September 26, 2010

Offensive line suffers first setback

In what senior Stefen Wisniewski called the offensive line's "best day yet," the Nittany Lion offense racked up 439 total yards, but lost a key component to the offensive line with an apparent knee injury.

Head coach Joe Paterno said after the game that senior offensive tackle Lou Eliades will miss the remainder of the season due to a probable tear in his ACL. Besides Wisniewski, Eliades, who is a red-shirt senior, had the most experience among a starting offensive line, which has struggled with its consistency throughout the season.

"You can't really replace Lou, the experience he has as a 5th year guy and he probably made 17 starts or so," said Wisniewski. "You can't replace experience. I think that is the biggest loss and his toughness. He is a tough kid, loved to hit people and was great at it."

Fellow 5th year senior Doug Klopacz, who has suffered two ACL tears, said he knows Eliades' pain and is doing anything he can to help out a friend.

"Me and Lou were roommates when we got up here as freshman and everything. I did it 2 years ago, so I first went in there, gave him a hug and told him 'everything was going to be all right.' He is a tough kid. He knows what he has to do," said Klopacz.

Chima Okoli out of Virginia Beach (Va.) has backed up Eliades all season and will likely take over at the right tackle position. Okoli spent last year on the defensive side of the ball before being switched to offense for 2010. The transition has been tough for the 6-foot-4 Okoli, but he is doing all the right things to succeed.

"Obviously, I still don't have everything down yet, but I am in the film room every night. I stay late; I come early, because that is really the only way you will be able to handle all the stuff you have to," he said.

Klopacz said although Okoli is inexperienced, he should still be able to fill in nicely.

"Chima is a good football player. He brings a lot to the table, but he is relatively new to being a starter. He composed himself well the rest of the game," said Klopacz. "He played well and did what he had to do. That is what we are looking for."

Okoli's window to improve is very small with a brutal Big Ten schedule waiting less than a week away. For him, the only thing he can do is go out and play football.

"I am comfortable in my ability. There are just a lot of things that no matter how much you study there are a lot of things that you need game experience," said Okoli.

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