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The Biggest Surprises of 2006: #1 - Anthony Scirrotto

Going into the season everyone figured Donnie Johnson was going to be the star of the secondary. He was the lone player with any significant playing time and a lock to nail down the free safety position. The Hero position was a wide open battle between fifth year senior Nolan McCready and sophomores Spencer Ridenhour and Anthony Scirrotto. Honestly, I thought Scirrotto was going to be number three on the depth chart going into the season.

Much to everyone's surprise Scirrotto got the start on opening day against Akron. The coaches decided to "live with the mistakes" of starting an athletic but inexperienced sophomore over the crafty verteran senior, McCready. Scirrotto wasted no time solidifying his position. Against Akron he pulled down an interception, broke up a pass and recorded five tackles. The job was his without questions from that point on.

As the season wore on he grew more comfortable on the field. Then, against Illinois, he broke out and took the step from being a good player to becoming a playmaker.

The evolution of a playmaker before your eyes

Illinois was stifling the Penn State offense all day. Trailing 9-3 at the half, Joe Paterno burst into the room where the defense was going over their halftime adjustments and said, "You guys are going to have to win the game today because the offense can't do it." With that, Scirrotto raised to the challenge. In the second half Anthony intercepted two passes to keep the Illini offense at bay. Then, with less than a minute to play and Illinois trying an onside kick down by 7, Scirrotto saved the game by scooping up the loose ball and breaking through the line to scamper 40 yards for the game icing touchdown.

From that point on, Scirrotto was a force in the secondary. He went on to make key interceptions against Purdue and Tennessee and finished the season tied for the Big Ten lead in interceptions and was named to the All Big Ten team in his first year as a starter. He took a position that was perceived to be a weakness for the Lions and turned it into a strength, and I don't think anybody saw that coming.

Previous Surprises of 2006
#2 - Andrew Quarless
#3 - Justin King
#4 - Sean Lee
#5 - Paul Posluszny