2007 Penn State Preview

Posted Jun 7, 2007

Anthony Morelli started to show better command of the Penn State offense, and the team, at the end of last year. If he grows into a star, the Nittany Lions will be in the thick of the Big Ten title chase and could get to the BCS for the second time in three years.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Preview 200

Pete Fiutak

- 2007 PSU Offense Preview | 2007 PSU Defense Preview
2007 PSU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Penn State Preview 

Every year the storyline seems to be the same: does Joe Paterno have one more great run left in him? Every year the answer seems to be the same: probably.

In 2005 Paterno had the chance to close his career with a near-perfect ending to a historic tenure, after proving all the critics wrong with a tremendous Big Ten and Orange Bowl winning season. Then the team took a step back in 2006 with a struggling offense and no wins of note in the regular season. But after the big 20-10 Outback Bowl win over Tennessee, suddenly it seems there’s yet another big year just around the corner.   

Head coach: Joe Paterno
42nd year: 363-121-3
Returning Lettermen
Off: 15, Def: 16, Spec. 2
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best PSU Players
1. LB Dan Connor, Sr.
2. LB Sean Lee, Jr.
3. CB Justin King, Jr.
4. SS Anthony Scirrotto, Jr.*
5. WR/PR Derrick Williams, Jr.
6. QB Anthony Morelli, Sr.
7. WR Deon Butler, Jr.
8. C A.Q. Shipley, Sr.
9. TE Andrew Quarless, Soph.
10. FS Tony Davis, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1


Sept. 8

Notre Dame

Sept. 15


Sept. 22

at Michigan

Sept. 29

at Illinois

Oct. 6


Oct. 13


Oct. 20

at Indiana

Oct. 27

Ohio State

Nov. 3


Nov. 10

at Temple

Nov. 17

at Michigan State

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3

2006 Record:
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 Akron W 34-16
9/9 at Notre Dame L 41-17
9/16 Youngstown St W 37-3
9/23 at Ohio State L 28-6
9/30 Northwestern W 33-7
10/7 at Minn. W 28-27 OT
10/14 Michigan L 17-10
10/21 Illinois W 26-12
10/28 at Purdue W 12-0
11/4 at Wisconsin L 13-3
11/11 Temple W 47-0
11/18 Michigan State W 17-13
1/1 Outback Bowl
Tennessee W 20-10

Paterno’s teams have always thrived with veterans, and while this year’s team loses several key defensive starters, the offense has more to get excited about than it has in years … if.

If QB Anthony Morelli builds on his performance against the Vols, and if WR Derrick Williams finally starts to play up to his hype, and if RB Austin Scott turns into Larry Johnson-lite and blossoms in his senior season, this will be one of the three best teams in the Big Ten and a top contender for a second championship in three years. But if Morelli is inconsistent, Scott plays like he has over the last few years, and Williams continues to be an overrated second fiddle to Deon Butler, expect a repeat of last year.

Defensively, Penn State will always be special and there’s a lot to get excited about, especially in the back seven. But this team is about offense. The attack should be able to simply outscore teams (as basic as that might sound), and should stop making the crushing mistakes that seemed to kill hopes for a truly big year before they could begin.

So now it’s time to dream of a second Big Ten title in three years. It’s time to truly believe Penn State should be in the race for the BCS title. It’s time to believe it’s the offense that’ll make it happen. It’s time to think JoePa isn’t close to being done.

What to watch for on offense: The maturation of Morelli. He was good against the mediocre, serviceable at times against the above-average, and a liability against the top teams other than Tennessee. With Williams, Butler, Terrell Golden, Andrew Quarless and Jordan Norwood back as pass targets, don’t be stunned if Morelli makes a quantum leap in overall production. He has the arm to air it out and the experience in the system to know what he’s doing. Now it all has to come together.

What to watch for on defense: The back seven should be among the best in America, even without Poz. Paul Posluszny might have been the greatest linebacker in Penn State history, but Sean Lee and Dan Connor did more than their share to eat up running games and make plenty of big plays. CB Justin King should be ready to turn into an all-star, you-can’t-throw-his-way type of playmaker.

The team will be far better if … the offense starts to scores on defenses with a pulse. Six points against Ohio State. Ten against Michigan. Three against Wisconsin. Thirteen against Tennessee (with a defensive touchdown making it a 20-10 win). The O moved the ball well on the ground, but Morelli was inefficient and didn’t do nearly enough to make the passing game anything to fear. That might not be a problem this season.   

The Schedule: It’s strange. While the Nittany Lions catch a bad break, missing both Northwestern and Minnesota in the Big Ten, and have to open the conference season at Michigan, the road schedule is a walk in the park after the trip to Ann Arbor, with games at Illinois, Indiana, Temple and Michigan State. Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Ohio State all come to Happy Valley, while the non-conference schedule, outside of the game against the Irish, is one of the easiest in the nation, featuring three of the worst teams of 2006: FIU, Buffalo and Temple.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Derrick Williams. Deon Butler has been the team’s best receiver over the last two seasons, but Williams has the most talent. Is this the year he’ll finally show it off? Considering what a huge recruit he was, he’s been a bust at everything but returning punts. If production meets potential, the Nittany Lion attack will have far more pop.       

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Dan Connor.  When Connor put off the NFL for one final season at Happy Valley, Penn State instantly became home to one of this year’s premier defensive players and a leading candidate for a slew of individual awards.  Coming off an All-American junior season, Connor is an explosive run defender who’s poised for an A.J. Hawk-like conclusion to his college career. 

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Anthony Morelli.  In his first season as a starter, Morelli struggled in his new role, but showed the physical tools to potentially make like Kerry Collins and play lights-out his senior year.  He’ll enjoy a little momentum from the second half of 2006, as well as one of the deepest collections of receivers and tight ends in the Big Ten.

The season will be a success if ... Penn State is in the Rose Bowl. Two of the league’s big three, Ohio State and Wisconsin, are coming to Happy Valley, while the game at Michigan is early enough to overcome a possible loss. If the program really has reloaded, anything less than ten wins will be unacceptable.

Key game: Sept. 22 at Michigan. A win over the Wolverines would set the tone for a special year. With all the other projected nasty games at home, it really might be as simple as beating Michigan for the Rose Bowl. At the very least, it would make Penn State the lead dog in the pack.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Penn State 40 for 279 yards; Opponents 23 for 194 yards
- Penalties: Penn State 58 for 437 yards; Opponents 72 for 565 yards
- Punt return average: Penn State 10.2 yards; Opponents 4.5 yards


Related Stories
2007 Penn State Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 7, 2007
2007 Penn State Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 7, 2007
2007 Penn State Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 7, 2007

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