Penn State is losing many key pieces from last season’s passing game. It will take a team effort to replace those players, but the Nittany Lions’ aerial assault could be even more prolific in 2009.
Penn State will be replacing a legendary trio of wide receivers; Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood all rank in the school’s top five in career receptions and top 10 in career receiving yards.
They also have to replace three starters on the offensive line. This will probably mean less time in the pocket for Darryl Clark.
Coming off of an All-Big-Ten performance at quarterback, Clark will be the unquestioned leader of the offense this season. He is a smart quarterback with a big arm and good accuracy. He completed almost 60 percent of his passes last year for 2,592 yards, 19 touchdowns, and just six interceptions.
In addition to being a great pocket passer, he is mobile and can run over smaller defenders, as he ran for 282 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
In his second year as a starter, Clark will have a mastery of the offense and should be able to make quicker reads. His mobility and quick thinking should help the new offensive line and his accuracy should help the new wide receivers. He should be among the country’s best quarterbacks next season.
While inexperienced, the new receivers have great size and athleticism. Grahm Zug (6’2”, 178 pounds), Brett Brackett (6’6", 231), Chaz Powell (6’1”, 195), and Derk Moye (6’5”, 195) are expected to see the majority of the playing time at receiver.
Of this group, juniors Zug and Brackett are the most experienced. Zug had 11 receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown last year. His biggest play may have been a key 49-yard reception against Ohio State.
He runs crisp routes and has great hands and speed. Brackett pulled in 13 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown last year. He is a very big target and should be an excellent red-zone threat.
Powell is extremely fast; he runs a 4.27 forty yard dash and is a threat to take it to the house on any play. Moye’s combination of size and speed should make him an excellent deep threat.
The team will also have a talented group of freshman wideouts who are expected to contribute.
The running backs should be more involved with the passing game in 2009, especially Stephfon Green. Like Powell, Green is a home-run threat.
He runs a 4.25 forty and can turn a screen-pass or quick slant into a touchdown. In addition to being a receiving threat in the backfield, the team plans to line him up at slot receiver in a special formation.
The tight ends should be able to help take some pressure off the receivers and offensive line. Seniors Andrew Quarless and Micky Shuler are also returning for the Nittany Lions. Both are good blockers, and the team is expected to use more two tight-end formations if the offensive line gets into trouble.
Many are expecting a breakout season for Quarless. He showed great promise as a freshman, but got into trouble and struggled to see the field during the past two seasons. He impressed at the Blue-White game, hauling in four receptions for 53 yards.
Reports from practice are that he has matured. If he can finally live up to his potential, Quarless could be a major receiving threat.
With the three top receivers from last season gone, Darryl Clark will have to spread the ball around more. With contributions coming from more players at more positions, Penn State’s offense will give defensive coordinators fits.
Penn State could very well have one of the nation’s best passing offenses. With a strong running game, a stout defense, and a favorable schedule, they have an excellent chance to get back to Pasadena. If the offensive line is able to gel and the defensive secondary plays well, they could be contenders for the National Championship.