DT Jay Alford

2005 Statistics

Coach: Joe Paterno
354-117-3, 40 years
2005 Record: 11-1
at Northwestern WON 34-29
at Michigan LOST 25-27
at Illinois WON 63-10
at Michigan State WON 37-22
vs. Florida State WON 26-23 (3OT)

2005 Final Rankings
AP-3, Coaches-3, BCS-3

2006 Outlook

A year ago, after four losing seasons in five years, we were wondering if Joe Paterno's stubborn pride was ruining the program he'd spent his life building. He proved just about all of us wrong by doing things he'd never done, such as handing more responsibility to his assistants and building his offense around a group of (true) freshmen. Penn State's turnaround from 4-7 to an 11-1 season that included a share of the Big Ten crown and a No. 3 national ranking was the feel-good story of the year in college football.

Like in 2002, when his program appeared to bounce back with a 9-4 season, Paterno (2005 AP Coach of the Year) missed an excellent chance to walk away. Maybe, at 79, he wants one more title. Maybe he's not sure what to do with his time once he leaves coaching. Maybe he just wants to get that elusive win against Michigan. Whatever the case, he's apparently sticking around as long as he can and, like three years ago, he must prove that his program is back to stay after buoying from multiple losing campaigns.

This won't be like 2003, when they followed up their first winning season in three years by plummeting to a 3-9 mark, their worst finish since the Great Depression. There's an attitude that's found its way back into the program, a confident swagger that was missing since the new millennium. More importantly, there's a lot more talent on this roster than there was in '03, especially after Paterno has just landed his second straight top-10 recruiting class. "You guys know that I'm not a guy who gets carried away with anything," he said after the Orange Bowl, "but I'm fairly optimistic that we're going to be a decent football team next year."

The keys will be the transformation to a Morelli-led offense and the revamping of the O-line, D-line and secondary. Improvement on special teams needs to be addressed as well (for some reason, Penn State uses a committee approach in coaching its special teams). That's a lot of things that have to go right, and quickly. Last year's team benefited from a relatively easy early-season slate and lowered expectations, but this fall's schedule has dates at South Bend and the Horseshoe mixed in with home tune-ups against upstarts Akron and Youngstown State. Ergo, there's not much time to get in a groove. The Lions will then have to play on the road against Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue - teams hungry for payback. They host Michigan, which they've been thirsting to clobber for 10 years.

Matching last season's accomplishments seems to be too much to ask. Eight or nine wins and a New Year's Day bowl game are much more realistic aims, though even those are no gimme with all the questions looming. This program hasn't had back-to-back winning seasons since 1998 and '99. Accomplishing that feat this fall would finish the statement last year's team began, that Penn State and Joe Pa are back on track. It might not be the feel-good story of the season, but it sure as heck beats 3-9.

Projected 2006 record: 8-4
QB - 3.5 DL - 3
RB - 4.5 LB - 5
WR - 4 DB - 2.5
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Anthony Morelli, 20-13-0, 155 yds., 1 TD

Rushing: Tony Hunt, 174 att., 1047 yds., 6 TD

Receiving: Deon Butler, 37 rec., 691 yds., 9 TD

Scoring: Kevin Kelly, 16-23 FG, 49-50 PAT, 1-2pt. conv., 99 pts.

Punting: Jeremy Kapinos, 61 punts, 41.3 avg.

Kicking: Kevin Kelly, 16-23 FG, 49-50 PAT, 97 pts.

Tackles: Paul Posluszny, 116 tot., 64 solo

Sacks: Jay Alford, 8.5 sacks

Interceptions: Donnie Johnson, Anthony Scirrotto, Tony Davis, Nolan McCready - 1 each

Kickoff returns: Derrick Williams, 13 ret., 21.1 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Anthony Scirrotto, 5 ret., 8.4 avg., 0 TD


OT Levi Brown
OFFENSE: Michael Robinson-QB, Ethan Kilmer-WR, Isaac Smolko-TE, Charles Rush-OG, Lance Antolick-C, E.Z. Smith-C, Tyler Reed-OG, Andrew Richardson-OT, John Wilson-OT
DEFENSE: Tamba Hali-DE, Scott Paxson-DT, Matthew Rice-DE, Alan Zemaitis-CB, Anwar Phillips-CB, Calvin Lowry-HERO, Chris Harrell-SAF

The offense/QB position undergoes another metamorphosis as heavily hyped junior Anthony Morelli takes over for Michael Robinson. Morelli, who threw just two passes, is more of a drop-back guy in the old-school Penn State mold. He does have some speed, but don't expect to see nearly as many QB draws. Morelli has a better arm than Robinson, and a talented group of receivers, so the passing game will likely improve. The crucial element that Morelli will have to replace is Robinson's leadership and coolness. With early road dates at Notre Dame and Ohio State, we'll find out quickly how he responds behind a rebuilt offensive line. There's nothing backing up Morelli in terms of experience as last year's third-stringer, Paul Cianciolo, is even greener than Morelli. Pat Develin, a four-star recruit out of Downingtown East (Pa.), could jump in as the No. 2 guy. Though it would have to be greatly simplified, the offense wouldn't have to be radically changed under Develin or Cianciolo - both are strong-armed pocket passers who fit the Morelli mold.

Running Back
There's plenty of stability here as senior all-America candidate Tony Hunt returns, as does talented backup Austin Scott. With Robinson's versatility out of the mix, the quick, durable Hunt will see a lot more counters and pitches out of the spread, all while taking his fair share of carries between the tackles (this is still a Joe Paterno team, after all). Hunt's explosiveness was sometimes opened up by the big-play ability of Robinson and then-freshmen receivers Derrick Williams, Justin King, Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler -- he averaged 6.0 yards per carry. He'll get more of a chance to shine as defender’s focus will shift more to him directly. Hunt is also a valuable target out of the backfield (fourth most catches in ’05). There's some drop-off with Scott, but not much – he is a smaller, quicker option who will take some of the burden off Hunt. Fullback BranDon Snow, an effective blocker who has speed and needs to get the ball more, will unfortunately have to be used more in pass coverage as the line develops. Paterno would die trying to establish the run, but this modest crew will make sure Joe Pa stays alive one more season.

This unit might be more stacked than at any point in the Paterno Era (and that's one long era). The talented fab-four freshmen quartet of Williams, King, Norwood and Butler return as sophs, though King will likely spend more of his time at corner than he did last year. OC Hall finds plenty of ways to get the ball to Williams -- a lightning quick playmaker Paterno has dubbed one of the best players in the nation (highest rated recruit in ’05 for any position – Rivals.com) -- including putting him in the backfield, behind center, and utilizing him on reverses and counters. Williams is a yards-after-the-catch (YAC) guy; Butler's a deep threat; and Norwood is your sure-handed possession type. Terrell Golden seems to be the oldest WR as a junior, and this deep threat has size (6’3”) the youngsters don’t. Paterno redshirted a pair of promising receivers in Kevin Cousins and James McDonald while signing Chris Bell, a blue-chipper out of Virginia who is expected to contribute immediately. As long as he stays upright, Morelli will have plenty of open targets who will open up the box through which Hunt can then slash.

Tight End
In this adjusted spread, Penn State will likely go back to throwing at its tight ends a little more. The rub is that senior Patrick Hall, who backed up departed Isaac Smolko last fall, has so far primarily been a blocker. He will still see some goal-line touches (two TDs in ’05), but look for redshirt freshmen Mickey Shuler and Brennan Coakley, or incoming recruit Andrew Quarless (4.5 40-speed), to factor more directly into the offense production. Hall's blocking will be more vital, though, as the first priority will be keeping Morelli off his back and making foes respect the run.

Offensive Line
Development of offensive linemen at Penn State tends to take a while (sometimes three seasons), hence there's plenty of reason for concern here. The O-line loses four starters. Speed at the skill positions won't mean much if there are four or five defenders consistently in the backfield. There is some solace - all-Big Ten LT Levi Brown, who opted to skip the NFL Draft to remain in school, is again the rock who will defend Morelli's blindside. Two of the four guys penciled in as the new starters are redshirt juniors, and the other are two redshirt sophs, so they've had plenty of time to grow. How quickly they grow into a cohesive unit is the question that, once answered, will go a long way toward defining this Nittany Lion squad. This year’s recruiting class has three four-star studs, so don’t rule out the same kind of move that was unprecedented until last year – the one where Joe Pa opts for true froshes to secure holes in an increasingly leaking dyke. And there are plenty of holes to fill here. The program has taken some criticism for an odd set up in which Dick Anderson coaches the guards and centers, while Bill Kenney handles tackles and tight ends. This is a chance to quiet those critics.

The keys are Morelli's growth into the starting role, and how quickly the offensive line gels. The latter could complicate the former, which could ruin a potentially potent offense, but Morelli has the legs and the playmaking mind to avoid early OL growing “pains”. Give Paterno credit for finally focusing on recruiting athletes (speed/strength over size), and for handing Xs and Os over to assistants more adept at today’s subtle complexities (not that Joe doesn’t get things, just why does such a great motivator need to distract himself with minute detail for which others are better suited). Players such as Hunt and Williams have enlivened a spread attack that fits the image of traditionally conservative Penn State like Nelly fits in at the Grand Ole Opry. But, as in any offense, you have to open holes and protect the passer. With Robinson under center, this scheme worked, so until real games occur, the jury will be out on how State does with a new field general. If this offense (especially the line) can't do the basics, all that speed and talent won't make nearly as much of an impact.


WR Derrick Williams


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Anthony Morelli-Jr (6-4, 214) Paul Cianciolo-So (6-4, 224)
FB BranDon Snow-Sr (6-1, 242) Matt Hahn-Jr (6-0, 219)
TB Tony Hunt-Sr (6-2, 219) Austin Scott-Sr (6-0, 212)
WR Derrick Williams-So (6-0, 201) Terrell Golden-Jr (6-3, 212)
James McDonald-Fr (6-2, 189)
WR Deon Butler-So (5-10, 163) Jordan Norwood-So (5-10, 160)
TE Patrick Hall-Sr (6-2, 251) Jordan Lyons-So (6-5, 248)
OT Levi Brown-Sr (6-5, 324) Chris Auletta-Jr (6-4, 300)
OG Gerald Cadogan-So (6-5, 302) Rich Ohmberger-So (6-2, 289)
C A.Q. Shipley-Jr (6-1, 292) Patrick Weber-Sr (6-1, 271)
OG Robert Price-Sr (6-0, 298) Greg Harrison-So (6-5, 283)
OT John Shaw-Sr (6-4, 294) Mark Farris-Sr (6-6, 286)
K Kevin Kelly-So (5-7, 175) ..



Defensive Line
Like the O-line, this unit is starting fresh after the loss of three (including all-American end Tamba Hali). The pass rush will undoubtedly take at least a small step back, exacerbating the challenge of a rebuilt secondary. With one of the nation's best linebacking corps, expect defensive coordinator Tom Bradley to employ a lot more 3-4 looks to utilize that strength. Jay Alford, a steady run-stopper, returns inside, while senior Jim Shaw (Rice transfer) and junior Ed Johnson should provide plenty of size and strength. Soph A.Q. Shipley swapped sides of the ball and took advantage of his few chances. Shipley is ready to break out even more, so there are plenty of hungry underclassmen (five four-star recruits in this year’s new class) pushing those already slated. There's a lack of speed here, something for which the LBs will compensate. The PSU faithful should expect some struggles early, but they shouldn't panic as this program has been effective at reloading along the defensive front through the years.

Led by Butkus Award winner Paul Posluszny, this group is arguably the best in the history of Linebacker U., or at least the top trio since of Arrington-Short-Morrison 1998-99. OLBs Posluszny and Dan Connor and MLB Tim Shaw are aggressive, hard-hitting studs who cover a lion’s share of territory -- opponents averaged 10.3 yards per catch and just 2.5 yards per carry. True soph Sean Lee, who performed admirably during the Orange Bowl when Posluszny was injured, should be the fourth backer in the 3-4 (Connor would move inside). With the line and secondary revamping, these guys will be counted on to do even more. This unit will shoulder more responsibility for containing the run, pressuring the QB and shutting down the short passing game, at least until the D-line and secondary develops. They can handle such tasks, but spreading them too thin would prove disastrous for all 11 on D.

Defensive Back
Besides the O-line, this unit is the biggest area of concern in Happy Valley. The entire starting four of a rather special group departed, a group that led the Big Ten and ranked No. 14 in defensive pass efficiency. Bradley will have to water down his sophisticated schemes for this inexperienced group, though he'll have some good athletes with which to work, beginning with King at corner and former receiver Donnie Johnson at free safety. It'd be nice if these guys could settle in against some early season cupcakes, but they get to go up against Notre Dame in Week 2 and Ohio State in Week 4, both on the road! Maybe practicing against Williams and the other PSU receivers will speed the learning curve. A.J. Wallace might get the “King treatment” – like Justin in ’05, this true frosh (top corner in this year’s class, like King was last year) has the pedigree to start right away and help immensely. If not, Morelli and the offense will have to score like Kobe Bryant for this team to enter October with a top-25 ranking.

With his defense among the national leaders, Bradley has emerged as the likely successor to Paterno the past two seasons. If this D finishes anywhere close to last year's ranks (No. 7 run defense, No. 10 scoring defense, No. 12 total defense, No. 8 in sacks), the administration should give Paterno his gold watch and hand the whistle over to Bradley immediately, before he jumps to another program. Realistically, the offense will have to carry the mail, unlike the previous few seasons, as the defense will certainly drop off some. We'll see how much, but expect early lumps to be just the kinds of hard lessons that ultimately pay off – whether those dividends come in to help PSU this year or next will tell all. The skilled group of LBs is certainly capable of giving opposing coordinators fits and making life easier for either the D-line or the secondary, but helping both might be a stretch even for these proven warriors. This can still be a good defense, but developments have to occur and fast. PSU caught many sleeping in ’05 after lulling annual foes the prior five years (four of which were losing efforts), so we will see how this side of the ball does with teams gunning for them that much more.


LB Paul Posluszny


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Jim Shaw-Sr (6-3, 260) Mike Lucian-So (6-2, 276)
Chris Rogers-So (6-2, 257)
DT Jay Alford-Sr (6-3, 288) Steve Roach-Sr (6-2, 304)
DT Elijah Robinson-So (6-2, 285) Ed Johnson-Sr (6-1, 290)
DE Josh Gaines-So (6-2, 258) Jed Hill-So (6-2, 251)
OLB Paul Posluszny-Sr (6-2, 229) Sean Lee-So (6-2, 221)
ILB Tim Shaw-Sr (6-1, 233) Dontey Brown-Jr (6-2, 231)
OLB Dan Connor-Jr (6-3, 220) Tyrell Sales-Jr (6-2, 233)
CB Tony Davis-So (5-10, 189) Knowledge Timmons-Fr (5-10, 181)
CB Justin King-So (6-0, 181) Devin Fentress-So (5-10, 165)
HERO Nolan McCready-Sr (6-0, 199) Anthony Scirrotto-So (6-0, 190)
SAF Donnie Johnson-Sr (6-0, 205) Spencer Ridenhour-So (6-0, 204)
P Jeremy Kapinos-Sr (6-1, 222) ..




This facet could be a better one if sophomore Kevin Kelly shakes off memories of that dismal Orange Bowl performance in which he missed a pair of chip-shots (both which prolonged the game). He'd hit 15-of-20 before that, including 13-of-16 within 40. Kelly struggles to get it real deep on kickoffs, but with so many athletes on the roster, KO coverage should improve from seventh in the conference.

One of the few bright spots on special teams continues to be senior Jeremy Kapinos, who will give the defense plenty of needed field-position help. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten at 41.3 yards per kick and had no blocks for the second straight year. The influx of team speed sparked a dramatic improvement in coverage, which figures to continue.

Return Game
Derrick Williams stepped in on KRs and provided a needed spark before getting injured late in the season. Redshirt soph Rodney Kinlaw might be the better option, though, after averaging a stellar 29.6 yards on his eight tries. On punts, defensive back Calvin Lowry is finally gone, opening the door for Williams, Justin King or another of the speed demons on the roster. There's big-play potential here for a team that hasn't run one back either way since 2002.