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Midseason Report Card

Halfway through the season and sitting at 4-2. Time for the midseason report card.

Quarterbacks

The Stats

Anthony Morelli: 103-184 (56%), 1224 yards, 6 TD, 5 INT, 117.2 Eff. rating
Daryll Clark: 7-14 (50%), 68 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 90.8 Eff. rating

Summary

At times Morelli has looked brilliant and at times he has looked awful. But overall he is going about as well as one would expect from a new quarterback with little experience. He's shown he can throw a pretty good deep ball and he can throw a laser. But sometimes he relies on his arm strength too much throwing into coverage and bouncing balls off the chests of open receivers. I think it is safe to say in the early part of the season he did not live up to expectations, but he's clearly getting better each week.

The emergence of Daryll Clark as a capable #2 has been a pleasant surprise adding depth to a position that was considered thin in the preseason.

Preseason Grade - B
Midseason Grade - B

Runningbacks

The Stats

Tony Hunt: 127 carries, 669 yards (long 34), 7 TD, 5.3 ypc, 111.5 ypg
Rodney Kinlaw: 23 carries, 152 yards (long 43), 0 TD, 6.2 ypc, 23.7 ypg

Summary

The loss of Austin Scott for the year looked like a heavy blow at the time. But Hunt has taken on more carries and proven he can carry the load of a workhorse runningback. Like I said in the preseason, he's not flashy. He isn't going to bust off the 76 yard touchdown run. But he will hit hard and grind out 4 and 5 yard carries all day. He has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last four games and he's on pace to finish with over 1300 on the year with a chance to leave Penn State as their all time leading rusher. He's a good runningback with exceptional blocking and receiving skills, but his lack of big play ability and his tendency to fumble near the goal line keep him from being great.

Kinlaw has seen limited action all season and has been pretty much ineffective in giving Hunt an occasional rest. Freshman A.J. Wallace busted off some big runs at the beginning of the year, but seems to have caught on to his game and he's no longer surprising anyone when he gets the ball.

Preseason Grade - B
Midseason Grade - B

Widereceivers

The Stats

Deon Butler: 25 catches, 394 yards (15.8 avg), 2 TD, long 55, 65.7 ypg
Jordan Norwood: 24 catches, 270 yards (11.2 avg), 1 TD, 34 long, 45.0 ypg
Derrick Williams: 19 catches, 221 yards (11.6 avg), 1 TD, 56 long, 36.4 ypg

Summary

This group has been disappointing so far this year. They seemingly disappear for a quarter or two to all the sudden come up with a 50 yard catch. Scoring production has been poor with only 4 TDs in the group. A case can be made that the problem lies with the quarterback learning the job, but I expected more out of these guys and I'm not seeing it. Williams in particular has seemed ineffective only getting the ball on bubble screens and end arounds, although Deon Butler's big day against Northwestern seemed to catch attention and open up Williams some against Minnesota where he had his best game of the season. With Morelli getting better there is hope for the rest of the season.

Preseason Grade - A
Midseason Grade - B

Tight Ends

The Stats

Andrew Quarless: 5 catches, 66 yards (13.2 avg), 0 TD, long 23, 16.5 ypg
Kevin Darling: 2 catches, 31 yards (15.5 avg), 0 TD, long 26, 6.2 ypg
Patrick Hall: 1 catch, 11 yards (11 avg), 0 TD, long 11, 2.8 ypg

Summary

Going into the season there was no star in this group. There is still no star and the group has been mostly ineffective in providing Morelli with a target down the middle. But true freshman Andrew Quarless has started the last two games and has the appearance of being a star in the making. But he still needs to improve his blocking and strength before he will see the majority of the playing time.

Preseason Grade - D
Midseason Grade - C

Offensive Line

The Stats

1148 rushing yards (191.3 ypg), 5.1 yards/rush, 6 sacks (38 yards)

Summary

It's safe to say this group has overachieved. They were the biggest question going in the season and have been adequate. The rushing game has been consistent and they do a good job of keeping defenders off of Morelli. But offsides penalties and missed blocks in the redzone have cost the offense points. Injuries have hit this unit but everyone is supposedly healthy now.

Preseason Grade - C+
Midseason Grade - B

Defensive Line

The Stats

477 rushing yards allowed (79.5 avg)

Ed Johnson: 20 tkl, 6.5 TFL (35 yds), 3 sacks
Jay Alford: 17 tkl, 6.5 TFL (27 yds), 4 sacks, 1 FF
Tim Shaw: 15 tkl, 2 TFL (15 yds), 2 sacks
Josh Gains: 13 tkl, 1 TFL (9 yds), 1 sack

Summary

Inexperience and lack of depth made this group a concern going into the season. But so far they have done an excellent job of consuming blockers and allowing the linebackers to roam free and make plays. Ed Johnson is a beast collapsing the pocket even though he doesn't have many sacks to show for it. Penn State has played some mobile quarterbacks that were able to get out of the pocket, but Johnson got them out of their comfort zone several times. Lately Johnson has been seeing more double teams giving Alford the opportunity to make plays getting 3 sacks in the past two games.

The defensive ends have been a disappointment. Tim Shaw is undersized and inexperienced at DE and hasn't been a difference maker. He had two sacks against Akron, but hasn't had one since and has been virtually invisible on the field. He is mostly reduced to rushing upfield to contain outside runs. The other DE position was supposed to be anchored by Jim Shaw, but he has been injured most of the year with a nagging ankle sprain. So Josh Gaines has been doing most of the duty. He's adequate, but doesn't get much pass rush.

True freshmen Maurice Evans and Jared Odrick have been pleasant surprises seeing significant playing time. Tim McEowen has also been getting on the field lately. These three will likely be the defensive line starters next year so it's good to see them on the field and playing well.

Preseason Grade - B-
Midseason Grade - B+

Linebackers

The Stats

Paul Posluszny: 50 tkl (31 solo), 1 TFL (5 yds)
Dan Connor: 48 tkl (29 solo), 5.5 TFL (29 yds), 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF
Sean Lee: 40 tkl (20 solo), 3.5 TFL (10 yds), 1 sack, 1 INT

Summary

The preseason grade assumed that the linebacker group from last year would remain unchanged. They moved Tim Shaw to DE and put sophomore Sean Lee in the group. They also moved Posluszny to middle linebacker, and it was evident it took him a few games to get the feel for the new position. But he's coming on strong in the last few games and looking like the dominant player he was last year. Connor has arguably been the best of the group so far, and Sean Lee looks outstanding for a sophomore. While not quite as good as last year, this group is still the heart and soul of the defense.

Preseason Grade - A+
Midseason Grade - A

Defensive Backs

The Stats

1235 passing yards (206 per game), 7 passing TD's allowed

Justin King: 21 tkl, 1 INT, 1 PBU
Donnie Johnson: 27 tkl, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 FF
Anthony Scirrotto: 26 tkl, 2 INT (56 yds), 2 PBU
Tony Davis: 18 tkl, 6 PBU

Summary

I considered this group to be the weakest on the defense going into the season. Nobody had any experience other than Donnie Johnson playing nickel back last year. King and Davis were unknowns, but they have both proven to be adequate although inconsistent. They looked spectacular against Ginn and Gonzalez at Ohio State, but they looked terrible against Notre Dame and Minnesota. King looks like a fantastic tackler sometimes, then other times he just completely whiffs.

McCready and Scirrotto started out sharing the duties at Heroback, but the sophomore Scirrotto has established himself as the clear starter. He looks better each week as he learns the defense and how to react. It appears he may end up being on of the better Heroes Penn State has had if he continues to improve.

Donnie Johnson has been a force in playing the run. He hits hard and blows up screen passes and sweeps better than any safety I've seen in a long time. It's a shame the coaches moved him around early in his career and didn't just play him at safety until this year.

Preseason Grade - C+
Midseason Grade - B

Special Teams

The Stats

Jeremy Kapinos: 24 punts, 42.2 avg, long 68, 6 of 50+
Kevin Kelly: 12-17 (70%), long 49, 9 of 21 KO's for TB

Summary

Special teams have been a major disappointment this year. Many fans cover their eyes and peek through their fingers on field goal attempts. It isn't that Kelly has been that bad. He had one bad game where he missed 3 FG, but he had an injured back he has been playing through much of the year. The long snapping and place holding have been spotty. The original LS and PH have been replaced with somewhat better results, but they muffed one against Minnesota.

Kapinos started out the year looking extremely average, but he has gotten things going lately and earned Big Ten player of the week honors against Ohio State averaging 50.5 yards per punt in the game.

The punt return team has been pretty good at holding onto the ball, an issue in years past, but they haven't had any spectacular returns of note. Return duties seem to be by committee with Williams and Scirrotto splitting the time. The kick return team has been adequate but not spectacular outside of one or two good runs by freshman A.J. Wallace.

Preseason Grade - N/A
Midseason Grade - C+

Coaching

Given the level of experience going into the season, it's not surprising to find this team at 4-2 at this point. But the Notre Dame game was embarassing and they could/should have lost to Minnesota. Play calling has been predictable and suspect at times. Too many end arounds in the early part of the season, but they seemed to have gotten away from them of late. On defense they tend to play too soft at times, most notably against Notre Dame and Minnesota. But they have met expectations so far and it's easy to see improvement from week to week.

Preseason Grade - N/A
Midseason Grade - B