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Up Close with Penn State offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski

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Three years ago, Pittsburgh Central Catholic graduate Stefen Wisniewski became the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a game at Penn State since center Joe Iorio in 1999.

Since then, Wisniewski—whose father Leo and uncle Steve both played at Penn State and in the NFL—has emerged as a physical, productive and instinctive offensive lineman who has played both guard and center. The highly-skilled, intelligent and physical student-athlete is poised to anchor the Lions’ offensive line as a senior in 2010. Honored as an All-Big 10 standout and a preseason All-American, Wisniewski chatted with PSR’s John Stroh at Penn State’s “Lift For Life” fundraiser last month.

PSR: Tell us about your off-season so far.

Stef: Been working hard… January to March, we're working out hard, running and lifting, then spring ball. This summer we've been running, working out hard as well as coming together as a team. I like the team atmosphere we're growing together, and there’s lot of good work going on.

PSR: As a unit, the line has some big challenges this year with some guys moving on to the NFL.

Stef: Yeah, we lost some real good players. Notably the two tackles, even our top three tackles, so we've got to replace those guys and we moved Lou Eliades out to one of the tackle spots. He played well at guard for us last year. We expect him to do well at right tackle and Quinn Barham hasn't played much yet, but he's been around the program, knows the offense and is a really hard working kid with a lot of talent. I think he's going to surprise people this year.

PSR: You’re moving back to guard after a season at center.

Stef: Yeah, I mean for me, it's a pretty easy position switch because I had played guard my first two years here and just moved back to center last year. So it's an easy switch it's kind of a natural position for me and I'm excited to be back at guard.

PSR: Not to look ahead, but you've played two positions, guard and center. Can you talk about how that might help your NFL prospects?

Stef: I think that it definitely helps me; that teams know that I've played two positions and played both at a high level and I think it can only help me for the next level.

PSR: You're going to break in a new quarterback this season – does that mean a renewed focus on the running game?

Stef: Yeah, I think with Evan Royster back there, a guy who's real close to becoming Penn State's all-time leading rusher, and a new quarterback, it would seem that we'd run the ball more. But I think our coaches still definitely want to stay balanced, keep defenses guessing, and get those quarterbacks some work so that if we do need to throw the ball, late in the game, the quarterbacks are ready.

Penn State offensive lineman Stefen WisniewskiPSR: Those quarterbacks definitely have some guys to get the ball to.

Stef: Oh absolutely, we have a heck of a receiving corps. The speed they have is just phenomenal. We want to give them the ball, and we don't know who's going to give them the ball yet, but we know once we do give them the ball, they're going to make some plays.

PSR: How do you feel about that quarterback competition?

Stef: Yeah, it's definitely a real close battle and I think the competition is making these guys better because they know it is close, and they know that every little thing they do better is going to set them apart. So we don't know who it is yet, but we've got a lot of talent there. We’re ready to get that talent a little experience.

PSR: Evan Royster is on-pace to become the all-time leading rusher at this university and jump some very prestigious names. What would that mean for the offensive line as a group?

Stef: Oh yeah, as an o-line you don't have any stats of your own, but to be able to say that we blocked for Penn State's all-time leading rusher, that's pretty cool and something we're definitely excited about.

PSR: You head down to Tuscaloosa to face a pretty good Alabama team early in the season.

Stef: We're excited about that game. It's nice to have a good game like that early in your schedule, something you can kind of focus on in your off-season and it's really exciting to get to play the defending National Champs. They have a big target on their backs, not only as winning last year, but I think they're No. 1 again going into this year, so it's exciting to get to go play that on the road, national TV, a night game. It doesn't get much better than that.

PSR: This is your final year. Has your career here been everything that you hoped?

Stef: Yeah, yeah I think it has. It's been a lot of fun, you know. I've had football success, academic success, and been able to use what I've been given to serve in the community as well, and it's been fun. I always say I'm busy as heck but I'm having a blast.

PSR: Who gives you the best advice, your dad or uncle Steve?

Stef: They both give real good advice. My dad gives it more often, because I see him more, but yeah it's great having resources like that. Those guys are huge reasons why I've had success at Penn State – because of their advice.

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