Ah, media day. The one time of the year where all the football players (excluding freshmen) and all the coaches gather at Beaver Stadium to be continuously pounded with the same questions over and over again, and respond with usually the same, seemingly rehearsed responses. However, many questions were answered for this coming season, while many remain very cloudy.
Joe Paterno started things off with some some humor and clarified the first question before anyone could even ask.
“Please don’t ask me if I’m going to die tomorrow. Believe me, I’ve got a few more days left. Okay, let’s talk football.”
The quarterback battle remains cloudier than ever. Sophomore Matt McGloin carries himself like a starting quarterback, confidently answering questions about the offense and his role within it. While fellow quarterback Kevin Newsome was much more quiet, the athletic dimension he brings is hard to deny. Certainly, an athlete’s interviewing ability does not reflect his playing ability, but the word around Beaver Stadium today was that McGloin just seemed like the front runner.
However, freshman Robert Bolden has been turning heads in practice. He reportedly has shown the best arm strength and accuracy out of all the candidates, including fellow freshman Paul Jones, who tossed two touchdowns in the Blue and White game.
Starting a freshman at quarterback seems highly unlikely, especially with Alabama so early in the season, but JoePa says it is not out of the question since all four candidates have zero starting experience.
“Before it’s all over, we’ll probably have a decent quarterback,” Paterno said. “Whether we’re going to have a great one this year, that’s maybe a long shot.”
One thing going for these quarterbacks, though, is the quality depth behind them at running back. This is the deepest roster of talented running backs that Penn State has seen in years. Evan Royster has packed on some pounds to take the brunt of the load. He is just 481 yards shy of becoming Penn States all-time leading rusher.
However, the speedy Stephfon Green is healthy and will be looking to challenge Royster for carries.
“Once I am in the game, I am going to go 110% every rep, every play, like it is going to be my last play,” said Green.
Brandon Beachum is returning from a ACL surgery, and says he plans to be on the field by the time Youngstown State comes to Happy Valley September 4th.
The offensive line is another part that remains uncertain. According to offensive guard and offensive line leader Stefan Wisniewski, the current first-team offensive line is as follows: junior Quinn Barnham at left tackle, junior Matt Stankiewitch at left guard, senior Doug Klopacz at center, Wisniewski at right guard, and senior Lou Eliades at right tackle.
Stankiewitch, Wisniewski, and Eliades have earned a total of 6 letters between the three, but all are playing a new position this season. The offensive line will be pivotal to the future quarterback’s success.
The defensive side of the ball is much more stable than the offense, which is usually the case for the Nittany Lion football program.
The defensive line and linebackers are loaded with talent, and have multiple position battles within that will only improve the already stout defense.
Defense tackles will likely see a rotation of players. Ollie Ogbu will likely assume the same role he had last year along side Jared Odrick. This year, a combination of Devon Still, Brandon Ware, and Jordan Hill will look to complement Ogbu and make up for the departure of the first-round pick.
The linebacking corps are stacked, as usual. Mike Mauti is returning from an ACL injury, and is expected to assume the leadership role of the linebackers with his sideline-to-sideline playing style. Chris Colsanti and Nate Stupar will likely start along side Mauti, however Mike Yanich, Bani Gbadyu, and Gerald Hodges have a serious shot of starting as well.
It has been a while since the Nittany Lions have began the season with as much experience in the defensive backfield as this year. All four have at least one year of starting experience under their belt. D’Anton Lynn and Stephon Morris will likely take the starting cornerback positions, while Nick Sukay will return at safety and Drew Astorino at the hero position.
Former wide receiver standout Chaz Powell has switched to defense this year and will see most of his playing time at the nickel back position. For Powell, it doesn’t matter what side of the ball he is on. He will still make plays.
“I like defense. I am having a lot of fun,” said a confident Powell. ” I am going to find a way to get the ball in my hands no matter what. I just need to stay humble and get ready for anything that happens.”