15 Reasons to Be Excited for Penn State Football
That wonderful time of year is quickly approaching. Summer sun gives way to autumn leaves as the men in blue and white take the field on Saturdays in front of a packed Beaver Stadium.
It has been seven and a half months since the Penn State Nittany Lions played an official game, but it feels like seven and a half years given the tumultuous offseason. With the countdown now at 15 days until kickoff, here are 15 reasons to be excited for the 126th season of Penn State Football.
1. Unlike the past two seasons, Penn State has a starting quarterback in August. — Bill O’Brien made it clear back in late May that Matt McGloin would be his starting quarterback. While some fans were not in favor of the choice, stability and having an entire summer to work on timing should help the offense in the fall. (Photo by Dave Cole)
2. There’s no out of conference opponent of Alabama’s caliber. — Playing Alabama the last two seasons was a lot of fun from a fan experience standpoint, but it also left the Nittany Lions with an almost guaranteed early September loss. A respectable but manageable out of conference schedule provides the opportunity to be undefeated heading into Big Ten play. (Photo by Eric Weiss)
3. Theme days including Military Appreciation Day and the Blue-Out. — Penn State and Navy will clash for the first time since 1974 on September 15. Branches of the military will be honored, and a week later against Temple will be the Blue-Out to help fight child abuse. These back to back events should make for a fun two weeks at Beaver Stadium. (Photo by Dave Cole)
4. Gerald Hodges is really, really good — Named to preseason watch lists and ranked as the top linebacker in the Big Ten by ESPN, the senior is ready to have a huge season. Look for him playing on Sundays a year from now. (Photo by Dave Cole)
5. Michael Mauti is healthy and angry. — Mauti missed most of last season with a torn ACL. He is ready to go and should be a big boost for the defense. (Photo by Dave Cole)6. Donovan Smith is your starting left tackle — A larger than life presence and personality, great things are expected from the 6-5 316 lb. redshirt freshman who should help stabilize the offensive line and protect the quarterback’s blindside for four years. (Photo by Penn State)
7. There’s a night game at Beaver Stadium — After no primetime games at home in 2011, fans have been waiting for another whiteout under the lights. Their wish will be granted on October 27th against Ohio State. (Photo by Melanie Versaw)
8. Penn State hosts the Ohio State Buckeyes for the first time since 2009 — After playing in Columbus for the last two years, this matchup returns to Happy Valley. The atmosphere is always something extra special when these teams meet. This year should be no different as the Nittany Lion faithful look to welcome Urban Meyer to the Big Ten. (Photo by Penn Live)
9. Larry Johnson Sr. and Ron Vanderlinden are still on the coaching staff- One of Bill O’Brien’s first decisions upon taking the job was to retain two of Joe Paterno’s loyal assistants. Beloved in Happy Valley, Vanderlinden and Johnson are arguably the two best position coaches in the country and should be good assets to new defensive coordinator Ted Roof. (Photo by Michael Misciagno)
10. Jordan Hill is back — The senior could have gone to the NFL but decided to return for his senior season at Penn State. While Devon Still got most of the attention, Hill was a very consistent player last year and has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Jared Odrick and Still as the next great defensive tackle. (Photo by Michael Misciagno)
11. More Blue Band — With the controversial Guido D’Elia out of the picture, fans can look forward to more from the best college marching band in the country and less piped-in music. (Photo by Eric Weiss)
12. A much improved offensive coaching staff — With Bill O’Brien serving as his own offensive coordinator, schemes will be more creative, and there will be less confusion on the sidelines. Charlie Fisher working with the quarterbacks and Mac McWhorter coaching the offensive line should be upgrades over Jay Paterno, Galen Hall, Dick Anderson, and Bill Kenney. (Photo by Michael Misciagno)
13. If you aren’t excited, Craig Fitzgerald will make you drop and give him 50 — And that’s only the beginning of the workout. The new strength and conditioning coach has brought a new attitude and system to weight lifting. Players rave about his methods and how he’s helped get them ready for the season. (Photo by Hannah Lane)
14. Actual production from the tight ends — Unless you count slot receiver Brett Brackett’s 2010 statistics, who is now a tight end in the NFL, the Nittany Lions have received next to nothing from the position since Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler left after 2009. Don’t expect the guys on the roster to turn into Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez overnight, but O’Brien should be able to get Garry Gilliam, Kyle Carter, and Jesse James involved in the passing game providing a safety valve for McGloin. (Photo by Mike Pettigano — Black Shoe Diaries)
15. “Because it’s still Penn State.” — That quote, posted on Facebook by 2013 defensive end commit Garrett Sickels on July 23rd following the sanctions, will not be forgotten anytime soon. O’Brien wanted two things when he learned about possible NCAA penalties. He wanted to play football, and he wanted to be on television so the program could get exposure. He got both of his wishes. Several student athletes believed in and stuck with the program after its darkest day. There is football in Beaver Stadium in 15 days, and “it’s still Penn State.” (Photo by Shawn Inglima)
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