2009 Penn State Nittany Lions Football Preview
2008 Record: (11-2, 7-1)
2008 Bowl: Rose Bowl vs. USC (W 38-24)
Coach: Joe Paterno (383-127-3 at Penn State, 383-127-3 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Galen Hall
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Bradley
Other Key Returnees: P Jeremy Boone, LB Josh Hull, OT Dennis Landolt, DT Ollie Ogbu, TE Mickey Shuler, G Stefen Wisniewski
Key Losses: WR Deon Butler, OT Gerald Cadogan, CB Tony Davis, DE Maurice Evans, DE Josh Gaines, DE Aaron Maybin, WR Jordan Norwood, G Rich Ohrnberger, S Mark Rubin, LB Tyrell Sales, CB Lydell Sargeant, S Anthony Scirrotto, C A.Q. Shipley, WR Derrick Williams
Penn State was one field goal away from going to the BCS National Championship game. In November the Nittany Lions lost by one point in Iowa and that was the only blemish on their schedule until they had the misfortune of running into USC at the Rose Bowl. There is some work to be done on both sides of the ball, but Penn State should be in the mix for another trip to the Rose Bowl.
Penn State's Strengths:
Coach Joe Paterno only returns four starters on defense, but that does not include linebacker Sean Lee. Lee was supposed to be the superstar on the defensive side of the ball, but missed the entire season with an injury. With Lee back in action and the return of Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull, Penn State will have one of the most dominating group of linebackers in the nation. What else would one expect from Linebacker U? The offensive backfield should be in good shape as well. Quarterback Daryll Clark and running backs Evan Royster and Stephfon Green are now proven players who are ready to take the next step. Clark, now a senior, threw 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions and his ability to keep the ball in the hands of the offense was very important for a team that occasionally needed to squeak out close victories.
Penn State's Weaknesses:
The problem on both sides of the ball is in the trenches. Two of the four returning starters on defense are linemen, but this is a team that lost ends Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans and Josh Gaines. Those three accounted for 19 sacks and an incredible 31.5 tackles-for-loss. What happens to the rest of the defense, especially the new and inexperienced secondary, when the front line cannot get pressure on the opposing backfield? The same problem can occur on the other side of the ball. Center A.Q. Shipley was a coach on the field and guard Rich Ohrnberger and tackle Gerald Cadogan were experienced linemen. Tackle Dennis Landolt is back and guard Stefen Wisniewski has the potential to be one of the best in the conference, but it is very possible that this line will need some time to come together.
The Bottom Line for the Nittany Lions:
Even if Clark has time to throw, who is he going to throw it to? Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood, arguably the best group of receivers to ever don the blue and white, are now off to the NFL. Green, the back-up running back is actually the most prolific pass catcher returning. As usual, there are holes to fill, but this might be a little too much for the Nittany Lions to overcome in their effort to win the Big Ten again in 2009.
By Joel Welser
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