LB Derek Wake

2003 Statistics

Coach: Joe Paterno
339-109-3, 38 years
2003 Record: 3-9
at Nebraska LOST 10-18
at Purdue LOST 14-28
at Iowa LOST 14-26
at Northwestern LOST 7-17
at Michigan State LOST 10-41

2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2004 Outlook

Joe Paterno just received a four-year coaching extension. At age 77, through his 38 years of coaching in Happy Valley, the last four may have been his most difficult as Penn State managed only one season with a record over a .500. That's just unacceptable to many, and the knock on JoPa tends to come from all angles in the "What have you done for me lately" family..."he is too vanilla and refuses to change...he has lost his edge in recruiting..." Well, if change is what is needed and 2004 is any indication of whether JoPa is willing to change, we all may be in store for his finest hours. In short, 2004 spring practice showed 12 different player position changes. A new offensive coordinator has been hired in Galen Hall (former NFL Europe head coach and introducer of probation to the Univ. of Florida when in charge), as well as a new recruiting coordinator in former QB Mike McQueary, who will now take some of the recruiting reigns from JoPa's own son Jay Paterno. And JoPa is too vanilla? Zach Mills is set to break every major passing record at Penn State, all without the help of a productive receiving unit. Recruiting experts can easily point out the correlation between the current won/loss record and a drop-off in recruiting and it's our belief that Joe Paterno has realized this fault. His 2004 recruiting haul was considered to be one of his best in the new millennium, having stolen one of the nation's premier QBs out of western PA at the last minute while landing several All-American Prep standouts...all from the state of Pennsylvania. (LB Dan Connor, QB Anthony Morelli, OL Greg Harrison, DT A.Q. Shipley). Paterno has even been seen making spring recruiting visits as of late, a factor rarely heard of this time of year.

The so-called problems at Penn State are the same problems that currently rest with his counterpart, all-time winningest Division I-A coach Bobby Bowden. They are loyal people from an older generation. The assistants and surrounding staff come from family and people directly involved with the program. Job longevity is an assurance you can find at a place like Happy Valley. In today's world of win or you are gone, that's a rare trait many younger generations just do not fully understand or accept. The bottom line at PSU isn't just to win at football, but to also win at life. Despite the rededication of Paterno, his staff and philosophy, 2004 looks to be another season of struggling to make a non-New Year's Day Bowl. However, another 3-9 record is totally unacceptable. There is a senior record-breaking QB, a super quick TB, one of the best FBs nationwide, an experienced OL with a big middle, a secondary returning top players from the Big Ten's top rated pass defense, an array of returning starters on the DL, and some of the best young talent at LB in quite some time. Penn State has two glaring weaknesses right now for 2004 - a monstrous lack of pass catchers on offense (TE and WR) and a soft middle for stopping the run (near last in the Big Ten).

No reason exists as to why PSU should not be undefeated heading into the conference opener with Wisconsin on ESPN September 25th. Granted the second game on the road versus Boston College is not likely to be a picnic (see 2003's ugliness), but revenge and talent levels point in the Lion's favor. That game is winnable in Bean Town. The problem is the middle of the schedule after Wisconsin; it is a real grindstone. How players and coaches respond to a possible October drought will make or break the season.

Joe Paterno needs time that he and/or the program may not have and/or cannot afford. 2004 should reveal a bowl team once again, but not on an elite level. The ship is headed in the right direction, but will eventual developments actually be seen by Paterno and this set of upperclassmen?

Projected 2004 record: 6-5
QB - 4 DL - 2.5
RB - 3 LB - 3
WR - 2 DB - 3.5
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Zack Mills, 251-136-5, 1404 yds., 6 TD

Rushing: Austin Scott, 100 att., 436 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Gerald Smith, 15 rec., 198 yds, 1 TD

Scoring: Robbie Gould, 9-16 FG, 22-24 PAT, 49 pts.

Punting: Jeremy Kapinos, 68 punts, 41.9 avg.

Kicking: Robbie Gould, 9-16 FG, 22-24 PAT

Tackles: Alan Zemaitis, 71 tot., 49 solo; Derek Wake 71 tot., 44 solo

Sacks: Derek Wake, Lavon Chisley - 4 sacks each

Interceptions: Alan Zemaitis, 4 for 207 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff returns: Calvin Lowry, 16 ret., 18.8 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Calvin Lowry, 26 ret., 9.2 avg. 0 TD


QB/RB/WR Michael Robinson
OFFENSE: Tony Johnson-WR, Maurice Humphrey-WR, Dave Costlow-C, Damone Jones-OT, Mike Lukac-TE, Sean McHugh-FB, Matt Kranchick-TE, Ricky Upton-TB, Chris McKelvy-OT, Casey Williams-TE, David Kimball-K
DEFENSE: Deryck Toles-OLB, Gino Capone-ILB, Andy Ryland-ILB, Yaacov Yisrael-HERO, Rich Gardner-CB, T.C. Cosby-ILB

Fifth-year senior Zack Mills is the starter, plain and simple. He saw limited duty only in the first quarter of their Blue & White Spring Game, indicating he has won the job. Having been a semifinalist for the 2002 Davey O'Brien Award, he represents the most experienced Big Ten signal-caller. His numbers were better than modest in 2003, despite having missed three games due to a sprained ankle. Mills already owns numerous PSU records and enters his senior campaign with 5,400 career passing yards (470 short of overtaking Tony Sacca's school record) and 32 career TD passes (ten short of overtaking Todd Blackledge and Sacca's record of 41). Back up Michael Robinson has played multiple positions during his PSU stint, including time at WR, TB, and as a punt returner. More important, Robinson has stepped in (when Mills has been nicked up) and performed admirably. This includes a 379-yard passing effort versus Wisconsin last year - the second highest in school history. His mobility and athletic prowess gives the offense a nice change of pace if/when peppered in properly, enough such that you could hear some rumblings the past two falls concerning Robinson being the full-time starter. However, a few Penn State players have been suspended through the summer for their involvement in an on-campus brawl this past winter, including Robinson. Although remaining on the team, the ramifications have all but sewn up the position for Mills. Highly touted QB Anthony Morelli (out of the Pittsburgh area) will join the team in the fall, giving coaches plenty of depth at the position.

Running Back
Tailbacks Austin Scott and Tony Hunt were two of only four true freshmen to play at PSU last season. Austin Scott led the team, carrying the ball at a rate of 4.4 ypc to go along with his six TDs. His future looks extremely bright, given his strong running skills, quickness and ability to catch the ball (seven catches for 47 yards). New offensive coordinator Galen Hall has (seemingly) adapted the offense during the spring to fit Scott's ability. Keep an eye out for fifth-year senior Mike Gasparato, who did not play last year due to injury. Gasparato was one of a handful of fifth-year seniors to raise eyebrows this spring, which grants the Nittany Lions a chance to finally put some elder leadership in the backfield. One of the biggest losses is at fullback, where Sean McHugh was awarded the squad's Senior MVP. Fortunately, Paul Jefferson has stepped up and emerged into what some coaches referred to this spring as the team's best offensive weapon next to QB Mills.

Wide Receiver and Tight End
The bad news: the top five pass catchers from last fall have departed, including two receivers and two tight ends, creating fresh competition. Gerald Smith is one of four returning lettermen; the unit will evolve from there. Smith missed a couple of games late in '03 after suffering a mild concussion. His leadership will be extremely crucial with this inexperienced group. Junior Terrance Phillips did lead the team with a 17.0 average, but beyond that, it's new faces and names. Is this really good news? In 2003, the wide outs were, simply put, horrible, and that's according to Paterno! They tried hard, but were confused at times. By not running a route the same way twice in a row, the QBs had some indecision - they were not sure of what was (going to be) happening downfield. Although it's easy to place blame on the QB in a difficult/losing season, the bottom line is that these PSU receivers must be better by leaps and bounds in route running. The TE position is a major part of that inexperience equation. Count them - three TEs are listed as key losses (Williams, Lukac and Kranchick). The only returning TE who saw much time period was Isaac Smolko and his one catch versus Purdue. Whew, when looking at the receivers and TEs as a whole, one cannot help but envision the same problems continuing to plague this offensive facet to start.

Offensive Line
One of the biggest gambles prior to the fall was shifting Levi Brown from the other side of the ball to this one (DT to OT). Legends were beginning to formulate around Brown as a defensive stalwart before this offensive calling. The gamble panned out well as the 6-5, 311 pound Brown started all 12 games at left tackle, which now gives new offensive coach Galen Hall a place to start up front. The most unheralded but important news with Hall this off-season is the stressing of "zone" blocking schemes now being utilized across the line. It is Hall's belief that with RBs like Scott, Gasparato and Hunt, a "zone" blocking philosophy will better suit the Nittany Lions…a very interesting development, to say the least. The best competition is at right tackle, where a battle between four different players is taking place. Former TE Andrew Richardson has put on 26 pounds and appears to have first dibs, although all four players will likely see time. The top man at center is E.Z. Smith. Although not listed as a returning starter, Smith lettered in 2002 after starting six games at guard. He did not play in 2003 but has rejoined the team. Both starting guards return in Tyler Reed and Charles Rush, providing PSU will a solid pair of 300-pound anchors in the middle.

Is the glass is half empty or half full? That question, when answered, will help to describe this offensive unit for '04. The offensive line and QB play will be their biggest and best assets. They are complete with size, experience and depth. If Penn State is to make a move for the better, the OL just has to get the job done, especially considering the talent level up front. Despite having top quality QBs, the receiver issues (along with the marginal run-blocking, which reflects underachievement) have allowed defenses to make Penn State look foolish on recent occasion(s). Since TB Austin Scott is no longer a freshman, if he cannot start producing consistent 100-yard games, then the pressure again falls on Mills to locate (covered) receivers. Aiding the OL is a fullback that will surprise a good many. Some coaches have stated Jefferson is the best offensive player on the field. His running, receiving and, most importantly, his blocking abilities, have the potential to move the line to that next level. Although, if Penn State's best option outside of Mills is at FB, this offense is likely in big trouble…again. Get those receivers working, period.


QB Zack Mills


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Zack Mills-Sr (6-3, 214) Michael Robinson-Jr (6-2, 225)
FB Paul Jefferson-Sr (6-1, 259) Brian Gilmore-Jr (5-11, 243)
TB Austin Scott-So (6-1, 214) Tony Hunt-So (6-2, 218)
Mike Gasparato-Sr (5-11, 216)
WR Gio Vendemia-Jr (6-0, 187) Terrell Golden-Fr (6-3, 209)
Kinta Palmer-Jr (6-4, 184)
WR Gerald Smith-Sr (5-11, 181) Terrance Phillips-Jr (5-11, 187)
TE Isaac Smolko-Jr (6-5, 257) John Bronson-Sr (6-3, 264)
OT Levi Brown-So (6-5, 311) John Wilson-Jr (6-6, 319)
OG Charles Rush-Jr (6-2, 298) Scott Davis-Sr (6-3, 288)
C E.Z. Smith-Jr (6-1, 276) Lance Antolick-Jr (6-3, 274)
OG Tyler Reed-Jr (6-4, 303) Robert Price-So (6-0, 305)
OT Andrew Richardson-Jr (6-5, 294) Joel Holler-Fr (6-5, 328)
K Robbie Gould-Sr (6-1, 179) ..



Defensive Line
When dissecting the depth chart, Penn State shows five players that started at least five games in '03. Then there's the addition of PSU's potential all-Big Ten performer Derek Wake splitting time at DE and OLB, depending on the alignment. Wake started 10 games in 2003 at OLB, racking up a team-leading four sacks. His quickness and desire can best be expressed with another proof-in-the-puddin' number - Wake has managed six career-blocked kicks. The DEs go two-deep in terms of possessing starting experience. On the other side is a combo of juniors Tamba Hali and Lavon Chisley. Hali has played in the last 24 games and returns as the Nittany Lions' second-most experienced lineman. Nagging injuries hampered him in '03, but he still managed to post some outstanding efforts. Chisley is agile and quick with a generous wingspan, which explains his five pass breakups. On the inside, Jay Alford rebounded from a knee sprain suffered in the 2003 season-opener to start the final eight. Beside him is the tenacious Scott Paxson, who began to emerge as well. The improvement in the heart of the line over the course of 12 months will surely be a huge asset, but no doubt the strength of this front exists on the outside.

One of the players you want to keep an eye on is sophomore OLB Paul Posluszny, who is starting to turn the corner in terms of meeting expectations. The Aliquippa, PA native was a Pennsylvania High School Player Of The Year selection by numerous sources. He wasted little time proving his point, debuting in the fifth game as just a true freshman. He can play the middle as well as the outside, and should certainly leave his mark over the course of the next three seasons. Tim Shaw had an excellent spring practice, good enough to earn a starting spot at the other OLB position. He has added an additional 15 pounds and recorded a 4.35 40-yard dash this past April at the Coaches Clinic. Backing him up is a true freshman (Parade's top prep linebacker in 2003) in Dan Connor, who graduated from high school early and enrolled in January. The reasons for moving former LB Derek Wake to the DL suddenly becomes quite plain and simple...talent abounds here. In the middle is converted FB BranDon Snow. His versatility is being expanded upon further - he also has seen practice time at the TB position.

Defensive Back
The Nittany Lions led the Big Ten in 2003 pass defense. Much of that had to do with the quick and athletic CB Alan Zemaitis, who is PSU's best early hope for placing a name on any first-team All-Big Ten lists. He emerged in '03 as the most consistent player on the squad while finishing tied for fourth in conference interceptions with four (to go with 18 pass breakups). The graduation of Rich Gardner at the other corner has created a vacancy for which Anwar Phillips will be a strong contender. However, his playing experience is limited. In an effort to bolster the position, Donnie Johnson has been moved to CB from his TB and WR positions on offense. The safety position returns four experienced players, led by senior Andrew Guman and Chris Harrell, who split the starts at free safety last season. Both can play either the position or the strong safety spot (HERO) well, a huge asset, especially in veterans. Calvin Lowry will see a larger role in the secondary after returning from a broken leg that ended his true freshman season of 2002. Lowry is also the team's top return man on both punts and kickoffs.

This group is primed to help turn the tables on the recent PSU skid. Who said Joe Paterno is lagging in the recruiting department? Maybe offensively to some degree, but a quick glance at the young stars on the defensive side should leave no question - local talent is starting to stay in-state once again, especially at LB. Here, Penn State will begin to reclaim some of the position's glory. Opponents will find it extremely difficult when testing the outside. Some very fine studs holding down the DE and OLB positions. If there are to be any questions, one finds them in the heart of the front-seven. Even though improvements have been made in the middle, the move of Levi Brown to the OL has created an empty space. When considering the strong pass defense stats of '03, remember, the Nittany Lions gave up 209 yards rushing per game last season, which ranked 104th nationally and next to last in the conference (only ahead of Illinois). With due respect to PSU's assets, being strong on the outside and on pass defense is not the foundation for a winning Big Ten equation. The secondary will go a long way to providing the rest of the winning equation if the front defenders can learn to hold their own.


DB Alan Zemaitis


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Derek Wake-Sr (6-3, 241) Matt Rice-Jr (6-4, 270)
DT Scott Paxson-Jr (6-5, 275) Ed Johnson-So (6-2, 296)
DT Jay Alford-So (6-3, 279) Elijah Robinson-Fr (6-2, 290)
DE Tamba Hali-Jr (6-3, 273) Lavon Chisley-Jr (6-5, 262)
OLB Paul Posluszny-So (6-2, 228) J.R. Zwierzynski-So (6-2, 239)
ILB BranDon Snow-So (6-1, 238) Mike Sothern-Fr (6-1, 224)
OLB Tim Shaw-So (6-1, 230) Dan Connor-Fr (6-3, 218)
CB Alan Zemaitis-Jr (6-2, 194) Brent Wise-Fr (5-10, 193)
CB Anwar Phillips-Jr (6-1, 185) Donnie Johnson-So (6-0, 209)
HERO Calvin Lowry-Jr (6-0, 195) Jim Kanuch-So (6-1, 200)
FS Chris Harrell-Sr (6-2, 201) Andrew Guman-Sr (6-3, 211)
P Jeremy Kapinos-So (6-1, 229) ..




Entering his fourth season as the Lions' primary kicker, Robbie Gould has 189 career points, needing just four points to crack the Top 10 on Penn State's all-time list. He will be on the tail end of the Lou Groza Award Watch list, and should be an effective weapon. Gould will also now handle kickoff duties as well.

One of the best freshman season performances came from punter Jeremy Kapinos. He averaged 41.9 yards, which included 13 kicks inside the 20. A young man with a consistently strong leg, Kapinos is a potential All-Big Ten candidate.

Return Game
Retaining the services of your kicker and punter is dandy. But in bringing back their leading return man, PSU has a 1-2-3 punch on special teams. Calvin Lowry led the Lions last year in both kick and punt returns. Although his averages were not bad, the threat to take one back for a TD is not on his resume, yet...