August 1, 2010

Top 120 countdown
No. 19 Penn State
Coach: Joe Paterno (45th season, 392-131-3) | Staff
Last season: 11-2, 6-2 (T-2nd in Big Ten); beat LSU in Capital One Bowl
Returning starters: Offense-8. Defense-6. Specialists-1. | Depth Chart
Final Rivals.com ranking last season: 12th. | Last season's Rivals 120

Penn State is coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons, but there appear to be too many questions for the Nittany Lions to reach double-digit wins this season.

Former starting quarterback Daryll Clark took some heat for playing poorly in big games, but his loss looks as if it will be impossible for the Nittany Lions to overcome this season.

Penn State has good skill-position talent and should have a solid line, but the hole at quarterback could haunt the Nittany Lions all season. Sophomore Kevin Newsome was expected to be the heir apparent, but he was underwhelming in spring drills and may not even win the job.

As usual, the defense is going to be stout, even if there are some holes in the front seven.

And, as usual, Joe Paterno, 83, will be on the sideline. Hey, questions can abound, but JoePa is a constant.

Here is a closer look at the Nittany Lions.

OFFENSE

THE SCHEME: Galen Hall is a sage play-caller who has done wonders with this offense since returning to his alma mater in 2004. But also credit Jay Paterno for updating this offense in recent years with his "Spread HD" scheme and for his standout work in developing quarterbacks. The Nittany Lions run a multiple offense that can spread out foes or use two-tight end sets and smash foes with the power game.

STAR POWER: Senior RB Evan Royster is back after bypassing the NFL draft. He has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in each of the past two seasons and is 480 yards from passing Curt Warner's school career record of 3,398 rushing yards. Another stud to watch is G Stefen Wisniewski, who will be one of the Big Ten's top blockers and is an All-America candidate.

IMPACT NEWCOMER: Keep an eye on redshirt freshman WR Shawney Kersey. At 6 feet 1 and 187 pounds, Kersey has nice size to go along with ample athletic ability. Another youngster to watch is true freshman QB P.J. Jones, but it's difficult to image Joe Paterno leaning on such an inexperienced signal-caller. Still, Jones is a dynamic prospect who took part in spring drills and has been compared to Donovan McNabb.

STRONGEST AREA: There is a promising corps of experienced receivers led by Derek Moye, who led the team with 48 catches for 785 yards last season. Former walk-on Graham Zug is his sidekick, and everyone is buzzing about youngsters Curtis Drake and Justin Brown. There's also Kersey.

BIGGEST PROBLEM: Who will replace QB Daryll Clark, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection? Don't expect a decision until the first week of September. Sophomore Kevin Newsome, the backup in 2009, would appear to be the front-runner, but he has a lot to prove after a mediocre spring. Fellow sophomore Matthew McGloin - who began his career as a walk-on - could be a factor, along with Jones.

DEFENSE

THE SCHEME: Tom Bradley, an alum who joined JoePa's staff in 1979 as a grad assistant and hasn't left, is considered by many to be the top defensive coordinator in the nation. He runs a varied 4-3 scheme that is built around an active linebacking corps. Bradley also is renowned for his ability to game plan and draw up stunts and blitzes.

STAR POWER: Keep an eye on E Jack Crawford. The 6-5, 256-pound London native has been in the United States only since 2005 and will be the centerpiece of what could be a strong line. Crawford has the size and speed to be a primo pass rusher, finally emerging from the shadows of T Jared Odrick, the 2009 Big Ten defensive player of the year, and LB Navorro Bowman.

IMPACT NEWCOMER: Insiders are excited about true freshman LB Mike Hull, son of former Nittany Lions LB Tom Hull. He isn't likely to start, but Hull is tough and athletic. At the least, Hull will make a big impact on special teams and as a backup. There even is a chance he could be moved to strong safety.

STRONGEST AREA: CBs A.J. Wallace and Knowledge Timmons are gone, but the secondary still looks strong. The safety tandem of Drew Astorino, who is coming off a shoulder injury that caused him to miss spring drills, and Nick Sukay, the most improved player in the secondary last season, is strong. Coaches like young CBs D'Anton Lynn, Derrick Thomas and Stephon Morris.

DATEOPPONENT
Sept. 4Youngstown State
Sept. 11at Alabama
Sept. 18Kent State
Sept. 25Temple
Oct. 2at Iowa
Oct. 9Illinois
Oct. 23at Minnesota
Oct. 30Michigan
Nov. 6Northwestern
Nov. 13at Ohio State
Nov. 20vs. Indiana (in Landover, Md.)
Nov. 27Michigan State

BIGGEST PROBLEM: The biggest priority is rebuilding a linebacking corps that lost all three starters. The staff is counting on Michael Mauti starting - and even starring - on the outside or in the middle, but he was limited in the spring while recovering from a knee injury suffered last August. Chris Colasanti figures to man the middle if Mauti isn't ready. Now is the time for junior Nate Stupar to fulfill his vast potential. There are other options, including Bani Gbadyu, Gerald Hodges and Mike Yancich.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Just flat-out awful. See if you can detect a trend. Penn State's punt-coverage team ranked 117th in the nation. The punt team ranked 114th, the kickoff-return unit ranked 107th and the punt-return team was 106th. Oh, and a punter must be found. At least the kicking is more settled with Collin Wagner back after hitting 15-of-22 field-goal attempts. But he was just 1-of-5 from beyond 40 yards.

SCHEDULE

This is broken up neatly into two six-game sections, with an open date right in the middle on Oct. 16. The first half is the toughest, with trips to Alabama and Iowa. The second half features just one scary game: at Ohio State. More good news: Indiana was paid to move its home game against the Nittany Lions to Landover, Md., meaning Penn State will play only three true road Big Ten games. One last goodie: Wisconsin isn't on the to-do list.

OVERALL OUTLOOK

Penn State appears to be in retooling mode coming off consecutive 11-2 seasons. There is a lot of work to do on a defense that must replace its three starting linebackers and two starting linemen. The offensive focal points are revamping the line and finding a quarterback. But Paterno, 83, remains a constant. He signed a contract extension after the 2008 season and has a spring in his step after undergoing Lasik eye surgery to improve his vision. Paterno may not like what he sees in the schedule. The Nittany Lions will go to a bowl but don't figure to be a serious Big Ten contender.

OFFENSE
QB Kevin Newsome (6-2/220, Soph.)
Matthew McGloin (6-1/201, Soph.)
RB Evan Royster (6-1/213, Sr.)
Stephfon Green (5-10/197, Jr.)
WR Curtis Drake (5-11/169, Soph.)
Shawney Kersey (6-1/187, R-Fr.)
WR Derek Moye (6-5/198, Jr.)
Brett Brackett (6-6/232, Sr.)
WR Graham Zug (6-2/183, Sr.)
Justin Brown (6-3/208, Soph.)
TE Andrew Szczerba (6-6/260, Jr.)
Garry Gilliam (6-6/245, R-Fr.)
LT Quinn Barham (6-3/290, Jr.)
Chima Okoli (6-4/293, Jr.)
LG DeOn'tae Pannell (6-5/300, Jr.)
Johnnie Troutman (6-4/309, Jr.)
C Doug Klopacz (6-3/284, Sr.)
Matt Stankiewitch (6-3/292, Soph.)
RG Stefen Wisniewski (6-3/297, Sr.)
John Urschel (6-3/278, R-Fr.)
RT Lou Eliades (6-4/310, Sr.)
Mike Farrell (6-6/298, Soph.)
K Collin Wagner (5-9/173, Sr.)
PR Justin Brown (6-3/208, Soph.)
DEFENSE
E Jack Crawford (6-5/256, Jr.)
Sean Stanley (6-1/232, Soph.
T Ollie Ogbu (6-1/285, Sr.)
Jordan Hill (6-1/305, Soph.)
T Devon Still (6-5/294, Sr.)
James Terry (6-3/303, Soph.
E Eric Latimore (6-6/270, Sr.)
Kevion Latham (6-2/254, Jr.)
MLB Chris Colasanti (6-2/238, Sr.)
Michael Mauti (6-2/231, Soph.)
OLB Michael Mauti (6-2/231, Soph.)
Bani Gbadyu (6-1/231, Sr.)
OLB Nate Stupar (6-1/226, Jr.)
Gerald Hodges (6-2/220, Soph.)
CB D'Anton Lynn (6-1/207, Jr.)
Chaz Powell (6-1/197, Jr.)
CB Stephon Morris (5-8/182, Soph.)
Derrick Thomas (6-0/174, R-Fr.)
FS Nick Sukay (6-1/213, Sr.)
Jacob Fagnano (6-0/201, Soph.)
SS Drew Astorino (5-10/193, Sr.)
Andrew Dailey (6-2/217, Jr.)
P Russell Nye (6-0/170, R-Fr.)
KR Chaz Powell (6-1/197, Jr.)

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.




 

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