Penn State Football: Projecting Stats for Nittany Lions' Most Important Players
Penn State's success this season is built around certain players' performances. These players are typically their best players but other scenarios count as well.
Key players are coming back from injury (Michael Mauti), others are facing more responsibility (Garry Gilliam and Jordan Hill) and Matt McGloin plays the most important position on the field.
You could make a case for the importance of other players, but their production is expected. That's why you don't see Gerald Hodges on this list. He's arguably Penn State's top defensive player, but his production is expected. For me, that diminishes his importance.
I used the word "importance" in an "X-factor" sense for the most part.
Let's take a look at Penn State's eight most important players and what to expect from them this season.
2011 stats: 33 tackles, 1 INT
Projected 2012 stats: 60 tackles, 3 INT
Willis will be relied upon for stability on the back end of Penn State's defense this year. He is experienced, but he's still a relatively unknown commodity.
This is Willis' first year as a full-time starter. He is talented, plays well against the pass and he packs some punch in run support.
He will almost double his tackle total from last season, and he will make more plays on opposing passes. Don't expect him to garner any postseason accolades, but he will be a steady presence in the Nittany Lion secondary.
2011 stats: 35 catches, 517 yards, 2 TD
Projected 2012 stats: 55 catches, 900 yards, 4 TD
Brown will be Penn State's No. 1 wide receiver this season, and he will perform as such. But that doesn't fix the Nittany Lions quarterback situation.
He will suffer a bit because of Matt McGloin. If McGloin is worse than anticipated, Brown's production won't even be this high.
Brown's a lanky, athletic and fast target. His hands need to improve, but he has legitimate No. 1 potential.
2011 stats: 21 tackles
Projected 2012 stats: 90 tackles
Mauti only played four games last season before tearing his ACL.
He is one of Penn State's leaders, and he is possibly their best form tackler.
Mauti doesn't bring much to the table outside of instincts and tackling ability, but he's elite in both areas.
2011 stats: 1 catch, 21 yards
Projected 2012 stats: 25 catches, 270 yards, 2 touchdowns
Gilliam is an unknown commodity, but he will start for Penn State at tight end this year. Bill O'Brien loves his tight ends, and he will look to Gilliam for production.
He is a huge target with unknown upside. Look for him to get plenty of looks in Penn State's attack.
Gilliam will provide a solid red-zone target and a safety valve for Matt McGloin. He could emerge as a viable receiving threat.
2011 stats: 59 tackles, 8 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Projected 2012 stats: 65 tackles, 10 TFL, 5 sacks
Hill will have a larger responsibility this year with Devon Still playing in the NFL. Expect his numbers to take a pretty significant jump.
He's an extremely explosive player on the interior. His motor lacks at times, but he is dominant when he's motivated. Hill's quick first step gives him an edge over slower interior linemen.
I'll be surprised if Hill doesn't have a monster year.
2011 stats: 244 carries, 1,241 yards, 7 TD
Projected 2012 stats: 255 carries, 1,300 yards, 11 TD
Bill O'Brien's offense will spread the field, but he will still lean on Penn State's best player. Redd isn't a north-south workhorse, and I expect his workload to be very close to last year's carry total.
The main jump to expect is his touchdown total. Penn State is going to have more red-zone opportunities, and Brandon Beachum is no longer around to pound the ball in. Curtis Dukes will see some chances, but Redd will get first crack.
He is one of the Big Ten's most talented ball-carriers, and his numbers could be even better than this.
2011 stats: 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks
Projected 2012 stats: 35 tackles, 7 sacks
Stanley will be Penn State's best pass-rusher next season, and fans can expect his statistics to jump accordingly.
Last year, he didn't put up any numbers against Indiana State or Nebraska. Assuming he doesn't face any injuries, you can expect Stanley to man his edge each game.
The Nittany Lions need Stanley to provide consistent pressure from the end, and they can expect him to deliver.
2011 stats: 125-231, 1,571 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT
Projected 2012 stats: 140-240, 1,650 yards, 14 TD, 6 INT
I'm going to give McGloin the benefit of the doubt in terms of touchdowns. He still isn't a top-notch quarterback, but Bill O'Brien's offense should help him at least a little bit.
McGloin will throw six more touchdowns this year because of easier opportunities and a better all-around group on offense. I expect Penn State to exist more in the red zone, and that will result in more opportunities for McGloin.
Penn State fans will still call for his head on more than a few occasions, but O'Brien's offense will help his progress. His numbers could be worse than this, but this is a reasonable assumption at this point.