Wolverines Gear Up For PSU

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- An ideal candidate to run Michigan's sputtering spread offense will be on display for coach Rich Rodriguez when the Wolverines visit Happy Valley this weekend.
Unfortunately for him, Daryll Clark plays quarterback for unbeaten and third-ranked Penn State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten).
"He's a big, strong guy that can run," Rodriguez said. "He's had a few years in their program. He's really seemed to hit his stride right now."
Just like Penn State's Spread HD offense, which is humming along at a Big Ten-best 45.3 points per game thanks in large part to Clark.
Get ready for a matchup Saturday between two teams with quarterback situations and offenses going in opposite directions.
Michigan (2-4, 1-1) is scoring a Big Ten-low 18.8 points a game, frustrating Wolverines fans used to big wins and bowl games.
These young Wolverines haven't been able to pick up Rodriguez' spread scheme. Six of Michigan's 11 offensive starters are first-year players.
Ten offensive players have made their first career starts this season, including the top two quarterbacks, Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. To top it off, Threet was listed as questionable earlier this week for Saturday's game because of an elbow injury.
"To say the lack of production is based on a scheme is not truthful, not realistic. I think we'll have growing pains no matter what situations we're in," Rodriguez said. "They're very conscientious, working hard. They're going to get it, I know they will. I just hope it's sooner rather than later."
He could use a cool, calming influence for his offense ... such as Clark.
The talk of the Big Ten has thrown for 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions and completed 64 percent of his passes. Dangerous outside and inside the pocket, Clark has also run for six TDs.
Just two months ago, Clark and sophomore Pat Devlin were in a heated competition for the starting job.
Now, his name is starting to be tossed around in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
"If I could vote for him, I would put him as front-runner," receiver Derrick Williams said.
Coach Joe Paterno offered a more reserved opinion.
"I think Daryll Clark's a heck of a college football player right now," Paterno said. "Where would he rate? I don't know. We've got a lot of football to play yet."
Regardless, it's an impressive start for someone thrust into one of the toughest and most high-profile jobs in Pennsylvania.
A struggling quarterback at Penn State will feel the heat of impatient fans calling for immediate change. Clark's predecessor, two-year starter Anthony Morelli, was familiar with that feeling.
But Clark has shined thus far, making few mistakes and shaking off the errors he's made.
He's benefited from the plethora of other weapons at Penn State, like Williams and fellow fleet receivers Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler, and running back Evan Royster.
Clark deflected his success to his teammates.
"It's very flattering, but that is the last thing I'm thinking about right now," Clark said Wednesday about the Heisman talk.
He has also quickly earned the respect of those same teammates with his confident and hard-nosed attitude.
A perfect example came in the 48-7 win over Wisconsin last week when Clark ran an option play from the 2 and pitched to Royster at the last second before a vicious hit from linebacker Jonathan Casillas sent him flying to the turf. Royster scored.
"It's all about taking one for the team," Clark said.
That team could have been West Virginia, while Rodriguez was there, had things turned out differently in Clark's high school recruiting. Clark said the Mountaineers were the early leader before he landed in Happy Valley.
"We thought he would be a great quarterback in any offense, but in particular the spread offense," Rodriguez said.
A difference now in the fortunes of Penn State and Michigan may be coaching philosophies.
Paterno said he's allowed his assistants to open up the playbook this season because he's comfortable that this group of players has the experience and talent to execute the spread. He's correct so far, with Clark proving to be a perfect fit.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, has tried to install his spread mostly with players he hasn't recruited, players who don't seem to be suited for the style.
At quarterback, both Threet and Sheridan have been inconsistent, at best. Rodriguez said this week he didn't look at Michigan's QB situation before he took the job.
"It's just been frustrating, the progress at times," he said. "We're going to keep working with them and I think they'll continue to progress."

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