2011 Penn State Preview
Penn State WR Derek Moye
Penn State WR Derek Moye
Posted Jun 21, 2011

Where's the Penn State talent? Last year's All-Big Ten teams were missing Nittany Lions as injuries and inexperience played a big part in the rebuilding season. The defense should be back to form, but the offense needs to settle on a quarterback and needs a big year from WR Derek Moye. Check out the 2011 CFN Penn State Preview.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Joe Paterno
46th year: 401-135-3
Returning Lettermen: 42
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Penn State Players
1. LB Michael Mauti, Jr.
2. CB D'Anton Lynn, Sr.
3. DT Devon Still, Sr.
4. FS Nick Sukay, Sr.
5. LB Nate Stupar, Sr.
6. WR Derek Moye, Sr.
7. SS Drew Astorino, Sr.
8. DE Jack Crawford, Sr.
9. OT Quinn Barham, Sr.
10. LB Gerald Hodges, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 Indiana State
Sep. 10 Alabama
Sep. 17 at Temple
Sep. 24 Eastern Michigan
Oct. 1 at Indiana
Oct. 8 Iowa
Oct. 15 Purdue
Oct. 22 at Northwestern
Oct. 29 Illinois
Nov. 12 Nebraska
Nov. 19 at Ohio State
Nov. 26 at Wisconsin

Stefen Wisniewski.

The former guard was Penn State's only first-team All-Big Ten selection last year, and he was a second-teamer on the media's list.

Running back Evan Royster got a little bit of love from the coaches' second team, as did defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu, but they didn't get on the media's first or second teams.

In 2009, Penn State had six first-team All-Big Ten players and five second-teamers. In 2008, ten Nittany Lions got first team recognition and two were on the second team.

And Penn State went 7-6 in 2010.

If the talent is in place, and healthy, then everything will be fine, the Nittany Lions will be in the Big Ten title hunt, and last season will be an aberration. If the all-star talent doesn't rise up – and there is all-star talent on this team – then the program will be seen as tired and in need of a Jimbo Fisher-like energy boost.

There are three ways to look at the Penn State coaching situation. Either ...

1) Joe Paterno is like a Paul McCartney concert. No one really needs to hear Let It Be again, but it's still special to watch a living legend do his thing. Or …

2) Paterno is the relative who just won't go home. You love him, but your plans are being held up because he's taking a nap on the couch. Or …

3) Paterno is Betty White. Just when you think the old thing is a gimmick, everything still works and there's still more fun to be had.

Penn State has to keep winning for it to be the No. 3 situation, or else there's a Capital One ad with Paterno's name on it. No, going 7-6 with a bowl loss isn't going to cut it too much longer for a program that should be in the national title debate on a regular basis.

Fans have been going through The Next Coach debate for more than 20 years, and Paterno is still kicking, still the head man, and still the legend who deserves the respect and the right to go out however he sees fit. Bobby Bowden was a great football coach who made Florida State football. Joe Paterno is Penn State University.

No, of course Paterno isn't going to be a micromanager, and yes, he's a figurehead more than anything else, but the players still respect him, they still want to play hard for him, and they still think there's something cool about the head coach being JOE PATERNO.

But does having Paterno as the head man translate into bringing in the top-shelf recruits? Not necessarily, but for now, the potential is there for the All-Big Ten teams that were woefully short of Nittany Lions to be fully stocked again.

The defense had injury problems throughout last year with key ends Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore banged up, star linebacker Michael Mauti out for a stretch, and with playmaking safety Nick Sukay and tough corner Stephon Morris out for a key chunk of time. All five of those players have all-star potential going into this season, to go along with an already loaded defense led by defensive tackle Devon Still and corner D'Anton Lynn, who are both near-locks for post-season honors.

The team still came up with a winning campaign despite the poor run blocking line and a painfully inefficient and inconsistent passing game thanks to a sometimes goofy, sometimes contentious quarterback situation.

Penn State had its down year, and it struggled too much against the better teams, but the program always roars back when it's full of veterans and full of developed depth. 2010 turned out to be a bit of a transitional season, and no matter how it happens or who's running the show, now it's time for Paterno and his staff to come up with one more big run and one more special campaign.

And the 2011 All-Big Ten teams will be back to normal.

What to watch for on offense: The ongoing quarterback situation. Rob Bolden has the talent and has the upside, but he didn't get too much of a break last season and he played like the freshman that he was. He has the potential to be terrific, but that requires the patience that this veteran team probably won't have. Matt McGloin became a national folk hero for a stretch when he came in and bombed away in a few key wins to turn the season around, but there's a ceiling on what he can do. Will Bolden scream about transferring if the coaching staff goes with McGloin? What about big, talented redshirt freshman Paul Jones? There are several different options to think about, the coaching staff will go with one, and it'll stick with it no matter what.

What to watch for on defense: The return of Linebacker U. Along with the quarterback situation, the linebacking corps had to undergo the biggest overhaul last year losing Navarro Bowman, Sean Lee, and Josh Hull. It was a rocky year, and there weren't enough big plays being made, but there were some positive moments at all three spots. This season is when it should all come together as Michael Mauti should put up All-Big Ten numbers and should be a breakout star if he can stay healthy. Nate Stupar will put up big numbers on the outside again, but he'll be pushed by Khairi Fortt, one of the stars of the offseason. Gerald Hodges is destined to finish among the team's top three in tackles, and Mike Hull is an undersized but promising backup for the outside.

The team will be far better if … The offensive line can run block. It seems crazy that Penn State can't generate a consistent push for the running game, but the line has turned into a – wait for it – finesse group that's athletic, quick, and great in pass protection. Quinn Barham and Chima Okoli are two big, tough veteran tacklers who can change that, and 323-pound guard Johnnie Troutman has the bulk to bang away, but now the holes have to open up for the speedy Silas Redd and Stephfon Green to run through.

The schedule: Brutal … BRUTAL. This might be among the most unfair schedules that any big-name team has to face. Fine, so scheduling Indiana State, at Temple, and Eastern Michigan are hardly sweat-inducing, but those are forgivable with Alabama coming to Happy Valley on September 10th. The Nittany Lions couldn't possibly get a worse break in interdivisional play facing Iowa, Nebraska, and going to Northwestern, but the bigger problem comes against the Leaders. After dealing with Illinois in the final game of October, the team gets a week off before a nasty finishing kick facing the Huskers before going on the road to deal with Ohio State and Wisconsin. On the plus side, in the middle of the season, PSU gets four home games in five, but it'll be asking too much to be better than 1-2 over the final three games.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Derek Moye. It would be interesting to see what he could do with a real, live, bomber of a quarterback throwing his way. It'll be interesting to see if he can come up with a good enough season to get the NFL scouts interested, because the tools are all there with 6-5, 202-pound size and sub-4.5 speed. Projected to be a late round pick if he chose to come out early, to move up he has to be even more of a big play threat and even more of a home run hitter after leading the team with 53 catches for 885 yards and eight scores.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Michael Mauti. Call this a projection and assume he's going to stay healthy. Able to play any position in the linebacking corps, the 6-2, 234-pounder is a big hitter who'll get to play after play on the way to well over 100 tackles – again, if he can stay healthy. He was dinged up throughout last year and missed a few games, but he still made 67 tackles with two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Corner D'Anton Lynn might turn out to be the team's best defensive player, and tackler Devon Still could be the most valuable, but Mauti will have the stats.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Rob Bolden and/or junior QB Matt McGloin. The key to the ultra-successful Penn State teams in recent years was a veteran leader under center. Michael Robinson went from decent to phenomenal and the 2005 season became something special. Daryll Clark took the team by the horns and the Nittany Lions went to the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2008 season and beat LSU in the Capital One Bowl the following year. Bolden and McGloin aren't there yet, but one of them has to not only be the best quarterback option, but also has to be good enough to keep fans from thinking about the other guy.

The season will be a success if … Penn State wins ten games. The schedule looks absolutely brutal, but three of the nastiest games – Alabama, Iowa, and Nebraska - are at home. The Nittany Lions are good enough to come up with wins in two of those three games. Who knows what Ohio State is going to look like on November 19th, and Wisconsin still has to prove it reload and be the team it was last season. Even so, winning the Leaders might be a stretch considering the slate, but coming up with nine regular season victories and pulling off a bowl win would be a tremendous bounceback effort after last year.

Key game: November 19th at Ohio State. Penn State isn't going to play for the national title, so losing the big early game against Alabama wouldn't be a big deal. Of course, a win would change the expectations in a huge way, but assume there isn't enough Nittany Lion offense available to deal with the Bama D. It'll be a shock if Penn State isn't the favorite in the first five Big Ten games against at Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, at Northwestern, and Illinois. The Nebraska game is interdivision and might not end up mattering in the Big Ten Championship race, but the two big Leaders games against Ohio State and Wisconsin will be huge. A win over the Buckeyes would probably mean the division title comes down to the date in Madison.

2010 Fun Stats:
- 3rd Down Conversions: Penn State 79-of-189 (42%) – Opponents 51-of-161 (32%)
- Fumbles: Opponents 18 (lost 7) – Penn State 14 (lost 4)
- In 13 games, Penn State played in front of 1,125,672 fans.

- 2011 Penn State Preview | 2011 Penn State Offense
- 2011 Penn State Defense | 2011 Penn State Depth Chart
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