Big Ten Preview – Penn State
Offense – Returning Starters – 2; Key Departures – WR, Justin Brown (Oklahoma). RB, Silas Redd (USC). WR, Devon Smith (Marshall). WR, Derek Moye.
Two returning starters from a unit that was the weakness of the team–it’s clear Bill O’Brien has his work cut out for him at Penn State. The offense might be the least of his troubles,but it’s a glaring weakness for someone with an offensive background. O’Brien served as quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for the juggernaut New EnglandPatriots, and Penn State fans should hope that magic rubbed off on him because Tom Brady and Wes Welker aren’t making the trip to Happy Valley. Former walk-on Matt McGloin will be starting at quarterback, and as much as I hate attaching the former walk-on notice to players, it’s suitable for McGloin because he is not a Big Ten quarterback. Unluckily for Penn State, the Big Ten-caliber players that surrounded McGloin (Silas Redd and Justin Brown) departed for greener pastures and have all but relegated Penn State’s offense to terrible. They are thin with depth and talent, and while O’Brien can introduce the Nittany Lions to coaching in the 21st century there just isn’t anything of note to work with. Freshman tailback Akeel Lynch is capable of becoming the man in a couple years, but for now, it appears Curtis Dukes will be starting in the backfield.
Key – Penn State needs to have enough talent to showcase O’Brien’s system for future recruiting classes. This offense isn’t going to win many games for Penn State, but with the current sanctions the only way it can recruit talent is to boast a chance at the NFL and player development.
Defense – Returning Starters – 5; Key Departures – DT, Devon Still (2nd round, Bengals). DE, Jack Crawford (5th round, Raiders). CB, Curtis Drake. LB, Nathan Stuper (7th round, Raiders). CB, Chaz Powell.
From a “Is there hope for Penn State this season?” perspective, diehards will be clinging to standout talent on defense. While the offense might clod along, the defense should present a united front in trying to keep games manageable. Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley are both returning starters on the defensive line, a unit that has always excelled under the tutelage of coach Larry Johnson. Hill had 3.5 sacks last year and should build on that number with Devon Still graduated to the NFL. Penn State has been able to develop young defensive lineman and not miss a beat so I imagine we could expect the same in 2012. The second line of defense returns team leader Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, both will play at the next level and have a chance to make a difference in their senior years. The secondary should have young talent emerging but doesn’t return a starter and should cross their fingers forHill and Stanley to get pressure.
Key – Mauti and Hodges have led the charge to stay loyal and fight the power (NCAA). If they can truly instill an us-against-the-world mentality with a talented nucleus, the defense could sneak out a few wins in conference.
And 1 – Because of penalties handed down by the NCAA and Big Ten, Penn State will constantly be battling a depth issue. This year will be the tip of the iceberg, especially if they don’t win. Winning now is essential to winning in two years – a bad season would terminate Penn State’s hopes of surviving these sanctions with a decent team.
Prediction – 4-8 (1-7)
Purdue – 8-21-12
Wisconsin – 8-23-12