It's safe to say that the Penn State Football program had its share of unfortunate events in 2011.
What sometimes went unnoticed though, was that the Nittany Lions actually turned in a respectable season—finishing 9-4 overall and challenging for a spot in the Big Ten title game.
So even with all the negativity surrounding Happy Valley over the past year, the football team should be able to give the community something to look forward to in the fall.
The 2012 Penn State offense will see the return of highlight reel playmakers Justin Brown and Slias Redd, which is something every Nittany Lion fan should be looking forward to.
Brown put up 517 yards receiving on 35 receptions last year, serving as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Derek Moye. The rising senior flashed numerous plays (like this one and that one) which have Nittany Lion fans waiting in anticipation to see what kind of numbers he will be able to put up in his first crack at the lead wide receiver role.
Redd will be returning for his junior season and looks to continue the great history of successful running backs out of Penn State. The most exciting offensive player on the team is a legitimate threat to break for a touchdown each time he touches the ball, and like Brown, should flourish under Bill O'Brien's new offensive scheme.
Linebacker U is still going strong.
Potential first-round draft picks Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti anchor yet another intimidating corps of Penn State linebackers.
If having two seniors who are poised to be first-team Big Ten locks anchoring your unit wasn't enough, the Nits also find themselves with plenty of other options.
Mike Hull and Khairi Fortt were both big-time recruits whose talents have been waiting in the wings behind all of the greats who have gone before them. Fortt is also pushing Glenn Carson, who began to form a solid duo with Hodges near the end of last season, for a starting spot in 2012.
Matt McGloin takes a lot of heat from Penn State fans—the majority of which is undeserving.
Sure he won't be challenging for a Heisman Trophy, and yes, there are flaws in his game, but it's about time that Penn State fans get behind their starting quarterback.
McGloin has dealt with adversity his entire career. The walk-on has fought and earned every bit of playing time that he has gotten, and has achieved considerable success despite never having the chance to be the full-time starter.
Bill O'Brien is giving him that chance.
You would think the fans might get behind a success story like this, but instead, they always seem to focus on the negatives. He's too cocky. He takes too many chances. He doesn't have a strong enough arm.
Bottom line is that McGloin has thrown for 3,119 yards over his last two seasons to go along with 22 TDs and 14 INT. He's compiled a 12-4 record in regular season games in which he has been the main quarterback. Yet, he's never had the full support of the coaching staff, fanbase, or alumni.
Penn State can contend for the Big Ten title with McGloin at the helm. You just wouldn't know it by the lack of support he gets from the Nittany Lion fanbase. That needs to change in 2012.
In addition to McGloin, another position that has come under scrutiny for the Lions is their defensive backfield.
The same fans who complained about the play of Drew Astorino, Chaz Powell and Nick Sukay on a weekly basis last season, now are worried about losing them.
Make up your mind, folks.
Stepping into starting roles this season are promising young talents Malcolm Willis and Adrian Amos. Both have significant playing experience and have played well in the action they have seen.
They will join experienced senior Stephen Morris and Jake Fagnano. While Fagnano remains a bit of a question mark, Stephen Morris should lock down the corner opposite Amos.
Overall, Penn State's secondary might not be the strongest part of their defense, but it will come through in due time to help solidify the Big Ten's best defensive unit.
As reported by Tim Tolley of Victory Bell Rings, Bill O'Brien sums up the talent of Jordan Hill perfectly by saying that "he is one of the best college defensive linemen that he's ever been around."
This should be music to Nittany Lion fans' ears, as Jordan Hill will surely be getting after the quarterback and stuffing the run in 2012, while helping to anchor a defensive line that lost Devon Still and Jack Crawford to graduation.