Penn State Preview 2006
It's not 2003, it's not 2003, it's not 2003, it's not 2003, it's not 2003, it's not 2003 ...
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Keep saying it over and over again Penn State fans, and maybe there
won't be a repeat of the last time your program had to fill several
major holes from a senior dominated team.
The long time knock on what had turned into a bit of a stodgy
program was that it geared up for the big season. It took a year or
two to develop the talent into the type of upperclassmen that Joe Paterno could put his full faith and trust in, and then there would
be a nice campaign where Penn State was Penn State again, and then it
was back to square one.
The Larry Johnson-led 2002 team went 9-4, and then things fell off
the map going 3-9 in 2003 and 4-7 in 2004. Last year's team was full
of veterans and had everything come together on offense when Michael
Robinson, who was everything but a decent quarterback before his
senior season, turned in a brilliant, defiant performance becoming
the league's most valuable player. He's gone now, along with the
entire secondary, 3/4th of a great defensive line, and all but one
starter on the offensive line. This would've been cause for panic
sirens to go off in 2003, but yeah, it's not 2003.
Head coach: Joe Paterno
41st year: 354-117-3
Returning Lettermen: 35
Lettermen Lost: 25
Best PSU Players
1. LB Paul Posluszny, Sr.
2. OT Levi Brown, Sr.
3. DT Jay Alford, Sr.
4. LB Dan Connor, Jr.
5. LB Tim Shaw, Sr.
6. WR Derrick Williams, Soph.
7. RB Tony Hunt, Sr.
8. CB Justin King, Soph.
9. WR Deon Butler, Soph.
10. P Jeremy Kapinos, Sr.
at Notre Dame
at Ohio State
2005 predicted wins
at Northwestern W 34-29
Minnesota W 44-14
Ohio State W 17-10
Michigan L 27-25
at Illinois W
at Michigan State W 31-22
Florida State W 26-23 3OT
Start with the much-ballyhooed
influx of young talent over the last few seasons. Penn State stepped up
its recruiting game getting players like wide receiver Derrick Williams
and cornerback/wide receiver/now full-time corner Justin King to help
prevent a slide back to mediocrity. Of course, it helps to have the
nation's best linebackers to keep everything in check.
Butkus Award winner Paul Posluszny, Tim Shaw, and Dan Connor are
seasoned veterans who could form the best linebacking corps in Penn
State history, which means it might turn into one of the greatest
linebacking corps in college football history. Now that Connor has
stopped crank calling old coaches and Posluszny's injured knee appears
to be close to healthy and Shaw can play in the middle for an entire
season, these three will clean up all the messes left by all the
inexperience elsewhere on the defense. But defense wasn't necessarily
the problem for the Nittany Lions during the tough times.
Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood give the offense an exciting
young receiving corps that's as talented as any the program has had in
over a decade. Tony Hunt and Austin Scott are veteran backs who can
carry a reliable running game, and quarterback Anthony Morelli appears
ready to deliver on his prep hype. But if the line can't rebuild in a
big hurry, and/or if injuries strike up front, all bets are off on what
this team can do.
This isn't last year's team, but it's certainly not going to slip enough
to be lousy again. If everything can come together right away and all
the new starters can play like consistent veterans, things could get
interesting because of ...
The Schedule: Are
there two tougher September road games for an elite team than at
Notre Dame and at Ohio State? The Buckeyes have rebuilding issues of
their own, while Notre Dame, despite what most preseason pundits
might say, isn't the end-all-be-all team that'll just walk all over
these Nittany Lions. A split is very, very possible, and even two
losses wouldn't be a killer. Survive those two road games, and it's
all there for Penn State to be right in the hunt for a BCS game.
While battles at Minnesota and Purdue won't be walks in the park,
the toughest road game the rest of the way will be at Wisconsin; all
three are winnable. Michigan and Michigan State have to come to
Happy Valley, and there's no Iowa on the slate. Unfortunately,
there's no Indiana.
Offensive Player: Senior OT Levi Brown.
Publicity-wise, he'll suffer a bit from not being Wisconsin tackle
Joe Thomas, but he's worthy of All-America hype and needs to come up
with a huge season as the only returning starter to the line. He's a
sure-thing early draft pick who'll be the road grater for the
Senior LB Paul Posluszny. O.K., O.K., so Ohio State's A.J.
Hawk was the best linebacker in America last year, and Iowa's Chad
Greenway, Alabama's Demeco Ryans and Mississippi's Patrick Willis
had better seasons, but Posluszny was the heart-and-soul of a
tremendous defense and was claimed by some to have turned into the
best Penn State linebacker ever. If he's back to his old self after
injuring his knee against Florida State, he should be a near-lock to
win the Butkus again.
player to a successful season: Junior QB Anthony Morelli. He has
been around long enough to know what he's doing and turn into the
type of poised, cool veteran quarterback that Paterno likes so much.
If he becomes a 65% passer with the interceptions kept to under
double-digits, Penn State will turn out to be in the mix for the Big
season will be a success if ... the Nittany Lions finish second in the Big Ten
race. It's asking way too much for a team with so many holes to fill
to get through the conference season unscathed, especially with
games at Ohio State and Wisconsin as well as a home battle with
Michigan, but there's no reason a 6-2 Big Ten record can't be had.
game: Sept. 23 at Ohio State. A loss in the Big Ten opener against
Ohio State won't mean the end of the dream, but a win would make the
Nittany Lions the team to beat.
The Last Time Penn State…
- Penn State opponent scoring: 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters: 107 - 4th
- Rushing yards per game: Penn State 212.8 - Opponents 93
- Sacks: Penn State 41 for 272 yards - Opponents 14 for 99 yards
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Orange Bowl vs. Florida State)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…2002 (Northwestern)
…was shutout…2001 (Michigan)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Illinois)
…won a conference title…2005 (Big Ten)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Tony Hunt)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1995 (Bobby Engram)
…had a first-round draft choice…2006 (DE Tamba Hali)