As the calendar flips into July, the preseason buzz is starting to crank up. Everyone is putting together their projections for 2010. Who will win the Big Ten? What will the top 25 look like? Who will go to what bowl game? Not surprisingly, there isn't much faith floating around for the Nittany Lions. The general census has them finishing fourth or fifth in the conference with a trip to the Outback or Gator Bowl. For a team coming off of back-to-back 11-win seasons and a victory over LSU on New Year's Day, this is a bitter pill to swallow.
The major sticking point everyone points to is the quarterback situation. In fact, some people are calling it a disaster. Once you get past the irony of a Michigan blogger calling the Penn State quarterback situation a "disaster", step back and ask yourself, "Is it really that bad?" Yeah, ok, we have to break in a new quarterback this year. Welcome to college football where you have to break in a new quarterback every other year. Lots of teams plug in a new quarterback and have very successful seasons. But you don't even have to look at other teams. Look at Penn State.
In 2005 the Nittany Lions gave the quarterback job to Michael Robinson who had mostly played wide receiver and running back. They did ok and won the Big Ten. Daryll Clark had no experience when he started in 2008, and he won 22 games over the next two years. So just because you're starting a new quarterback doesn't automatically qualify as a disaster.
So yeah, Kevin Newsome has no experience. And yeah, he looked terrible in the Blue-White game. But does anyone think Paterno is going to make him throw 35 passes in a game? If he does, Paterno should be fired. Penn State's offense is going to center around running the ball with Royster and Newsome. And when Newsome does have to throw, he will have an experienced crop of wide receivers to throw to. He's just got to deliver those five to ten yard passes on time to keep the chains moving.
But none of this can happen if the offensive line doesn't hold up, and that's why the pundits are missing the mark in pointing at the quarterbacks. There is reason for concern on the line. They have to replace Dennis Landolt who solidified the tackle position for three years. There was a lot of shuffling along the line in the spring as the coaches looked for the right combination.
But there is also reason for hope. The right tackle position was a disaster last year, and losing Ako Poti isn't exactly keeping me up at night. (I mean, c'mon. Look at his blocking technique in the picture) Wisniewski and Eliades were solid last year and should be fine no matter where they play.Johnnie Troutman played well last year, and I have confidence that will get his grades and body in shape by September. DeOn'tae Pannell is a year older and has a lot of experience. And there is a lot of younger talent to fill out the depth chart and push these guys.
I read all of the stuff saying Penn State is going to struggle without Daryll Clark, but I'm just not buying it. Losing three linebackers is tough, but Paterno said in the spring he's not at all worried about that. The secondary should be better. The entire defensive line returns except for Jared Odrick. All of the wide receivers that helped Clark set a single season school passing yardage record come back. Newsome and Royster running the ball should be a pretty dynamic combination with counters and fake handoffs to keep the defense guessing. There will no doubt be weaknesses of the Penn State offense, but if the offensive line can play as good or even slightly better than last year, I don't see why Penn State can't go to a BCS bowl game in January.