QB Zack Mills

2002 Statistics

Coach: Joe Paterno
336-100-3, 37 years
2002 Record: 9-4
IOWA LOST 35-42 (OT)
at Wisconsin WON 34-31
at Michigan LOST 24-27 (OT)
at Ohio State LOST 7-13
at Indiana WON 58-25
Auburn LOST 9-13

2002 Final Rankings
AP-16, Coaches-15, BCS-12

2003 Outlook

Nobody has ever won more games in Division I college football than legendary head coach Joe Paterno (336 and counting). A few years back the public cry was that Paterno should hang it up. Now after coaching a 2,000+ yard running back and a nine-win season the pressure is off. JoePa plans on sticking around at least until 2006, so we don't want to doubt him. With the personnel losses in the trenches and the departure of players like Larry Johnson it is hard to imagine Penn State not struggling in conference play. However, with Zach Mills at quarterback and a solid special teams unit, Penn State will not be easy pickings.

The nonconference schedule includes (a possible revenge death-trap) at Nebraska and an important challenge early at home against Boston College. The Nittany Lions need to win both these games for early momentum. Heading into the conference slate, the opening five games include all the conference contenders except Michigan. Games at Purdue and Iowa, and home tilts versus Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio State will all be difficult. We expect Penn State to either be 5-4 or 4-5 heading into the end of the year with three relatively easy games against MSU, Indiana and Northwestern. They will be another one of those great 4-or-more loss teams by 2003's end. Expect Mills to have a standout season as the Nittany Lions improve as time progresses. Seven wins with this team would be a successful coaching job by Paterno and his staff and something to build on heading into 2004.

More importantly, Joe is a great mentor who fulfills young men as much through getting them degrees as he does through football's life lessons. It all comes together to make his maturation of boys into men something more than just coaching football. Our hats off to this man who has ostensibly done more for college athletics and human ethics than any others who have done his job. His success is measured every year he lives, not by wins and losses.

Projected 2003 record: 9-3
C Dave Costlow
FS Andrew Guman
DE Matt Rice
DT Levi Brown
CB Maurice Humphrey
QB - 4.5 DL - 3
RB - 3.5 LB - 4
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Zack Mills, 333-188-10, 2417 yds., 17 TD's

Rushing: Michael Robinson, 50 att., 263 yds., 6 TD's

Receiving: Tony Johnson, 34 rec., 549 yds., 3 TD's

Scoring: Robbie Gould, 17-22 FG, 42-45 PAT, 93 pts.

Punting: Robbie Gould, 2 punts, 42.0 avg.

Kicking: Robbie Gould, 17-22 FG, 42-45 PAT, 93 pts.

Tackles: Gino Capone, 86 tot., 59 solo

Sacks: John Bronson, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Rich Gardner, 2 for 86 yds.

Kickoff returns: Tony Johnson, 7 ret., 24.0 avg.

Punt returns: Gerald Smith, 3 ret., 3.3 avg.


LB Derek Wake
OFFENSE: Larry Johnson-TB, Bryant Johnson-WR, Gus Felder-OT, Joe Iorio-C, Tyler Lenda-OG, Matt Schmitt-OT
DEFENSE: Anthony Adams-DT, Jimmy Kennedy-DT, Michael Haynes-DE, Bryan Scott-CB, Shawn Mayer-FS, David Royer-P

written by Dave Bagchi

Last season's Nittany Lion offense averaged 34 points and 424 yards per game lead by the three-headed monster of RB Larry Johnson, QB Zack Mills and WR Bryant Johnson. Mills, a junior, is the only returning starter. The only thing stopping him from being a superstar has been his hesitation in the pocket. When Mills is struggling he begins to take deeper drops, trying to do too much if he scrambles. Penn State runs the basic I-formation with two receivers and a tight end for balance. The Lion's offensive breakdown was 50/50 through the first six games before unleashing Larry Johnson - then it became nearly 60/40 run. Expect PSU to return to the more balanced philosophy in 2003. In case Mills falters, sophomore backup Michael Robinson is an impact player. In a limited role he ran for 263 yards and six touchdowns. Penn State likes to bring him in the game in short yardage. Spring ball will be Robinson's chance to prove his arm strength and challenge Mills.

Senior WR Tony Johnson will be the go-to-guy in a solid receiving unit, even without Bryant. Returning senior TE Casey Williams had 24 catches. Williams is a bit small at only 5'11", but plays completely enough to demand a LB permanently be assigned here. Junior Gerald Smith starts after seeing limited 2002 action.

Junior Mike Gasparato (4.9 yards per carry) is a smaller back than Johnson and could struggle in an offense where the running game is built to punish defenses up the middle. 228-pound sophomore Tim Shaw should 'make a run' for the starting nod. One other rumor is that backup QB Michael Robinson could make the switch, but he is not excited about the idea. Whoever gets the nod at tailback will inherit senior FB Sean McHugh. At 260 pounds McHugh is one of the biggest and best blocking fullbacks and was an integral and underrated part of Larry Johnson's special 2002 season.

Penn State loses three offensive linemen from a solid unit. Returning sophomore OG E.Z. Smith is under-sized, so look for the youngster to put on some weight. Counterpart Chris McKelvy is a 326-pounder who should play multiple positions to become an all-conference player. There will be lots of question marks around who will replace the other recently-departed. The mobility of their quarterbacks will make the OL's transition a bit easier. Some candidates include senior Damone Jones, junior Scott Davis, and sophomore center Robert Price. Paterno's school sits in the cradle of big-linemen country, so expect much from Joe's recruits.


WR Tony Johnson


Returning Starters in bold
QB Zack Mills-Jr Michael Robinson-So
FB Sean McHugh-Sr Paul Jefferson-Sr
TB Donnie Johnson-Fr Mike Gasparato-Jr / Tim Shaw-So
WR Tony Johnson-Sr Ernie Terrell-So
WR Gerald Smith-Jr Kinta Palmer-So
TE Casey Williams-Sr Matt Kranchick-Sr
OT Damone Jones-Sr Chris Auletta-Fr
OG Tyler Reed-So Chris McKelvy-Jr
C Dave Costlow-Sr Nick Marmo-Jr
OG E.Z. Smith-So Mark Farris-Fr
OT Charles Rush-So John Wilson-Fr
K Robbie Gould-Jr David Kimball-Sr



written by Dave Bagchi

It is difficult to speculate on a team's defensive strengths when they lose their top two leading tacklers and the core of an All-American defensive front. One positive is the return of the entire linebacking core. It is a unit that really struggled with their lack of speed. We feel their play should improve. The experienced linebacking corps anchors Penn State's classically famous 4-3 defense. Senior MLB Gino Capone (86 tackles) will be the core. It has been a few years since "Linebacker U" delivered a great talent. None of the three is up to the talents of Arrington or Conlan, but they are all solid tacklers and well disciplined. Keep an eye on LaMar Stewart. Athletically, he is the best of the three.

Junior SS Chris Harrell is the best returning player on the Nittany Lion defense. He anchors an aggressive secondary that intercepted 20 passes and scored three 2002 touchdowns. Other positions look grounded and ready. The free-safety position, though, will be up-in-the-air - senior Shawn Mayer and his team-leading 144 tackles are gone to the NFL. Soph Calvin Lowry will have the top spot, with Cronin/Guman backing him up. Lowry was a starter for the first four games at HERO last season, then suffered a season-ending knee injury. The group will have to improve on allowing 215 yards passing per game. This will be especially tough with the questions along the defensive front. Keeping the play in front of them will be key.

The only player returning upfront will be junior DE John Bronson. Junior DE Jeremiah Davis will join him on the other side. Sophomore fan-favorite Tamba Hali should earn the spot at tackle. The other tackle spot will be a duel between converted DE Lavon Chisley and talented sophomore Levi Brown. This unit will need to gel quickly or the powerful offensive lines in the Big Ten will punish them.

Last season Penn State's defense struggled to stop teams on third-down, allowing a league-worst 47% conversions. With the departure of the players who chalked up almost all of the team's 35 sacks, this number will likely go down. The secondary is relatively young and not disciplined, and the linebackers struggle with their speed. This formula calls for a troublesome 2003 season on the defensive side of the ball. The Nittany Lions need more playmakers - this unit is inexperienced and lacks the headliners. One of two scenarios will play out. One - the defense does play well together to produce solid numbers, a few standouts, and even win a game or two for the revamped offense. Or Two - the team plays poorly with so many new components, and the only salvage is a few standouts who hold their own and expose the weaker links. Both should happen, which means not a dominating season in State College.


LB Gino Capone


Returning Starters in bold
DE John Bronson-Jr Lavon Chisley-So / Sam Ruhe-Sr
DT Tamba Hali-So Eddie Johnson-Fr
DT Levi Brown-Fr Jason Robinson-Jr
DE Matthew Rice-So Jeremiah Davis-Jr
WLB LaMar Stewart-Jr Deryck Toles-Sr
MLB Gino Capone-Sr Chris Wilson-Fr / Andy Ryland-Sr
SLB Derek Wake-Jr Jimi Mitchell-Jr
CB Maurice Humphrey-Fr Alan Zemaitis-So
CB Rich Gardner-Sr Gio Vendemia-So
HERO Chris Harrell-So Yaacov Yisrael-Sr
FS Calvin Lowry-So Paul Cronin-So
P Jeremy Kapinos-Fr Robbie Gould-Jr




Penn State will need a big season from a talented special teams unit to offset the question marks on offense and defense. Junior PK Robbie Gould returns after making 17-of-22 kicks, including two from 50-plus yards. Gould could see action at punter, but the coaching staff appears to be counting on redshirt frosh Jeremy Kapinos to handle the duties. Either Gould or Kapinos will take over punting duties for departed senior David Royer. This will put added pressure on the youngsters. The return game will be lead by WR Tony Johnson, who averaged 24 yards per KO return. WR Gerald Smith will take over the punt return duties. Last year's 12 yards per punt return will drop some. Field-position battles will be key for this new-look squad.


Joe Paterno silenced any quarterback controversy earlier this spring, planting Zack Mills' name on the top spot, but claimed Michael Robinson has every chance to upstage him. Robinson has worked on staying firm in the pocket and not running out so quickly, allowing plays to develop and while making better reads. The tailback duties won't be decided until the fall, but we feel Donnie Johnson will take the reigns. A terror on the scout team last year, he has shown impressive speed and power this spring. OT Damone Jones claims that this year's offensive line will be even better than last year's - we feel he may be right. Gone is Bryant Johnson at receiver, but Mills is very excited for what Kinta Palmer can bring. He has the size (6'4") and hands that will make him a reliable threat in the Big Ten. Oh, and while we're on receivers, remember the name Josh Hannum - trust me!

DE Matt Rice has worked his way into a starting spot heading into the fall after displaying a MVP performance this spring. The new D-line doesn't look to drop-off very far as some might have anticipated. The Penn State OL had trouble with this front four all throughout the spring, especially DTs Tamba Hali and Levi Brown. Both could vie for all-Big Ten honors once January rolls around. The secondary breaks in new starter Maurice Humphrey at CB. Humphrey is an extremely gifted athlete, who WR Bryant Johnson claimed might be the BEST competition he has faced, including ALL of the competition dating back to last fall.