Royer's Early Evaluation

Rookie linebacker talks about his first semester at Penn State, the early enrollment process and where he thinks he is headed.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Penn State freshman linebacker Dakota Royer said before a banquet appearance Wednesday night in Lancaster, Pa., that in his view there is “a 75 percent chance” he will redshirt the 2010 season.

At the same time Royer, who enrolled at PSU in January, acknowledged that an injury to a player in front of him on the depth chart could change that scenario. During spring practice he was running with the third team at weakside 'backer, behind senior Bani Gbadyu and sophomore Gerald Hodges.

Barring that, Royer said, “I'm planning on redshirting this season.”

Doing so will allow Royer, who at present carries 226 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame, to add another 15 or 20 pounds and possibly develop into an “Aaron Maybin-type of guy,” as he put it, naming the former Nittany Lion and current Buffalo Bill.

The coaches, Royer said, “want me to play linebacker, but they also want me to be able to pass rush.”

And, he said, “My heart is always at defensive end, because that's where I've played my whole life. … I just think I'm more of a defensive end, but that's not going to come around until I gain more weight.”

Royer was employed as a pass rusher at Manheim Central High, not far from Lancaster. He said it was “a big change” to play in space at outside 'backer, as was the case during spring drills.

“I had to learn from scratch,” he said. “I didn't know much how to play. I kind of went on instinct, and I just learned what I could learn in that short period of time. But I'd really like to get back down to putting my hand on the ground here and there, because that's what I enjoy.”

Royer was one of eight players to enroll early at Penn State this year, an increasingly common practice throughout college football with which Nittany Lions assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Mike McQueary does not agree.

“I'm not sure it's good for the kids, and I don't think it's good for college football,” McQueary said before addressing the crowd at Wednesday's event, which was sponsored by the Manheim Touchdown Club.

After all, he added, “You're only 18 once.”

McQueary acknowledged that things will only change via NCAA legislation -- or, perhaps, a program's individual choice.

“From a personal standpoint as a recruiting coordinator,” he said, “I think there comes a time and place where you say as a program that maybe you don't pursue it.”

He did not say that PSU is anywhere close to doing that. And he did admit that there are “selfish advantages” to having freshmen on campus early.

“For me to get 15 practices (in the spring) out of a kid, yeah, I like that,” he said.

But he likes little else about this growing trend.

“Sometimes I think you have to draw the line,” he said. “What will it be 10 years from now? Now we're gonna skip their whole senior year?”

Penn State's semester ended in plenty of time for Royer to attend his senior prom last weekend, and while he graduated from Manheim Central Jan. 8 (the day before he came to PSU), he will be able to take part in commencement ceremonies June 11. He was also able to return home three other times during the semester.

So while he admitted in December to some trepidation about enrolling early, he said it has generally been a good thing. Any adjustment issues he might have had are now behind him.

Prior to spring practice he endured the 5 a.m. conditioning sessions every Tuesday and Thursday with his new teammates. He lifted with them every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all the while understanding that the upperclassmen were evaluating him and the other newcomers.

“They want to see the early guys: 'What do they have?' ” Royer said. “You want to go full-bore the whole time.”

He said it was difficult to do that right off the bat.

“The first day” -- a running day -- “was tough,” he said.

But he adapted to that, as well as the academic demands of college. Royer took five classes -- English, math, economics, human development and sociology

It all added up to “a really big change,” he said. Especially since the longest he had been away from home before this was “a week, maybe.”

“Spring break came at the perfect time,” he said. “We all needed to get out of there -- go home, settle our minds down. That way when we came back, we knew what we were getting ourselves back into. I enjoyed it and everything, but I really enjoyed coming home; I was so anxious to get (away from) home, and now I really love coming home.”

In fact, he found himself counting the days until his return to Lancaster County.

“There's things I wish I would have been home for,” Royer said, “but I'm also glad I did experience (early enrollment), and tried something new. … So I go both ways.”

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