Penn State's Mike Farrell settling into senior season

Mike Farrell was worn down last winter. He was putting in eight hour days student teaching at Park Forest Middle School in State College, and got sick a few times. He couldn't focus on football or weightlifting with full attention.

Entering spring practice, the offensive tackle was 280 pounds.

"It seemed to wear me down a little bit," he said. "I couldn't get right amount of rest and nutrition."

Over the summer, Farrell had more time to focus on football. And his body. Right now, the senior is at 306 pounds, and playing an important role on Penn State's offensive line, which has been a bright spot this season.

The Nittany Lions have allowed just eight sacks through six games. And they've assisted Penn State's run game, which has preformed well despite low expectations after Silas Redd bolted to USC.

Much of the offensive line's success this season can be attributed to first-year offensive line coach Mac McWhorter. The group was a question mark entering the season, returning just one starter in the front five.

McWhorter, who came out of retirement to join Bill O'Brien's staff, was a longtime assistant at Texas. He was voted among his peers as the top assistant coach in the country in 2008.

"I looked him up ... someone who knew his coaching past informed me about it," Farrell said. "We realized right away how fortunate we were to have this coach."

For Farrell, who had one previous career start before this season, this year has been somewhat of a revelation. He plays both right and left tackle -- versatility that is highly valued by O'Brien's staff.

When he went home over the bye week, he said he began to reflect and realize his collegiate career is winding down.

At 6-foot-6, the senior possess NFL size. He's a player the dozens of scouts that have attended Penn State practices this season could be taking a look at.

If he keeps it up, that aspiration might not be so far out of reach.

-Emily Kaplan