Big Ten

2010 NCAA Football Analysis: Penn State Nittany Lions

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 11-2, 6-2
Bowl Game: Capital One Bowl (W 19-17 vs. LSU)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): 9, 8
Conference finish: 3rd Big Ten Conference
Offensive rank: 37
Defensive rank: 9

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Evan Royster, 1,169 yards, 6 TD
Passing: Daryll Clark, 3,003 yards, 24 TD, 10 INT
Receiving: Derek Moye, 785 yards, 6 TD; Graham Zug, 600 yards, 7 TD
Tackles: Josh Hull, 116 total tackles; Navorro Bowman, 93 total tackles
Sacks: Jared Odrick, 7 sacks (6 solo, 2 assisted)
Interceptions: A.J. Wallace, 3 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 11 @ Alabama: Following what should be more-or-less a scrimmage against Youngstown State, Penn State gets the defending champs. In Tuscaloosa. The Nittany Lions will field a new quarterback under center, but experience and depth throughout the offense could make this one closer than some may think. If the Penn State defense can stop the 'Bama rushing attack post-Bowman/Lee/Hull, they'll have a legitimate shot at an early season upset.

October 2 @ Iowa: Like the 'Bama matchup a few weeks earlier, this one will be played away from home. This is some way to open the conference schedule against an Iowa team that won the Orange Bowl after being awarded an at-large berth. Again, we'll get an early feel for how Penn State will fare this season. Penn State has struggled against Iowa recently and haven't won in Iowa City since 1999.

November 13 @ Ohio State: Again, Penn State must hit the road to take on their stronger opponents in 2010. The matchups against Alabama and Ohio State pit the Nittany Lions against the preseason #1 and #2 in the Coaches' Poll. If the Buckeyes are undefeated going into this one, a Penn State team that you can bet will be gunning for them could deal Ohio State an absolutely crushing blow here.


Coaches': 14

Key Losses

Darryl Clark, QB; Andrew Quarless, TE; Dennis Landolt, OT; Jared Odrick, DT; Navorro Bowman, LB; Sean Lee, LB; Josh Hull, LB

Key Returning Players

Evan Royster, RB; Derek Moye, WR; Graham Zug, WR; Stefan Wisniewski, G/C; Jack Crawford, DE; Ollie Ogbu, DT; Nick Sukay, S

Offensive Overview

The big news on the offensive side of the ball is the quarterback battle between Kevin Newsome and former walk-on Matt McGloin. Many consider Newsome the favorite at this point, although McGloin does not count himself among that group. "Because I am a former walk-on, people assume I can't get the job done," McGloin said according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It just makes me work harder and use that as motivation. That's where I am right now. ... I wouldn't consider [Newsome] having the lead over me." Newsome is nonetheless considered the favorite, but pay attention to preseason camp, as McGloin could surprise a few people even if he doesn't come away with the starting job. True freshman Paul Jones also cannot be counted out of the race.

Derek Moye and Graham Zug will start the year as the team's top receivers, but Curtis Drake, who many expected to work on the inside or as a deep threat on the outside, suffered a hairline fracture on August 9 that will keep him out for a number of weeks (the jury is still out as to exactly how much time he will miss, but 6-8 weeks seems to be a general timeframe). Penn State is extremely deep and talented at the position though, and his absence will give Shawney Kersey, Justin Brown and Brett Brackett just that much more work. Still, the speedy Drake should be a welcomed return when he's fully healed.

The running game will see perhaps Penn State's best running back in school history surpass Curt Warner's (1979-82) school record for career rushing yards. Evan Royster needs 481 more rushing yards to supplant Warner's career 3,398 yards. Stephfon Green will work behind Royster and is a pretty talented back himself. Curtis Dukes could also see time carrying the ball.

On the offensive line, Stefan Wisniewski moves from center, where he was an All-Big Ten first teamer, to right guard with senior Doug Klopacz getting the start at center. Quinn Barham will be the left tackle, Lou Eliades the right tackle and DeOn'tae Pannel the left guard opposite Wisniewski. Johnnie Troutman could compete with Pannel to retake his left guard spot, a spot he gave up to Pannel after injuring his leg last season.

Defensive Overview

Penn State lost all three linebackers last season in Navorro Bowman, Sean Lee and Josh Hull. The three finished first, second and third on the team in tackles with Hull leading the way with 116 and Bowman and Lee finishing with 93 and 86, respectively. Michael Mauti, who was supposed to be the star at the second line of defense last season before an ACL tear ended his season before it started. He, along with a slew of talented linebackers in Nathan Stupar, Chris Colasanti, Bani Gbadyu, Gerald Hodges and Michael Yanich, will take over for the departed linebackers, but replacing their production may take some time.

Defensive tackle Jared Odrick's departure leaves a hole in the middle of the defensive line, but Devon Still will get his shot to shine in the starting lineup after serving as a backup last season. If he can stay healthy, he will help form a formidable interior group with Ollie Ogbu playing next to him and Jordan Hill and James Terry providing depth. At end, the focus will be on Jack Crawford, who recorded 5.5 sacks and 31 tackles last season. Crawford provides a good pass rush and could put up nice numbers this season. Eric Latimore, a bigger end, and Kevion Latham, more of a speed rusher, looked good this offseason and will combine with Crawford, Ogbu and Still to form a strong starting defensive line.

The secondary will be led by cornerback D'Anton Lynn, who could also play safety. With Lynn the top corner, Stephon Morris will start on the opposite side. Morris could end up impressing a lot of people this season despite his 5'8 frame. Chaz Powell, a productive wide receiver last season, will move to cornerback this year to provide depth with Derrick Thomas also available. At safety will be Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay. Astorino is expected back after shoulder surgery, but if he cannot stay healthy Andrew Dailey will step in to fill the strong safety spot. This is a very good starting unit; one that could end up as one of the conference's, if not the nation's, top units if everybody can avoid injury.

Special Teams Overview

The special teams were horrible in 2010. Penn State finished 106th or worse in the nation in net punting, punt returns and kickoff returns. Collin Wagner was a decent kicker, hitting 15 of his 22 field goal attempts and each of his 46 PAT attempts. At punter, could wide receiver Graham Zug get the job? Probably not, but it's not out of the question. Russell Nye is first in line to take over for Jeremy Boone whose 43.2 punting average was far better than the team's 114th net punting rank would indicate.

Chaz Powell will resume his role as the kick returner after averaging 23.2 yards per return, though the Nittany Lions averaged less than 20 yards per return as a team. In the punt return game, Justin Brown will get the first shot at the starting spot coming off a season where he averaged less than six yards per return. Some life is needed in the return game and the coverage teams need to stiffen up if this team hopes to prevent the opposition from starting with excellent field position.

Head Coach: Joe Paterno

What can I say about Joe Paterno that hasn't already been said? He's 83 years old and, while he's had a few health problems of late, he remains the leader of this Penn State team. There are those who want him to retire so the decade-long question of when he'll finally do so is answered and the Nittany Lions can move forward knowing what the next couple of years will hold, but the general consensus is that he should be allowed to walk away when he feels he's ready. A courtesy and acknowledgement that Bobby Bowden should have been afforded at Florida State.

Yes, college football is a business whether we like to admit it or not, but at a certain point a coach has to be given some kind of preferential treatment after 60 years with a program, especially when that program is the only program he's ever known as a coach. To try to put it into perspective, Harry Truman was in the second year of his second term as President when Paterno began his coaching career with the Nittany Lions. When he was born in December of 1926 in Brooklyn, New York, Babe Ruth was at roughly the mid-point of his career and had just eclipsed 350 homeruns (356 to be exact). When he's ready, he will retire. No sooner.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Evan Royster, RB; Graham Zug, WR; Stefan Wisniewski, C; Ollie Ogbu, DT; Bani Gbadyu, LB

Season Prediction

4th Big Ten Conference

The Nittany Lions get the champions of the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl and the entire friggin' nation this year, and they have to play them all in unfriendly territory. Assume those are all losses for a minute, and we're still looking at a 9-3 season with a jump to the double-digits if they can grab their bowl game. Nab either the Iowa or Ohio State game and the Nittany Lions could be in contention for the Big Ten crown. In such a top-heavy conference, Ohio State is the favorite, but the top spot could realistically go to the Buckeyes, Hawkeyes, Badgers or Nittany Lions.

If Kevin Newsome or Matt McGloin can come in and be successful at the most important position on the field, this could be a whole different ballgame. The offense won't be one-dimensional, but Penn State will rely heavily on Evan Royster and the running game against some pretty tough Big Ten defenses if the quarterbacks can't find their groove by the time they enter conference play against Iowa. Royster is a stud, but the line needs to do a better job at opening holes in matchups against Ohio State and Iowa—two teams with some pretty impressive front sevens to say the least. Two losses in this conference will likely push them out of contention.

Linebacker U will replace all three linebackers, and while the talent is there, as it almost always is, the transition at all three positions on the second line of defense could be a hiccup for this team in the early part of the season when they take on Alabama and Iowa. The defensive line should be outstanding, however.

And don't forget, wins over Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State is no guarantee. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.


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