bunch, though. A huge target that knew how to make catches in traffic and a standout in the red zone. Who knows just what Quarless could have accomplished at Penn State if not for a few stints in JoePa's doghouse?
ATH: Derrick Williams
Perhaps Williams wasn't used properly to maximize his ability while at Penn State, but man was he electrifying with the ball in his hands. The top recruit in his class took a huge chance by joining the Nittany Lions and had an immediate impact by helping to completely open up the offense in 2005 before an arm injury ended his season prematurely. During his time at Penn State, Williams did it all- whether as a receiver, runner, returner or even passer, he gave opposing defense fits and added the game-changing playmaking ability that was so sorely lacking in the Dark Years. He still remains likely the best return man in program history and symbolizes the re-birth of a program that many felt had its best days behind them.
K: Kevin Kelly
Kelly was a four-year starter who continued to improve each season at Penn State. He had his best season as a senior in 2008, scoring 120 points by connecting on 20 of 24 field goal attempts and nailing all 60 extra point tries. Not only is he the leading scorer in program history, he also holds an NCAA record for connecting on a field goal in 31 consecutive contests.