Lions, Lionesses, Honorary Lions and Honorary Lionesses-
Here is the 2010 Scouting Report which I know you have all been anxiously awaiting. The 2010 Season, starting in Week #2, looks to be a challenging one for the Nittany Lions in my humble opinion. With an unsettled QB in two very inexperienced Sophs. Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin (although incoming All Americans Paul Jones and Robert Bolden are highly talented and are turning heads, including that of Dave Revsine of the Big Ten Network who stated on 8/13 that it would “not surprise me one bit if Robert Bolden was PSU’s starting QB”) , the Lions will have to build their season, at least early on, around the Running Game and Defense – then again medicore QBs (these guys aren’t mediocre, just very young, raw talent…but watch out in ’11) and poor QB coaching is not new for us – we’re accustomed to this and know how to work around years of QB issues (please don’t give me Morelli and Clark stats, they both choked in big games the past four years).
The OL will be better than in 2009 and that helps, but there will be some shuffling of positions, preseason All American Stefan Wisniewski has moved from C to G, his natural position, making room for Doug Klopacz at C. Big DeOn’tae Pannell didn’t “pan” out at RT but seems to be a nice fit now at G which means he and Johnnie Troutman will battle it out for the other Starting G position. OT will also have some new faces, both with prior G experience but OT is the key to protecting the QB in this league so watch out Lou “The Greek” Eliades and Quinn Barham – they will have their hands full in at least three major road tests this upcoming Fall. Chimo Okoli will see significant time as well perhaps at different positions along that OL. A bevy of young talent, including blue chipper Eric Shrive and quiet but tough Adam Gress, will likewise vie for playing time in the O trenches. But overall, I think we’ll see a better OL in ’10. We also lost some great TE’s (Andrew Quarless (God’s Gift as he named himself) and Mickey Schuler) and we’re all the sudden thin there but Andrew Sczerba (backed up by Mark Wedderburn, younger bro of former Lion Floyd) takes over there and while doesn’t have the speed his predecessors had, is a good blocker and serviceable at TE. Incidentally, he’s 1 of 3 starters (maybe 4 if Justin Brown, WR, wins a starting job) from the tiny State of DE. All of these horses up front are a huge plus for a mean stable of RB’s beginning with perhaps the Big Ten’s best back (although Wisconsin’s Big John Clay could well argue the point too if his two off season ankle surgeries hold up over the long, cold Big Ten Season) in Evan Royster who with his 2,918 career rushing yards is just 481 yards from surpassing Curt Warner as the all-time PSU Rushing Leader. Royster, along with Stephon Green, Brandon Beachum (knee injury in ’09), Curtis Dukes (Redhsirt Fr., looks like a thoroughbred out of the Curtis Enis body style – just ask Stephon Morris and others who’ve tried to take him down this Spring & Summer so far) and the heralded newcomer Silas Redd, All American and #1 RB in the Northeast coming out of HS – a big time back out of HS after near misses at the biggest time backs at this position (save Royster now looking back but not quite at the time) the past four years – provide the most talent AND most depth at RB in the modern Penn State football era. Joey Suhey adds additional reinforcement out of the backfield and was another bright spot last year at FB as the season wore on and I think he surprises some people this year – he can do more than just block too; he can bang up the middle and catch a pass or two out of the Backfield providing yet another weapon on O! Finally, another bright spot of this Offense is at the WR position – we’re loaded. In fact, loaded enough that Chaz Powell made the switch to CB where we’re not even close to loaded – yet. And loaded enough that AJ Price checked out early due to the lack of minutes and looks he would see all year long. Graham Zug and Derek Moye are the feature WR’s and are both threats; Justin Brown, Curtis Drake (just injured, season now in doubt), Brett Brackett 6′ 6″ and pint sized 5’7′ 165 lb Devon (that’s Deeevon – fastest player in HS Class of ’09 nationally) ) Smith provide speed, quickness, size and strength to compete for playing time throughout the season. In sum, if JayPa and Galen Hall can coach up one of these fine young gents for a change, the Offense may have a chance to succeed in at least one of the three (3) bruising road battles I see on the ’10 schedule.
Onto the Defense. Although the D lost All American and NFL 1st Rounder DT Jared Odrick and the entire LB core, it is NOT as bad as it sounds. That’s because Devon Still at DT, Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore at DE are all poised for breakout seasons (Still and Latimore are the other two Delaware starters); if you have not seen these boys up close, you ought to – they are incredibly mammoth structures capable of punishing OT’s and pulverizing QB’s, if they play up to their potential. And, Ollie Ogbu is your prototypical NG at 6’1 290 and also capable of inflicting a lot of damage on RB’s who dare to test the heart of this Defense. Lee, Hull and Bowman are gone to the NFL from what was an incredible linebacking corp. Sean Stanley has a good nose for the ball and surprised fans as a true Fr. in ’09 and expects to see time as well at DE in a back-up role. Nate Stupar (a bit slow for the position but tough), Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are the most talked about replacements at this position however Gerald Hodges (converted Soph. Safety from Paulsboro High in South Jersey) is a nasty banger and is pressing hard for time. Former HS AA Mike Yancich has not conceded the starting role to anyone yet and has already earned a V Letter playing the position so watch for him to log more time. Just as exciting is the return of former HS All American & projected ’09 Starter Michael Mauti who suffered a torn ACL last year and who Tommie Bradley has some very high expectations for – he’s said to be the new leader of this fine, talented LB corp. James Van Fleet, a Redshirt Jr. Walk-On also figures in the mix. And if that’s not enough, we have the top incoming Big Ten Class (if not top National Class) of Fr at LB checking in to Happy Valley with AA Khairi Fortt, AA Mike Hull, AA Dakota Royer and 2009 AA Greyshirt Glenn Carson from the Garden State. How’s that for an incoming LB Class in 2010? No worries here and you can mark that one down! That brings us to the Secondary where it MAY be time to start worrying. We mentioned that Chaz Powell made the switch which indicates we’re light (or just young I’ll say) at CB – that was a good move by the coaches. In addition to Powell, D’Antonn Lynn and Stephon Morris saw a lot of playing time (Lynn started) last year; Lynn however looked lost at times but 1 year a big difference can make indeed. Malcolm Willis, Derrick Thomas and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (all 2nd year guys) will add depth in the Secondary and may be tested early should anyone suffer an injury. Nicky Sukay, blonde hair surfer boy, but at times a big hitter, appeared out of position from time to time last year at Safety. Drew Astorino who suffered a torn labrum last year returns at Safety, is solid and will anchor the still young Secondary. Overall, while the D has strong talent to replace, the front seven (7) will show virtually no drop-off and likely some improvement due to maturity along that big D Line, enough so that the LB’s can adjust quickly and in order that the Secondary can begin to gel after 3 or 4 games (we hope and pray). Unfortunately, it will not be in time for the Tide to roll.
At Kicker Colin Wagner will be more than just adequate and will be backed up by Anthony Ferra who will likewise double as a Punter after the sudden departure of Ryan Breen, thus putting stress on a Punting game that was already stressed in ’09. Graham Zug has likewise spent some time taking Punt snaps when he’s not catching balls at WR. This is a situation to keep a close eye on – I know Iowa and a few others will be for sure!
A looming concern for the 2010 Nittany Lions is the health of Joe Paterno, the most successful coach in the history of NCAA Division 1 College Football. At 83, JoePa is on track to top 400 victories this season, that is unless a fairly serious “intestinal infection” he has been battling since Spring derails those plans. While JoePa is downplaying (surprise, JoePa downplaying an illness!) the infection, it thas been serious enough for JoePa to cut his time at his Avalon shore home short this Summer to see doctors intermittently back in State College. Those close to the Program have more than a little concern over the wise old coach’s ability to battle back yet after another medical setback – if anyone can do so, it’s the guy in the Coke bottle glasses and short pants! We will have to wait and see how JoePa’s latest medical issue impacts the 2010 Season (and beyond for that matter).
Finally, that brings us to the schedule. While last year’s schedule was extremely favorable and could have definitely resulted in an undefeated season (if not for being dominated by Iowa’s and Ohio State’s D Lines – that was a big “IF” ), this year’s schedule is NOT favorable and could result in a couple of train wrecks (even though it kills me to say that), the first and most obvious one being in Tuscaloosa on 9/11 (it just so happens to be on 9/11). The Tide return 8 Starters on O from a National Championship Team led by the trio of Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram (and the best 1-2 Punch at RB in the country with dangerous back-up Trent Richardson), Greg McElroy at QB (hasn’t lost a game he’s started since yes, the 8th Grade! ) and All World Julio Jones at WR. Only The Tide could return 1 Starter on D, be Ranked #1 Overall in the Country and be considered possibly better than last year’s #2 Nationally Ranked Defense-now that’s insane people; they’ll be led by National Title D MVP Marcell Dareus and Dont’a Hightower (perhaps the nation’s best LB); these boys will likely have Kevin Newsome looking out his ear hole most of what could be a very long night.
We then get to travel to Iowa City (10/2) where tragedy and bad luck seem to follow us on a regular basis (remember we lost a Natl Championship berth here 2 years ago in the swirling wind on a huge FG as time expired – don’t get me started or I’ll have to send you the blistering email I shot to JayPa after that one – Whitey knows all about it). The Hawkeyes have probably the most dangerous Backfield in the Big Ten and one of the top ones in the country with with Ricky Stanzi who is extremely poised and talented as l witnessed last year watching him up close along with very strong RB’s in Jewell Hampton (last year’s projected starter injured early) and Jeff Brinson (also injured very early on in ’09) are the leaders for the starting RB position however Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher, Fr., filled in admirably for the injured lead RB’s last year and will be very hard to keep off the field in ’10 due to their strong showing last year. The receivers are back and none better in this group than All Big Ten + all-time leading WR already (and potential AA) Derrell Johnson-Koulianos; Colin Sandeman is sure handed and has additional helping hands in Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis. Their OL will be typical Iowa big ugly but yet not as experienced perhaps as in ’09 and will be another significant test for our big DL. On Defense, you will remember the animal that blocked the punt for a TD to spoil the night in Adrain Clayborne #94 (now All American and projected Top 10 NFL pick ); he’s back and so is Christian Ballard and Karl Klug (both extremely dangerous) along that very seasoned and very large and aggressive DL; if the Lions don’t find a way to block th ese behemoths early, kiss this one goodbye also. Tyler Sash, Jim Thorpe Semi Finalist and All American SS Candidate going into his Junior Yr campaign, led the Hawkeye Secondary w/ six (6) picks in ’09 and is expected to anchor what will be a very strong D Backfield for the Hawkeyes. Brett Greenwood has a solid hold on the FS position, was 2nd Team All Big Ten last year and extremely talented and dependable. This is a huge early Big 10 match-up and gives Lion lovers nightmares just thinking about after our poor history with the Hawkeyes since joining the Big Ten.
The last major road test will be in where else but Columbus – we’ll be there (Adam Talifero, who recently became our neighbor, will be honored at this game as he was injured there 10 Years ago, if you can believe it – was there for that one too and my worst sporting event memory EVER) but this will undoubtedly be another huge hurdle for the Nits on 11/13 (and probably colder than a witches you know what). Pre-season Heisman Hopeful (and nobody does a better job hyping the Heisman than Buckeye U) and All Planet (just not sure which Planet that is) QB Terrell Pryor will do his best to put on a spectacular show as he is featured front and center for what should be a wild, wooly, late season slugfest. His cast includes Dan “Boom Boom” Heron and Brandon “Zoom” Sain who combined for 1300 yds rushing last year at RB with some excellent in hands at WR in Dane Sanzenbacher and Devier Posey along with big, bad Jake Stoneburner at TE. Their OL is huge with former HS AA’s JB Shugarts (OT), Mike Adams (OT) and Michael Brewster (C) along with experienced Sr. Guards Justin Boren and Bryant Browning – these guys are indeed the real deal up front and could propel Pryor to another OSU Heisman and the Bucks to another Big Ten Title and BCS Championship Game. The O is loaded and solid all the way around and PSU will be challenged at every turn. Six (6) starters return to the nation’s #5 D led by legit All American Cameron Heyward (Burgh fans will remember his deceased Daddy Ironhead), a beast among beasts who gave D Clark fits The ENTIRE Game last year ( I wish Kevin Newsome the best of luck!) The LB’s are very good and experienced also with Ross Homan (leading OSU tackler in 2009 along w/ five (5) big INT’s), former HS AA Etienne Sabino (likely newest LB starter) and banger Brian Rolle . Their Secondary will be anchored by Chimdi Checkwa (out of the Mike Doss / Antoine Winfield mold) and Devoe Torrence with Jermale Hines breaking into the lineup for the 1st time but with some very high expectations. They’re good, they bring the swagger and are well coached by the disciplined Senator in the Sweater Vest – if the Bucks survive an early test with the Canes in the Shoe, a second, huge test in menacing Madison AND survive a tormenting trap game in always unpredictable Iowa City late in the Season (after the Nittany Lions and right before arch enemy Michigan), watch out!
As for predictions, due to the QB situation and still unsettled Secondary along with a shuffled OL, I believe 9-3 is very likely with a Capital One, Outback or Alamo Bowl bid being a reasonable expectation (although we’ve seen enough of both of those Bowls the past 10 years). I’ll take the Sun Bowl (hello El Paso!) if not a BCS, just not to see Mickey Mouse, smell Outback Steaks or Remember the Alamo – again. If Newsome (or Matt McGloin) can dazzle us at QB somehow or even just not LOSE all of these big games, Penn State could steal a win at Iowa or possibly Ohio State and if they can still win all the games they SHOULD win, then we could be in for a better than forecasted 2010 College Football Season. The jury is out, good young talent is plentiful, but the away schedule is extraordinary and the Big Ten is dangerous and becoming more dagerous each of the past few years. Enjoy the rest of your Summer and get ready for what promises to be another exciting and likely unpredictable 2010 College Football Season.
For the Glory, Go State!