Penn State Preview 2006
Posted Aug 5, 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 ...

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

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
Ten 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.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3

9/2 Akron
9/9 at Notre Dame
9/16 Youngstown State
9/23 at Ohio State
9/30 Northwestern
10/7 at Minnesota
10/14 Michigan
10/21 Illinois
10/28 at Purdue
11/4 at Wisconsin
11/11 Temple
11/18 Michigan State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-5
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 South Florida  W 23-13
9/10 Cincinnati  W 42-24
9/17 Central Michigan W 40-3
9/24 at Northwestern W 34-29
10/1 Minnesota W 44-14
10/8 Ohio State W 17-10
10/15 at Michigan L 27-25
10/22 at Illinois W 63-10
10/29 Purdue W 33-15
11/5 Wisconsin W 35-14
11/19 at Michigan State W 31-22
1/3 Orange Bowl
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.

Best 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 running game.

Best Defensive Player: 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.

Key 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 Ten title.

The 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.

Key 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.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Penn State opponent scoring: 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters: 107 - 4th quarter: 90
- Rushing yards per game: Penn State 212.8 - Opponents 93
- Sacks: Penn State 41 for 272 yards - Opponents 14 for 99 yards

The Last Time Penn State…
…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)      
…went undefeated…1994
…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)

Related Stories
Penn State Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 5, 2006
Penn State Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 5, 2006
Penn State Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 5, 2006

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