BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS CO-FOUNDER
2006 RECORD: 9-4; BIG TEN: 5-3
Won Outback Bowl vs. Tennessee 20-10
LOCATION: State College, Pennsylvania
STADIUM: Beaver Stadium (107,282)
HEAD COACH: Joe Paterno
OVERALL: 363-181-3 (41 seasons)
AT PENN ST.: 363-181-3 (41 seasons)
The Nittany Lions roster is stocked with four and five star recruits, including quarterback Anthony Morelli, wide receiver Derrick Williams, linebacker Dan Connor as well as corners Justin King and A.J. Wallace, a quartet of five-star prospects. The question is can they put it together the way their veteran squad did two seasons ago under the leadership of Michael Robinson. You might say the won nine games last season, so how far do they have to go? A closer examination shows they were just 2-4 against Division 1A teams that finished with winning records.
WHEN THE CATS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Galen Hall (4th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Tony Hunt, Levi Brown
The player who must step up more than any other is the signal caller Anthony Morelli who has the physical ability, as well as the weapons on the perimeter to lead an explosive aerial attack. He threw for just 11 TDs and completed a mere 53.9 percent of his passes, numbers he will have to vastly improve upon without increasing his interceptions (eight). At receiver, Derrick Williams has boundless potential, but in two seasons in College Station, he has 62 total receptions for 729 yards and two touchdowns, numbers he could surpass this year if he breaks out. Last season, he trailed both Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, a duo that maximizes their ability. At tailback, Austin Scott is another highly touted recruit who has yet to put it together. With Scott redshirting the 2006 season with an injury, Tony Hunt flourished, which is what PSU needs the shiftier Scott to do. Everyone must rely on a suspect offensive line, which has to replace top ten pick Levi Brown. How much do they need help in the trenches? JoePa reached out to the Junior College level for the first time in over 20 years to seize not one, but two JC offensive lineman. Keep an eye out for sophomore tight end Andrew Quarless, a threat down the field, which can open things up for his receivers.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Andrew Quarless (SO), 2) Derrick Williams (JR), 3) Anthony Morelli (SR), 4) Austin Scott (SR), 5) A.Q. Shipley (JR), 6) Matt Hahn (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Dick Bumpas (4th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Paul Posluszny, Tim Shaw, Jay Alford, Ed Johnson
The back seven can rival almost any around the country. They will not even miss two time Bednarik Award winner Paul Posluszny, as the speedy Dan Connor moves over to the MIKE spot. Connor is 6’3”/230 with more speed and upside than Posluszny making him a sure fire first round draft pick in the 2008 Draft. Playing the role of wingman is Sean Lee, yet another linebacker with size and speed. Linebacker U is at full strength. Their corners could be even better with Justin King returning and A.J. Wallace stepping into the starting lineup. King is as good a lockdown cover man as there is, with true sophomore Wallace cut from a similar cloth. Both are playmakers capable of contributing on special teams and each saw playtime on offense in their freshman seasons. The only potential weakness is along the line of scrimmage where they lose two experienced tackles. Sophomore end Maurice Evans has the ability to be an impact player coming off the edge.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Dan Connor (SR), 2) Justin King (JR), 3) A.J. Wallace (SO), 4) Sean Lee (JR), 5) Maurice Evans (SO), 6) Anthony Scirrotto (JR)
If the Nittany Lions hope to do better than they did last season, they will have to deliver some payback early and often. Week two they play Notre Dame, who beat them up 41-17 last season, two weeks later they travel to Ann Arbor. The last time they beat the Wolverines was back in 1996, as the losing streak is up to eight in a row. They did not lose to Iowa last year, because they did not play, as the Hawkeyes have dropped them in five straight contests. PSU hosts Ohio St. and Wisconsin, two more clubs that defeated them last season, with the Buckeyes having won four of their last five and Wisky three out of four head-to-head.
Will that talent pay off in the field? Anthony Morelli, five-star recruit, enters his senior season with 12 career TD passes, after finishing his junior campaign as the ninth rated quarterback in the Big Ten in terms of efficiency. Derrick Williams, five-star recruit, enters his junior season with two touchdown catches in his career, while averaging around 12 yards per reception. Austin Scott, four-star recruit, enters his senior season with 1021 career yards. If PSU is to reach double figures in wins, all three will have to exceed their career numbers this season.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
JoePa still knows how to coach and he does well when he has the time to teach, just look at Penn St.’s Bowl record, so if PSU takes off this season after spring ball and fall camp I would not be the least bit surprised. However, until they actually do it on the field they do not deserve a high ranking. The Nittany Lions could do as well as challenge the Wolverines for supremacy or finish up as just a middle of the pack Big Ten team. As much talent as they possess on defense, I am not a Morelli believer and there is no reason a team that has questions on both lines should be ranked any higher.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #22 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown