Penn State Football Predictions: 10 off the Wall Predictions for 2011
It's that time of year when everybody starts to think about their predictions for the 2011 college football season.
We have already taken a look at some predictions for younger players on the roster who could become legends as well as some thoughts on what expectations for Joe Paterno Penn State fans should have this season.
Now it's time to take it up another step and share some predictions for the season that may sound a tad outlandish when you first think about it but when you take a step back and think about it the more logical they may seem.
As always, feel free to share your own predictions by leaving a comment in the field below.
1. Robert Bolden Wil Be Named the Starting Quarterback at Penn State
This has been the number one hot button issue among fans on the Internet and on Twitter this entire off season. Who will be the starting quarterback?
Sophomore Robert Bolden, having threatened to transfer out of the program following the Outback Bowl, will be Penn State's starting quarterback for the 2011 season, barring injuries.
Bolden has already shown that he has what it takes to convince the coaching staff that he can start the season as the starter, although he must redeem himself from the way last season effectively ended for him on the field.
Bolden's athletic ability and maturation will be key in winning the starting job over Matt McGloin, who took over for Bolden behind center last season.
Joe Paterno has already stated that the starting quarterback will be Bolden or McGloin and that both have performed well in spring practices.
If Bolden has progressed as well as it seems he has, according to the coaches, then there should be no reason to give the starting job to anyone besides Bolden.
With improved pass efficiency and better play in the red zone Bolden will prove to be a leader of the offense and be rewarded for making a decision to stay on campus at Penn State.
2. Matt McGloin Will Fall to Third on the Depth Chart
Matt McGloin lacks the physical talent that Rob Bolden and Paul Jones do and the future of the program rests in the hands of Bolden and/or Jones.
As Jones becomes more familiar with the offense and begins to get some reps in practice and on the field in mop-up duty Jones will prove himself worthy of being the primary back-up for Bolden.
Joe Paterno is not known to turn his back on the players that have performed for him though so it will take a good amount of time before McGloin is placed third on the official depth chart.
Jones may in fact have more to prove than McGloin will have to fall, but by the end of the season McGloin's faults and weaknesses will show just why Bolden and Jones were highly recruited players by Penn State and McGloin was a walk-on.
3. Brandon Beachum Will Rush for 500 Yards
Running back Brandon Beachum is back in the swing of things in the offensive backfield and should not be forgotten on this offense.
Mixed in with Silas Redd and Stephon Green (more on them in a moment) Beachum should be a nice component to plug in from time to time on offense, and should see a number of carries as a primary back-up to Redd.
If healthy Beachum gives the offense a powerful, yet quick runner who can make some plays and rack up some rushing yards rather quickly.
That is why a prediction of 500 rushing yards may not be totally out of the question.
4. Silas Redd Will Rush for 1,500 Yards
It is not quite time to anoint Silas Redd the next Curt Warner, but this season should see the sophomore take on a heavy work load out of the backfield and that is reason enough to get excited about Penn State's offense this season.
The offensive line may hold back Redd's overall production early on but if it improves then Redd will be the one most likely to benefit from it.
Redd has strength, power, and the ability to cut and change directions better than a number of former Penn State running backs and the countdown has already begun for when he will eclipse Evan Royster's school rushing record.
Expect Redd to emerge as one of the top running backs in the Big Ten this season with a solid 1,500 rushing yards, and see if that starts to create some buzz for what could be a memorable junior season for Redd.
5. Stephfon Green Will Score Six Touchdowns in 2011
Stephfon Green saw his role drastically reduced last season.
Silas Redd jumped him on the depth chart behind Evan Royster and Green was more likely to be seen on special teams than lining up behind a quarterback. That should change this season.
Green will hope to redeem himself on offense with a bounce back year, especially with an opening on the running back depth chart with Royster moving to the Washington Redskins.
Look for Green to combine with Redd to provide a bit of a thunder and lightning combo in the running game.
If all goes well for Green he should see more rushing attempts and screen passes and if he can get in the open field he should be able to create some plays.
Green has just eight career touchdowns but I am looking for a more productive year form him in 2011 so I have set the bar at six touchdowns, whether they come on the ground or through the air or even on special teams.
6. Jack Crawford Will Record Five Sacks
Last year, as it was for a number of Penn State players, was a disappointment for defensive end Jack Crawford.
Entering the 2010 season with plenty of hype Crawford was limited by injuries and unable to bring much pressure on the defensive line.
Crawford's two sacks were well below where some fans and media types were envisioning for him, and dipped from his five sack showing in 2009.
Crawford has still been battling injuries this spring so his healthy will be a concern in 2011, but if he can get and stay healthy he could make an impact for the defense this season.
Look for Crawford to pick up a few more sacks this season and match his 2009 total.
7. Khairi Fortt Will Replace Nate Stupar on the First Team Defense
Through no fault of his own, Nate Stupar will at some point be replaced by Khairi Fortt as a defensive starter in 2011.
Stupar saw some back-up time this spring behind Fortt as he recovered from an injury and worked his way back in to the flow.
When healthy, Stupar is a fine linebacker and will be a nice complement to Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges.
But Fortt has seen his game reach new levels and it will become evident as the season progresses that Fortt is more athletic and able to get to more opposing players than Stupar will be able to, which will lead defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and Joe Paterno to make a change and give Fortt a chance to start.
In reality it will not matter which player gets the start though because there will be a rotation at the position anyway, giving different players a chance to play a good amount of time depending on the defensive package in the particular situation.
Stupar and Fortt will both be keys to that linebacker mix from start to finish.
8. Devon Smith Will Return Two Kicks or Punts for a Touchdown
Few players on Penn State's roster can match the speed of wide receiver and kick returner Devon Smith.
Entering his third season it is clear that Smith's role on this team is as a kick and punt returner in addition to being a good slant-type receiver or a guy who can run deep and try to outrun the defenders.
To this point Smith has just one touchdown on his stat sheet but that should change in 2011.
Expect to see Smith running in to the end zone with defenders behind him a few times this season, and do not be surprised if he manages to return a kick or two for a touchdown.
We'll set the bar at two kickoff and/or punt returns for Smith this season. Is that setting the bar too high? It could be.
The Penn State record for most punt returns for a touchdown in a season is two, and is shared by three players. Jimmy Cefalo (1977), O.J. McDuffie (1991) and Bruce Branch (1999) are the only players to return two punts for a touchdown.
The record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a season is also two, accomplished by Curt Warner (1980) and Chuck Peters (2).
Fortunately for Smith, this prediction is combining punt and kickoff returns.
9. Justin Brown Will Lead the Nittany Lions in Receiving
Derek Moye will be the senior leader for Penn State's receivers this season but Justin Brown is due for a solid season.
Brown came on strong toward the end of the 2010 season and that should carry over in to the 2011 season.
Brown finished the season with 452 yards and one touchdown in 2010 and I'm looking for Brown to nearly double his receiving total and significantly increase his touchdown total.
Improved quarterback play from Rob Bolden should help Brown's production see a bump as well as the increased role Brown is expected to take in the offense following the graduation of Brett Brackett.
Moye recorded 885 receiving yards and eight touchdowns for Penn State in 2010 so Brown clearly has some catching up to do but this could be that kind of breakout year for Brown that would see that kind of production.
10. Penn State Will Play for the Big Ten Championship
Here's a shocker for you, possibly.
If these predictions come true then Penn State will have an excellent chance of playing for the Big Ten championship in the first year of division play.
What makes this more of a challenge though will be the final two weeks of the regular season, with road games at Ohio State and Wisconsin following a home game against cross over opponent Nebraska.
It may be the toughest final three games on any school's schedule in 2011, regardless of conference affiliation.
But if Penn State gets solid play out of the offensive line to give Rob Bolden, Silas Redd, and Stephfon Green room to work with and time to make something happen then the offense has potential to be one of the more dangerous ones in the Big Ten's Leaders Division.
Remember that in the new Big Ten the only games you have to win are the division games so losses to teams like Nebraska and Iowa will hurt in the polls but not necessarily affect the Big Ten championship race.
Penn State has a terrific history against Indiana and Purdue since joining the Big Ten and they will be ready for a revenge game against Illinois at home following last year's outing.
Get through those games at 3-0 and Penn State will control their own destiny in the Leaders Division.
And who knows what the state of mind in Columbus will be with the Ohio State Buckeyes by the time November comes calling.
A 4-0 Penn State team in division play with emerging talent on offense heading to Madison in the final week of the regular season would be a tremendous shape to be in, and it would make for a terrific Big Ten showdown.
Get this far and Joe Paterno will be able to check a couple of items off of his bucket list as well.