Wisniewski must deal with change
By Cory Giger,email@example.com
Stefen Wisniewski not only is replacing the best center in the country, he's also replacing Penn State's best leader.
Oh, and he's learning a new position to boot.
Good luck with all that.
"It's really a lot different," Wisniewski said of his switch from guard to center. "It's actually kind of more different than I expected."
He's not phased by it, however, saying he views the move as "an opportunity, not as pressure."
Wisniewski has enjoyed having his predecessor, A.Q. Shipley, around this spring to help him adapt. Shipley, the Rimington Trophy winner as the nation's best center in 2008, has been working out at Penn State in preparation for the NFL draft.
"I'm excited to be filling in for the best center in the country because I got to learn from him," Wisniewski said. "I got to work with him last year, asking him how he blocks and things.
"He's been around this spring working out, so I've been bugging him all the time with questions - how do you step here, how do you use your hands here? It's really been a blessing having him around."
Shipley has no doubt Wisniewski will be able to handle the switch.
"The kid is an extremely smart kid," Shipley said. "He's going to be a heck of a center."
Wisniewski, a junior this fall, started 12 games at right guard last season and even earned one start as a true freshman in 2007. This year, he will be an integral part of a revamped offensive line that lost three starters - Shipley, left tackle Gerald Cadogan and left guard Rich Ohrnberger.
"He was a backup center last year; he played guard and center," PSU coach Joe Paterno said of Wisniewski. "He's a smart kid, and I think he can do both. Wisniewski comes from a football family. His uncle [Steve] and father [Leo] were great football players here. Young Wisniewski will be fine."
The center position is a natural leadership spot on the field, and Shipley excelled in that role. Wisniewski is still learning in that regard.
"The center is, whether he's a leader or not, he's kind of in charge of organizing everybody with calling the huddle and with calling the blocking schemes," Wisniewski said. "So everyone kind of has to look to the center anyway for some of those things."
He's only moving about a foot and a half to his left, but Wisniewski's new position offers one big difference.
"You have a lot less space to work with as a center - with the nose guard kind of being right on your face - as opposed to guard, where you've got a solid yard back off the ball of space to work with," Wisniewski said.
It may not sound like much, but it's a major adjustment.
"They're on you," Shipley said of the defensive linemen, "so it's being able to be laterally quick whenever you're blocking."
Wisniewski has to approach the center spot a little differently than Shipley because of his height. Wisniewski is 6-foot-3 and 302 pounds, while Shipley is two inches shorter at 6-1, 297.
"One advantage he had, being a little shorter, is he had an easier time with leverage," Wisniewski said.