Penn State line thriving on finese instead of brute strength

Penn State's offense has been dominating all season, even though its line is small by college standards, with some starters weighing just 30 pounds more than the quarterback they protect.

"It's not an overpowering offensive line," coach Joe Paterno said. "We don't have any 325-pounders or anything like that."

Despite the lack of behemoths, the line has helped the No. 2 Nittany Lions (7-0) lead the nation in scoring with a 50.3-point average and total offense with 542.7 yards per game.

"They all run well, they've got good feet and they pass protect well," Paterno said.

Kerry Collins, the nation's top-rated passer, agrees. Before reporters could ask questions about his performance following Penn State's 63-14 victory over Ohio State Saturday, Collins praised his offensive line.

"The offensive line did an outstanding job today," he said. "Sure I was 19 for 23 and Ki-Jana (Carter) had four touchdowns, but I had all day back there, and when you have all day you can find the open receivers."

Collins, who weighs about 240 pounds, isn't much smaller than 6-foot-3 center Bucky Greeley, who weighs about 270.

Penn State's front five averages less than 285 pounds, and only 6-foot-7 tackle Keith Conlin tops 300. Ohio State's line averages 298 pounds and three starters weigh 300 or more, but the Buckeyes struggled offensively while Penn State scored touchdown after touchdown.

"Our offensive line is not big, but we work hard in the weight room, we're strong and we can run," said 6-foot-5, 280-pound guard Marco Rivera.

No. 1 Nebraska has the top rushing offense in the nation thanks to a line that features three 300-pounders, but Rivera said Penn State lineman prefer to use finesse and tenacity instead of brute strength.

"We've got great technique," he said. "We'll get into guys and keep blocking until the whistle blows. That's one thing coaches emphasize, and it works."

It definitely worked against Ohio State. Carter said he didn't remember being touched on any of his four scores, although he did break one tackle on his last touchdown. On a 20-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Carter danced through the middle of the Ohio State defense untouched, as 301-pound Conlin went airborne to take out a potential tackler.

Tight end Kyle Brady is also an important part of the line.

"Brady's one of the best blocking tight ends in the country," Paterno said.

Even Penn State's skill players take pride in their blocking.

"I think the wideouts do a good job blocking," Paterno said. "The fullbacks have done well. I think the tailbacks have done a good job and Carter has worked hard to become a better blocker."

Paterno said the linemen have been successful because they know each other so well. Rivera, Conlin, guard Jeff Hartings and tackle Andre Johnson are all juniors who were redshirted. Greeley is a fifth-year senior.

"They're a very, very cohesive group because -- knock on wood -- they've stayed healthy," Paterno said. "They practice together and they play together, as a result there is a refinement in their play that you don't get when you've got guys banged up and you have to rearrange their offensive line."