As we lurk closer to Joe Paterno's final chapter at Penn State, Nittany Lions fans are hoping to win one more national championship before the guy with the glasses calls it quits. Unfortunately for the "Nit-Wits" out there, 2010 will not be the year of the Nittany Lion.
The Penn State football program is in a state of flux after landing the 10th best recruiting class for 2010, according to Scout.com. After all, the future does look bright with Paul Jones poised to take over at quarterback in 2011.
The best thing Penn State fans could hope for is to see Jones, a Donovan McNabb-clone, take snaps behind center with the first team at some point in 2010, because this year will be a rough one for Penn State.
The first issue at hand is with Kevin Newsome, the presumed starting quarterback entering the fall. Newsome is a poor-man's Daryll Clark at best. Unfortunately, he has yet to show good instincts and confidence. Newsome will also struggle making the throw on out-patterns.
Next, Penn State will need to supplement Evan Royster's powerful rushing attack with some speed from Stephfon Green. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about Stephfon Green and how this young speedster could help extend JoePa's tenure at Penn State...this has not happened.
Why has Green failed to deliver on the gridiron? From my observations, they have yet to utilize him right.
It is no secret that Royster could be a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy in 2010. With that said, we all know that it is tough to pull Royster off of the turf for Green, especially since Green struggles in pass protection.
For Green though, he must see the field on passing downs because that is where he is most dangerous—especially on screen plays. However, the days of depending on just one running back to move the chains are long gone. Penn State must get another back into the mold, especially if Green continues to be inadequate.
The secondary remains an issue. Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay are good talents but a mediocre system of zone defense hinders this team. At linebacker, they lost Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman, but if Michael Mauti is healthy, he will be one of the best linebackers in the country. Without Jared Odrick, the defensive line takes a hit.
Another reason why Penn State will struggle is because of the schedule. The Nittany Lions hit the road against Alabama, Iowa, and Ohio State. Home games against Michigan, Northwestern, and Michigan State are no cake-walks either.
With Kevin Newsome behind center, and the loss of six starters on defense, I look for the Nittany Lions to hit some rough patches while they transition into a better team for a run at the national title in 2011.