I am not privy to insider information with regards to Penn State Football, but here are my thoughts based on my observations, what I’ve read, and what I’ve heard. Below are my brief thoughts on our Offense, Defense, and Special teams, along with a quick guess at how things will turn out this year.
In order of least concern:
Defense- I love Odrick and know he will be missed, but when has L.J. Sr. let us down? On the football field I mean…not in how his children portray his family and ours. Our D-line will be strong as always and make our younger – albeit – more athletic LBs look good. An experienced secondary behind them will help as well.
Offense- This was a near toss-up with special teams, but we have enough returners on O that things could turn out ok, IMO. No need to discuss WR or RB, we know they are solid. I think the O-line will be better than last year but not great. The right side seems to be our stronger side with the left still a little questionable, which is unfortunate when playing OSU and Iowa.
Fortunately, we will have a QB who can – and will – run. Unfortunately, the kid fumbles more the Andrian Peterson. Last year, KNew fumbled on 5.77% of his touches and 9.68% of his considered “runs.” That is one fumble every 3.3 drives; AP playing in the NFL only fumbled during 2.23% of his carries last year and lead the league. While his throwing concerns me, I HOPE they spent a lot of time on ball control this offseason. On the flip side, that “one fumble every 3.3 drives,” is derived from the fact that in ’09 during spot play (and with drives ending due to the clock) his drives averaged 5.77 plays during which the team converted 80% of their third downs, that’s impressive, even against the defeated team’s back-ups.
I hope we go to an Oregon or WVU type of attack and that KNew finishes with 1500+ yards passing and 1000+ yards rushing. If we run more out of the spread and throw short/safe passes he should be ok.
Special Teams- The good news is we are deeper, so the awful coverage from last year will be better this year. Also, we are deeper, so blocking on returns should be better this year. Additionally, we have a ton of fast, quick, and creative returners that should help our return game quite a bit.
The bad news; well do you want bad or worse?
Great job Mr. Wagner, you are kicking from 54 and 55 yards when no one is rushing you. Did you think to work on accuracy at 45-50 yards? That might have been more helpful given your history at that fairly regular distance. He scares me a little; hopefully he will be serviceable because if not, I’m not sure Jeff Reed…er Anthony Fera, will be sober enough to kick straight. But who knows, maybe Fera WILL take the Jeff Reed approach and turn out ok.
Also, as Wagner pointed out, some more great news; we have a punter competition between Nye and Fera. You know, I don’t picture a punter competition turning out like a QB or RB competition. It isn’t like Nye will go out and boone a 43 yard punt, inspiring Wagner to boone a 45 yarder. If the guys can only kick up to 40 yards, they can only kick up to 40 yards . Hopefully our coverage will be as good as I expect, and maybe the shorter kicks will help as well. We will not be in a position this year to give up easy, long, returns.
The easy way out is 9-3 and I am 80% confident in it. But I like our odds against Alabama and will go with 10-2, and who knows, maybe the confidence from an Alabama upset will give us a push at OSU and Iowa.
Alabama is primed for the picking early in the season; we’ve heard the defense is inexperienced and if they lose their best defender that could only help. We will need a great game from the defense and special teams to keep the Heisman at bay, and for KNew and the offense to put in a gutsy performance. If the RBs combine for 150 yards and KNew scrambles/runs for another 75 I think we will be in position to win a close and low scoring game. By keeping the Heisman at bay, I don’t mean under 100 yards, we just can’t let him dominate.
Call it 20-17.
OSU and Iowa will be more difficult IMO as they will have more time to gel and if we beat Ala they will immediately circle our game on their road to the BCS. Additionally, I don’t think our left tackle – whoever it may be – will be able to stop Heyward or Clayborn. But again, if KNew can avoid that rush and pick up some yards on his own – or on a screen – we could prevail.
Upsets? They will have to come at home because I don’t see us losing at Minn or “at” IU. Maybe we’ll be caught looking ahead when NU comes to town or maybe, if we have already lost 4 games, MSU could surprise a down and out team at the end of the season.
However it turns out, I’m excited now and can’t wait for 9/04! WE ARE!!