Tomorrow night is the official end of the college football season, but not the end of who is No. 1. By the way, if I voted in the AP poll, USC would get my nod and if Oklahoma wins the BCS national title game, I’d peg Texas No. 2. Don’t ask for my logic behind that, but USC is the best team in the country, hands down and would beat either of those two teams playing tomorrow night.
Anyway, here’s some final grades for the 2008 Nittany Lions and a small look ahead at PSU’s offense for 2009.
Daryll Clark was thrust into the spotlight replacing Anthony Morelli and did the best job anyone could possibly ask him to. Some of us have been on the Clark bandwagon for a while, others jump aboard midway through. All agree he was exactly what the Nittany Lions needed. Pat Devlin, though limited in his spot duty, was on when he needed to be.
FINAL GRADE: A- only because Clark did throw the the pick against Iowa. But seriously, what more could he have done for this team in 2008?
’09 EARLY LOOK: Clark is the starter and should be a captain, but Kevin Newsome is going to have to play early, and probably start the Blue White game on one of the teams even if he isn’t 100-percent ready. He has to play. Is Matt McGloin the answer if Newwsome isn’t up to speed? Penn State needs to get another QB in recruiting…and even though Joe Paterno hates the JUCO route, it might be wise to snag a veteran QB from a JUCO school for the time being just to have someone with college experience. Yeah, that’s going to happen.
Evan Royster said during the weeks leading up to the preseason that there didn’t need to be nor would be a 20-25 carry back in the PSU offensive system in 2008, but he could have done it if need be. In fact Royster carried the ball over 20 times just once (26 for 90 vs. Iowa). Stephfon Green was solid at the start of the season but kind of disappeared later on. Losing Brent Carter to injury hurt. Dan Lawlor was one of the most underrated fullbacks in the country.
FINAL GRADE: B+ Again it’s tough to imagine Royster giving this team anymore than he did…but in the grand scheme of things, Green came in with a lot of hype and wasn’t given the chance to do a whole lot unless PSU was up big (first month), or Royster was down (Rose Bowl). At times when Penn State should have relied on the run even more than they were (Iowa) they didn’t.
EARLY ’09 LOOK: Finding a replacement for Lawlor won’t be hard, Joe Suhey is ready…It’s hard to imagine Royster, with four other guys who need carries, doing more than he did in 2008…speaking of, Green needs to develop his home run threat ability against more than just Coastal Carolina or Temple….and Brandon Beachum is going to need carries in 2009 too. How will they balance out everything?
Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams leave the squad as the best trio in school history. Norwood showed a lot of toughness, as been the case, for his size. It’s hard to believe that only six times during the season did a receiver post 100 yards….though that speaks to the depth of the position. This group did a good job of breaking in Clark and making his job easier, which might be the most valuable thing anyone on the offense did in 2008.
FINAL GRADE: A. Really, what else can you say about these guys? The questions are more in what happens in 2009, which leads me to….
’09 EARLY LOOK: So what happens here? Brett Brackett, Derek Moye, Chaz Powell and Graham Zug all saw decent reps in 2008. Kevin Cousins and James McDonald should get a chance in ’09 as well. But are any of these guys ready to become what the departing three were? Powell appears to be the closest thing to a Williams type, and the staff will have to break in A.J. Price as well. Speaking of A.J.’s, why not A.J. Wallace finding a home on the offensive side of the ball for 2009? He could be the home run/slash threat the offense needs?
Both Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler battled injuries during the season, Shuler was the more dependable but Quarless is the more matchup nightmare when he wants to play. This is becoming a lost position in any offense, unless you have an athletic type like Quarless, who again, wants to play.
FINAL GRADE: C. Quarless falling down and playing poorly in the Rose Bowl didn’t help this grade. There’s a lot of potential at this position and because of injuries or in some case laziness, it’s not being met.What happened to Andrew Szcerba, who had a solid spring, summer and appeared to be on the fast track to unseat both?
’09 EARLY LOOK: Both Shuler and Quarless return, but how dedicated is Quarless to becoming what he “can” become? It’s a serious question that needs asked. Can he survive an offseason without being named in some kind of incident? Shuler should be able to bulk up some more and polish his game too. What will happen to Szcerba? If Quarless comes in ready to play, he can be the most dominant tight end in the conference…again, if he wants to be.
Paterno always points to the offensive line as the most important piece of a football team, it is. This unit was among the best in the conference and even agaisnt USC kept Clark fairly safe. There were a couple of bad snaps, but penalties and mistakes were down, a big plus.
FINAL GRADE: A. For nine weeks no one swapped positions. If you get that kind of consistency along the offensive front, the most piece of a football team, then you are going to win 11 games and go to the Rose Bowl. The unit also gets a high mark because of some depth and also the interchangable parts like Mike Lucian, Stef Wisniewski, etc.
’09 EARLY LOOK: The ability of coaches Bill Kenny and Dick Anderson to develop replacement is the first and formost important offensive issue going into the offseason. Gerald Cadogan, A.Q. Shipley, Rich Ohrnberger and Mike Lucian are all gone. There are plenty of key pieces returning including tackle Dennis Landolt and guard Stefen Wisniewski…might Landolt move to the left tackle spot and Stef over to center?
Doug Klopacz is coming off a torn ACL and we’ve seen little of DeON’Tae Pannell and Quinn Barham but both might be able to step up, especially Pannell who appears set to assume either the left or right tackle role. Could be a case of when the season starts, Landolt is at left, but we see Pannell there once he is comfortable.
Outside of that, Lou Eliades, Matt Stankiewitch, Johnnie Troutman, J.B. Walton will be fighting for jobs too. Where will incoming freshman Eric Shrive fit in? Are we seeing a shift in how PSU recruits offensive linemen? Three of the incoming freshman, Nate Cadogan, Shrive and Adam Gress are 6-6 or 6-7.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE: A-…..I float between an A- and B+ because the ‘Spread HD’ worked but it got a little flat towards the end of the year and it seemed to evolve too soon, if that’s possible. I could see some coaches dumbing things down for newer players at the beginning of the season. The element of surprise is what helps teams win games….Clark often talked that he was frustrated during prep work if he entered a game and the other team had run a defense he didn’t see. I think at some points people knew what to expect with Penn State later in the season.
And there was still that element of getting tight in games, against Ohio State and Iowa. With a year under his belt, Clark should be more freelance and trust in 2009 and this offense can stay on track.
Back tomorrow with a look at the defense and special teams.