STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Penn State's offensive line is a close-knit and nimble unit that has experience to step into other roles if the need arises - both on and off the field.
Left guard Rich Ohrnberger tried to impersonate center A.Q. Shipley during a conference call Wednesday with reporters, a joke that worked for a while. A couple inquisitive writers after the call wondered why Shipley's voice sounded a little different.
Even though it wasn't Shipley, the answers Ohnrberger gave about Saturday's game at Wisconsin were still relevant.
``It's critical in a game to have good communication,'' said Ohrnberger, posing as Shipley, before a team spokesman later confirmed the switcheroo. ``Our relationship off the field affects that. We're all very close.''
``It helps to know what kind of person you got next to you in the trenches,'' Ohrnberger said.
In his case, that would be Shipley.
ions (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) have along the line for an offense lighting up opponents for 45 points a game.
Ohrnberger, known as a practical joker, once played right guard. Shipley, a team captain also known for a dry sense of humor, was shuttled between the defensive and offensive lines early in his career.
Affable left tackle Gerald Cadogan once saw time at guard. Right guard Stefen Wisniewski, a sophomore, has taken snaps at center in practice and might be considered Shipley's heir apparent.
Compared to their other linemates, solid citizens Wisniewski and right tackle Dennis Landolt are quieter guys. Landolt was listed as the backup to Cadogan on the depth chart earlier this year.
Confused yet?
Unfortunately for opposing defenses, they're all athletic, capable blockers, and together form one of the best offensive lines that coach Joe Paterno has had in years.
All five but Wisniewski started every game last season, and Wisniewski has the added benefit of having grown up around the program. His father, Leo, played defensive line for Paterno nearly 30 years ago, and an uncle, Steve, was an All-American guard at Penn State in the late 1980s.
Line assistants Bill Kenney and Dick Anderson have given the current crew ``enough situations to where they get to recognize what looks they're going to have to block,'' Paterno said. ``They've worked hard. It's a pretty good line right now.''
is isn't a typical, beefy Big Ten line, though, like the one the Nittany Lions defense will see Saturday night at Wisconsin. The Badgers' starting five averages about 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds across; Penn State's starting five is about three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter.
The Nittany Lions' strength would be its agility and quickness. Paterno has stressed offseason conditioning to keep the line fresh for the long haul. They have been adept at pulling for tailback Evan Royster, who has scored eight touchdowns and run for 110 yards a game.
The unit might be a perfect fit for Daryll Clark, the dual-threat quarterback who is dangerous outside the pocket. Penn State quarterbacks have been sacked just six times this season.
``Each and every week, they never fail to amaze me,'' said Clark said, the Big Ten's top-rated passer. ``They all know the time and place to laugh and the time and place to go to work.''
There's still room for improvement. After steamrolling over the first four opponents, the offensive line has played well in its first two Big Ten games, though there have been some hiccups in short yardage situations.
And the Nittany Lions figure to face their toughest road challenge yet in a physical Badgers defense desperate to stave off an 0-3 start in the conference.
ock off,'' Paterno said. ``They don't make mistakes, all right?''
It's a tough assignment, though Paterno has also been impressed by how his team has handled pressure, especially as the wins pile up and expectations grow.
``There's always something to prove. ... Every week it's not so much a concern, how we're portrayed in the media, how other teams think of us. It's how we think of us,'' Ohrnberger said.
Or was that Shipley?
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