2007 Penn State Preview - Offense

Posted Jun 7, 2007

Preview 2007 Penn State Nittany Lion Offense


Penn State Nittany Lions

Preview 2007 - Offense

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

What you need to know:
Known for being button-down conservative, now it's time for Penn State to open the offense up. At least, that's what it has to do to play to the team's strengths. The receiving corps has the potential to be the best in the league with three great targets in Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood, and an all-star-to-be in tight end Andrew Quarless. If senior quarterback Anthony Morelli is consistent and gets the ball to his speedy receivers deep, the passing game will be fantastic. The line, despite the loss of Levi Brown, will be excellent with the expected emergence of tackles Dennis Landolt and Gerald Cadogan, but the real question mark will be running back Austin Scott. The one time star recruit Austin Scott has to finally show he can be the workhorse for the running game. If not, it'll be throw, throw and throw some more.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Anthony Morelli
208-386, 2,424 yds, 11 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Rodney Kinlaw
39 carries, 199 yds, 0 TD
Receiving: Deon Butler
48 catches, 637 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Anthony Morelli
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior RB Austin Scott
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Dennis Landolt
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Derrick Williams (as a kick returner)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) TE Andrew Quarless, 2) Williams, 3) WR Deon Butler
Strength of the offense: Wide receivers
Weakness of the offense:
Running back


Projected Starter: And now, the training wheels come off. 6-4, 232-pound senior Anthony Morelli was a top recruit with a live arm and pro potential, but he struggled to be a factor in the quarterback derby over his first two seasons, and was average last year with only eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions after throwing for three scores in the season opener against Akron. However, the light seemed to go on in the Outback Bowl with a better-than-the-stats-show 14 of 25, 197-yard, one touchdown performance in the win over Tennessee. More than anything else, he appeared to be more decisive, and he beat a really good team after lousy outings in losses to Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Now he'll get to throw more, bomb away more, and be the main man for the offense rather than just a caretaker.

Projected Top Reserve: 6-2, 232-pound junior Daryll Clark got a little bit of work completing 14 of 27 passes for 116 yards, but most of his production came on the ground with 48 yards and three touchdowns. Thrown to the wolves against Michigan when Morelli got knocked out, he wasn't awful before suffering a concussion. He has great size, a live arm, and tremendous mobility, but he needs more live action to be ready to assume a bigger role if something happens to Morelli.

Watch Out For ... Morelli to come up with a huge year. He completed 54% of his passes for 2,424 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, and now that the passing game will have to play a bigger role, and with the receiving corps he has to work with, 25 touchdown passes and 3,000 yards are attainable goals.
Strength: Big arms. Morelli and Clark can throw the ball a mile. They each have the type of guns to make every pass needed to stretch the field and utilize all the team's receiver speed.
Morelli's rushing skills. He's not immobile, and he can get a few yards here and there, but he's not going to tear off any big runs.
Outlook: It's time for Morelli to be a major player. As he goes, so goes the 2007 Penn State season. If he's great, the offense will hum and the Nittany Lions will be Big Ten title contenders. If he struggles, or even has a season like last year, Penn State will be an also-ran. Clark is an interesting backup option, but it would be nice if there were more viable contenders for the number two job.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Once in a while, ultra-talented Penn State players go from disappointing to tremendous as seniors. Michael Robinson grew into the best player in the Big Ten as a senior. Larry Johnson became a legend as a senior. Now it's time for 6-0, 222-pound super-recruit Austin Scott to finally be the player Nittany Lion fans thought they were getting when he came to Happy Valley as one of the nation's top high school players. He appeared to be ready to break out after stepping in for Tony Hunt in the 2006 Orange Bowl and carried the offense with 110 yards and two touchdowns, but he suffered an ankle injury early last year and missed the entire season. That turned out to be a positive, since now he's able to start and become the main man. He has the power, he has the quickness, and he has the time in the system with 911 career yards with eight touchdowns.

Potentially playing a bigger role will be senior fullback Matt Hahn, who gets replaced most of the time by a receiver in three-wide sets. While the 236-pounder might not be a devastating blocker, he can be used as a receiver and a runner. Don't be shocked if he's used a bit as a powerful, big tailback.

Projected Top Reserves: If Scott turns out to be unable to carry the workload, it'll be up to senior Rodney Kinlaw to help out. He's 5-9, 201 pounds, and fast with a 5.1 average last year and 199 yards. Able to be used as a kick returner, he's a good open field runner who adds more burst than Scott.

Backing up Hahn will be 6-2, 244-pound senior Dan Lawlor, who'll see a couple of carries, but will be used mostly as a blocker. He's a good athlete who can get a few passes his way.

Watch Out For ... some serious breath holding every time Scott gets up slowly. Kinlaw is decent, but if Scott isn't a star on a regular basis, the running game won't go anywhere.
Strength: Fullback. No one uses fullbacks anymore, and that includes Penn State, but Hahn and Lawlor can each play and can contribute in a variety of ways. Don't be shocked if these two combine for a good deal of the workload.
Speed. Kinlaw can move, but he doesn't have the blazing wheels he had before suffering a knee injury a few years ago. Unless receiver Derrick Williams is getting the ball, there's almost not a home run hitter in the backfield.
Outlook: It's not a good thing if you have to rely on Austin Scott for a 12 or 13 game season. He could step up to the challenge and come up with a 1,000-yard campaign, but he's not going to do what Tony Hunt did last year (1,386 yards and 11 touchdowns) and he has never carried the full workload for more than a game. The coaching staff will have to manufacture ways to get rushing yards at times.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters: Is this the year junior Derrick Williams lives up to the hype? One of the nation's top recruits two years ago, he's been a mediocre receiver with just 62 catches for 729 yards and two touchdowns. However, he missed the second half of his freshman season with a broken arm, and he's been tremendous as a punt returner, averaging 12 yards per return so far. With 4.3 speed and great moves in the open field, he gets a few carries here and there as the coaching staff does what it can to get him in the open field. Now that Anthony Morelli knows what he's doing, he should push the ball down the field even more, meaning Williams should finally break out.

While Williams has received the national attention, former walk-on defensive back Deon Butler has been a producer with 85 catches for ,13,38 yards and 11 touchdowns in two years. He was steady throughout last year as the number one targets, and blew up against Northwestern with 11 catches for 216 yards. With enough speed to be used as a deep threat, and reliable hands, he's a true number one, go-to receiver.

Returning at tight end is sophomore Andrew Quarless, who had a great true freshman year catching 21 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns. At 6-5 and 252 pounds, he's a big target who can block a little bit, but his real strength is his downfield speed. With his combination of size, strength and quickness, he poses major matchup problems.

Projected Top Reserves: Behind Butler, and in three-wide sets, will be junior Jordan Norwood, who was part of the big recruiting class of a few years ago and has come through with 77 catches in two seasons and finishing as the team's number two receiver last year with 45 grabs for 472 yards and two touchdowns. Extremely quick, he always finds ways to get open.

Playing behind Williams on one side will once again be senior Terrell Golden after making six catches for 120 yards. He has 6-3 size and has been a big play target when he gets the ball his way, but he hasn't produced enough over the course of his career.

Considering the lack of upside for Golden, true sophomore Chris Bell will see more work behind Williams after catching five passes for 66 yards. At 6-2 and 210 pounds, he has good size with excellent deep speed. While he might get lost in the shuffle, he should make a few big plays.

More of a fullback than a true tight end, sophomore Mickey Shuler is a good blocker with nice potential as a receiver. The son of the former NFL tight end by the same name. he'll play a bigger role behind Quarless.

Watch Out For ... Williams to start to be what everyone has been expecting. He hasn't been bad by any means, but he hasn't been the number one, all-world star he was supposed to be right off the bat. This is the key season to see if he can turn the corner and use all his talent to become special.
Strength: Experience and speed. Butler, Williams and Norwood seem like they've been around forever, and they're only juniors. There's no reason to think that the trio, who improved from their freshman to sophomore years, can't make yet another jump in production.
Scorers. It's nitpicking, and Butler was a touchdown maker as a freshman, but the big three (Butler, Williams and Norwood) combined for just five touchdowns last season. That was a function of the offense, and the inconsistent play at quarterback, but there have to be more scores.
Outlook: It's time to hit stride. The receiving corps has been great so far considering it hasn't exactly had Peyton Manning throwing the ball, and now it should blow up. Williams is only going to produce more, Norwood is as reliable a number three receiver as any in the Big Ten, and Butler is a steady star. With all the attention paid to the receiver, Quarless should come up with an All-Big Ten season with around 35 catches.

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The line should be fine, but there's a big hole needing to be filled at left tackle after the loss of Levi Brown to graduation. Fortunately, 6-5, 313-pound junior Gerald Cadogan appears to be ready to step in and shine. The Academic All-American after starting at left guard over the first half of the season. A bruising run blocker, he's also a phenomenal athlete for his size.

Slipping into the left guard job will be 6-4, 305-pound redshirt freshman Lou Eliades. More of a tackle playing guard, he'll be excellent in pass protection early on, but will be the X factor in the overall production. He's the one projected starter who isn't a sure thing.

The one who is a sure-thing, either at right tackle or left, is 6-4, 294-pound sophomore Dennis Landolt, who had a tremendous spring and appears to be the next great Nittany Lion blocker. A phenomenal pass blocker who appears ready to star from day one as a starter, he's ready to play a big role after getter far stronger this off-season.

With the emergence of Landolt and Cadogan, 6-4, 303-pound senior John Shaw will move to right guard. While he was tough, and is athletic, he wasn't always a rock in pass protection. Even so, he was productive, and should shine at his new spot. He got better as last season wore on, before going down with an ankle injury, and could move back outside if necessary.

Anchoring the line in the middle is 6-1, 293-pound senior A.Q. Shipley, the only lineman to start every game last season. The former defensive lineman is versatile enough to play guard, but he appears to have settled into a role where he'll be the leader and likely All-Big Ten performer.

Projected Top Reserves: The line suffered a big blow when Elijah Robinson was forced to retire due to a spine problem, and while Shaw will be a rock, it also means 6-2, 284-pound junior Mike Lucian might end up playing a big role. A defensive end by trade, he's a physical blocker, making up for his lack of bulk.

The top backup will be 6-2, 289-pound senior Rich Ohrnberger, who started the last nine games of the year at right guard. He'll move over to combine with Eliades at left guard, and while he's not a dominant blocker, he's good enough to start, and he's one of the team's most experienced linemen.

Looking for work at one of the tackle spots will be 6-2, 288-pound junior Austin Hinton, a career reserve who got stronger in the off-season and should be more of a producer. He saw a little bit of garbage time last year, and now he'll play behind Landolt on the right side.

Watch Out For ... the tackles. It's not a stretch to say the production will be just as good with Eliades and Landolt on the outside in play of Brown and Shaw. The two new starters are that promising.
Strength: Athleticism. Where are the typical Penn State road graders? This is a lean, athletic line without a lot a mega-beef. Almost everyone is around 290 to 310 pounds, and everyone can move.
Experience at tackle. Fine, so you don't just replace a Levi Brown without some drop-off in production. Several things have to happen for a big year, and that includes a good season from Eliades, consistency at the tackles, and quickly developed depth.
Outlook: Considering the line was a bit of a concern going into last year, this year's front five should be fine. Shipley and Shaw are nice pieces to work around, while Cadogan and Landolt have serious all-star potential. The backups need to be developed in a hurry to allow for more of a rotation, and there will be problems if the starting five isn't always together, like it wasn't able to be throughout last year. Even so, the line is hardly a weakness, and it could develop into one of the team's strengths.
Rating: 8


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