somehow we're only 124th
The analysis is fair enough, but could you have possibly been more condescending?
Ouch. That was not my intent but unfortunately was the result. Occasionally in the pursuit of a good line or five the tenor of an article will veer off course. For that I'm sorry. In an attempt to make good, I'll respond to the saner comments and emails I received. First a comment from PSUMike of Hail To The Lion:
I think Morelli is going to surprise a lot of people. Like Lane pointed out, he didn't get on the field much because doing so would have meant benching Michael Robinson, who finished 5th in the Heisman voting. He only got to play during garbage time against Cinn, Central Michigan, and Illinois. His combined stats were 13-20 155 yds 1 TD 0 INT. Not bad considering Joe's tendency to pull in the offensive reins when he's up. He didn't light anyone up but he didn't let them get back in the game either. In the games I saw him, including the spring game, he showed good footwork and confidence. His release was quick and his passes were on time with good armstrength. As good as MRob was, he was horrible throwing the ball. His best passes were when he heaved it up and let his Butler and Williams run under it.
I remain skeptical about Morelli but admit that the evidence against is as flimsy as the evidence for. We must agree to disagree. The season will prove one of us wrong. If it heartens you, given my track record it will probably be me.
Hunt is a good back, but he's not a star. He will churn out 4 and 5 yard gains all day, but he won't break a 50 yd run. But that's all Hall will ask him to do. Keep the offense out of 3rd and long and let the WR's go for the big plays. ...
You're right the offensive line is the big question mark. But then they were the big question mark going into last year too. They weren't great but they weren't bad either. I can't see this group being worse than last year.
Really? Offensive linemen tend to be the slowest developing players on the field other than maybe quarterbacks. Going from four seniors, a junior, and years of starting experience to Levi Brown and four guys who haven't started a game in their lives is going to be a huge dropoff. If Morelli lives up to expectations that will be offset by a much improved passing game, but a tetchy offensive line and the loss of Robinson's 800 yards means that the run game will be hard pressed to come anywhere near its performance of a year ago. If Hunt was the sort of back to make things for himself I could see something effective emerge, but he seems like the kind of guy who needs the hole to be precisely where it's supposed to be.
On defense, we lose three starters on the D-Line, but return Jay Alford who had 8.5 sacks and 11.5 TFL last year. Ed Johnson is returning and should be a force in the middle. I also expect some of their freshmen recruits to step in and make a contribution by the start of Big Ten play. The LB's will be fantastic. I'm glad to see you recognize that.
The DB's are a question. No doubt. They have talent, but they lack experience. Fortunately, you can coach the latter and not the former.
There is still a steep dropoff from Hali to either the journeymen veterans currently in place or freshmen, no matter how highly touted Maurice Evans is. As for the DBs, I'm not sure how much raw talent there is other than Justin King -- and I don't think anyone else does either. The remainder of the secondary had middling guru ratings and was stuck behind Phillips, Lowry et al over the past few years. It could be rough to start.
My prediction is 10-2. We will split the ND and OSU games. Win one and lose one. Don't ask me which but I hope it's ND. God I hate them. I think we will beat you guys. We're due and we're hungry. Penn State is tired of hearing the press tell us you own us. But I think we will slip somewhere along the line and lose to either Wisconsin, Purdue or Minnesota.
I think beating ND is going to be a very tough task on the road with a quarterback getting his first experience against a real opponent. The young secondary and (projected) flimsy pass rush don't match up well against Quinn, Smarjadskazieksa, and company. Obviously PSU has a chance, but I think that's a loss.
As for Michigan, I don't think PSU will be any hungrier to beat Michigan than they were last year or the last seven times they played. A night game at the Beav will be Edmonton-Stanley-Cup-Finals insane, granted, but the game is still played on the field. On said field, I think the Michigan defensive line will give PSU all kinds of problems. Hunt isn't the kind of back to exploit Michigan's dodgy outside linebackers with uncovered bounce-outs. Derrick Williams will be matched up against Leon Hall, who is pretty good. If Henne is on I think Michigan wins -- a big if given last year, granted.
An email from John Uhl:
I don't share all your pessimism about PSU's team and the final results this year, but, hey, you're entitled to your opinion. Your analysis is well researched. What many seem to ignore is that PSU was one of the absolute elite teams (they have played and beaten the best in college football over the years and in bowl games) for a long, long time and then they ran in to some lousy recruiting and coaching decisions which resulted in a horrible 3-4 years. The old man has turned the reins over to some very capable ass't coaches and, well, you saw the results last year. Galen Hall is an offensive genius. Expect very good things from this year's team .They are LOADED with talent on both sides of the ball. AND, attitude! To expect a repeat of last year is unrealistic, but if Morelli hits the ground runnin', who knows.
Hope you're in Happy Valley for the night game with your team. It will be an experience you will NEVER forget. The streak ends this year. Ask OSU what the atmosphere is like. Hell, ask ESPN's Game Day crew.
I did totally overlook the presence of Galen Hall. The PSU offense did perk up under his leadership and was decent despite having little raw material to work with. His track record at Florida, aside from the rampant cheating, was impressive. If my PSU preview turns out to be exceedingly pessimistic at the end of the year it'll probably be because of that.
Another email from Robert Croumathel, though with fewer comments as I've already expressed my opinion on Morelli and Hunt, etc:
I don't know about the X's and O's, but Morelli has the best young arm I've seen at Penn State in a very long time. No big wind up and slow-motion release. Just three steps back, read, and boom. Honestly, he's got the quickest release I've seen since Dan Marino, which is so important in preventing defenders from jumping the play. If he can learn to look off his receivers, he's got some pretty good guys to throw to, so I suspect the passing game will be fine.
Tony Hunt is a complete back, meaning he can hit the crease with speed and power and also take out a linebacker when required. Yah, we played some weak defenses, but so did everyone else in the Big Ten, as you pointed out. Tony gained over 1,000 yards in the Big Ten, which puts him in some pretty good company. If you watch him for awhile you'll see he runs with heart and toughness, as opposed to Austin Scott, who avoids the contact whenever possible.
The O-line has to grow up quickly, but the strength of our defense will keep us in games. So a 9-win season is very doable, and I think we will lay a beating on ND, a
s will Michigan.
I bet the Pitt fans are thrilled with the Dan Marino comparison.
One defender you didn't mention is safety Mark Rubin. You should watch for this guy. He was a receiver who broke his ankle in the pre-season last year and missed the entire season. He's been moved to safety, and if he can learn his assignments he will be a terrific safety. He can punish people back there.
Noted, though I think any impact Rubin makes will be next year at the earliest, as he's coming off a serious injury, moving positions, and stuck behind a couple seniors.
One last thing - I've never held anything against Chad Henne, and I don't know a single Penn State fan who does. Sure I was disappointed, and it would've been great if he had landed in the SEC, but after his stellar Freshman season, it was apparent that he absolutely made the right choice.
This I am glad to hear, but obviously you haven't been to BWI. Something about the Internet fanbase that has sprung up around BWI is deeply wrong and there's an unparalleled hatred for all things block M there. Even on places like the OZone there is some underlying respect, heavily cloaked though it may be.