Thursday, August 5, 2010
Opening camp: Penn State
By ESPN.com staff
Schedule: First practice takes place today in State College. Practices will be scheduled around the end to Penn State's second summer academic session, which has final exams beginning Aug. 13.
What's new: Quite a lot. Penn State loses six first-team All-Big Ten performers from 2009, including quarterback Daryll Clark and defensive tackle Jared Odrick, the league's co-Defensive Player of the Year. All eyes will be on the quarterback spot as last year's backup, Kevin Newsome, competes alongside Matt McGloin and two true freshmen, Paul Jones and Robert Bolden. The Lions also will have a new-look lineup at linebacker, although Nate Stupar and Bani Gbadyu are familiar names.
Key battle: Everyone knows about the quarterback race, which likely won't be decided until late in camp. But there are other battles, too. The offensive line has to be better this year after struggling against elite defensive fronts like Iowa and Ohio State in 2009. Penn State is set with standout Stefen Wisniewski at right guard, but the left guard spot will feature plenty of competition between DeOn’tae Pannell and Johnnie Troutman. Both players have experience but one needs to emerge.
New on the scene: Penn State brings in the Big Ten's top recruiting class and should see some immediate contributions from its freshmen. You know about the quarterbacks, but keep an eye on defenders like Khairi Fortt, Dakota Royer, C.J. Olaniyan and Mike Hull. Penn State must replace five starters on defense and build depth there as well.
Switching it up: Chaz Powell ranked fourth on the team in receiving last season, but he practiced at cornerback this spring and could be a big contributor there. Sophomore Stephon Morris did some good things as a true freshman in 2009, but Powell should push him.
Breaking out: You just know Penn State will have a new group of stars on defense after losing Odrick, Navorro Bowman, Sean Lee and others. Devon Still is poised for a big season at defensive tackle if he can stay healthy, and Jack Crawford could take the next step and become one of the league's premier pass-rushers. The linebacker group should be very interesting, as Michael Mauti, a fan favorite, gets his opportunity to shine. If Penn State finds a capable quarterback, wide receiver Derek Moye might have a breakout season.
Back in the fold: Mauti tore his ACL in camp last summer and missed the entire 2009 season. He'll definitely be in the mix for a starting spot, most likely at outside linebacker.
Quoting: "We've got a tough schedule and we've got a good young squad that's got a long way to go to be good. We've got a bunch of kids that'll work at it and get better each week. Before it's all over, we'll be a pretty good football team. How many games we'll win? I don't know." -- Head coach Joe Paterno