Coach: Joe Paterno
327-96-3, 36 years
2001 Record: 5-6
at Iowa LOST 18-24
at Northwestern WON 38-35
at Illinois LOST 28-33
at Michigan State WON 42-37
at Virginia LOST 14-20

2001 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

The Nittany Lions enter the season without a question mark at quarterback with Zack Mills. - (

2002 Outlook

When Central Florida visits Happy Valley on the last day of August, the Penn State Nittany Lions officially mark their tenth season as a member of the Big Ten conference and their 116th overall. Unlike last season, most of the skill positions are set. A more experienced unit will take the field this fall hoping to cast aside two consecutive losing seasons and start their ascent back to respectability. The 2002 schedule will prove to be a favorable one to start that ascent. Of the Lions twelve games, eight are played at Beaver Stadium including the first four. Penn State fans won't have to wait long to see if this year's team has what it takes to play with the big boys when Nebraska enters the cozy confines of Beaver Stadium on the 14th of September. The toughest stretch of the schedule starts in the fifth week as the Nits head to Camp Randall in Madison, the Big House in Ann Arbor and the Horseshoe in Columbus during a four-week stretch. The only other road game on the schedule occurs on the week before Thanksgiving when Indiana plays host to JoePa and the Lions. The offense and defense both return seven starters with Zack Mills and Jimmy Kennedy leading the way and represents JoePa's most experienced squad since the 1999 season. With the optimism generated by last seasons strong finish great things are expected this season and with the veteran core of players returning it doesn't appear to be that far fetched. Penn State fans shouldn't expect to hear their name mentioned anywhere around the magical words "National Championship", but anything less than a wining record and bowl appearance could be considered as a major disappointment.

Projected 2002 record: 9-4

QB - 4 DL - 4.5
RB - 3.5 LB - 3
WR - 4 DB - 3.5
OL - 4.5 ..

Passing: Zack Mills, 127-230-12, 1669 Yards, 9 TD's

Rushing: Larry Johnson, 71 att., 337 yds., 2 TD's

Receiving: Bryant Johnson, 51 rec., 866 yds., 3 TD's

Scoring: Robbie Gould, 6 FG, 29 PAT, 47 pts.

Punting: David Royer, 71 punts, 40.6 avg.

Kicking: Robbie Gould, 6-10 FG, 29-29 PAT, 47 pts.

Tackles: Shawn Mayer, 97 tot., 56 solo

Sacks: Michael Haynes, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Shawn Mayer, 1 for 31 yards

Kickoff returns: Larry Johnson, 17 ret., 26.7 avg.

Punt returns: Larry Johnson, 1 ret., 55.0 avg.


OFFENSE: Mick Blosser-FB, Eric McCoo-TB, Omar Easy-TB, Eddie Drummond-WR, John Gilmore-TE, Greg Ransom-OG, Matt Senneca-QB, R.J. Luke-TE (transferred)
DEFENSE: Bob Jones-DE, Shamar Finney-ILB, Ron Graham-OLB, Bruce Branch-CB

written by Boz

For the first time in two seasons, the Nittany Lions enter the season without a question mark at quarterback. Zack Mills stepped in after former starter Matt Senneca was ineffective and came within one game of making the Lions bowl eligible last season. Mills scrambling ability not only makes him a better than average runner, but also buys him time to make the throw downfield for big yardage. Like the QB spot, last season was running back by committee in Happy Valley. Larry Johnson led the Lions in rushing last season with a paltry 337 yards rushing, but with graduation taking away his competition, he will be counted on to carry the entire load this season. Johnson has the size, (6-2 222 lbs), and durability to become one of the best to wear the Blue & White. The receiving corps will once again be led by Bryan Johnson who caught a team high 51 passes for 866 yards last season. The 6-2 210 lb receiver had a breakout season last year and became the go-to receiver. At the other spot will be Tony Johnson (Larry's little brother) who has shown a knack for making big plays and led the team with an 18.7-yard average. The offensive line returns four starters from last season as well as two former starters and should be one of the best in the Big Ten. Tackles Gus Fielder, (6-5, 321), and Chris McKelvy, (6-3, 325) are the strength of this unit, but former walk-on Joe Iorio is the heart. Tyler Lenda owns the right guard position with the other being up for grabs between Eric Rickenbach, Scott Davis and Nick Marmo. If the Nittany Lions are to return to the top of the standings it has to start on this side of the ball. Last season's 5-6 finish, though disappointing to many had some good things come out of it. This year's offense has an exciting nucleus of talent and enters with fewer questions especially at the skill positions.

On the surface, the Lions appear to only have two spots in question. Those are at the fullback and tight end spots. Former tight end Sean McHugh has been converted to fullback and must be able to fill the shoes of Mike Blosser. Though not a household name, Blosser was a devastating blocker with sure hands and a main part of last year's offense. McHugh had an impressive spring game, but must improve on his blocking abilities especially at picking up the blitz. Behind McHugh is a pair of juniors, Paul Jefferson and Ricky Upton, who had a combined 7 carries for 36 yards in 2001. At tight end, R.J. Luke has had some legal problems and has decided to forgo his last season at Penn State while transferring to a I-AA school. With Luke becoming a non-factor, the tight end responsibilities fall to junior Casey Williams who has saw little playing action in his three seasons in Happy Valley. The biggest concern is the lack of proven depth. If Mills or Larry Johnson were to go down with an injury, Penn State fans can start preparing for next season. With the exception of the offensive line, the same can be said at the other spots on this unit. Most of the backups are underclassmen, but more importantly have little game experience, which could lead to a third consecutive non-wining, non-bowl season.


Returning Starters in Bold
QB Zack Mills-So Michael Robinson-Fr
FB Sean McHugh-Jr Paul Jefferson-Jr
TB Larry Johnson-Sr Mike Gasparato-So
WR Tony Johnson-Jr Gerald Smith-So
WR Bryant Johnson-Sr Ryan Scott-So
TE Casey Williams-Jr Andrew Richardson-Fr
OT Gus Felder-Sr Damone Jones-Jr
OG Nick Marmo-So Scott Davis-So
C Joe Iorio-Sr David Costlow-Jr
OG Tyler Lenda-Sr Tyler Reed-Fr
OT Chris McKelvy-Jr Matt Schmitt-Sr
K Robbie Gould-So ..



written by Boz

The defense also returns seven starters and is clearly the strength of this team. Up front Jimmy Kennedy and Anthony Adams return at the tackle spots with fellow senior Michael Haynes manning one of the end positions. The return of Kennedy, who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection, was a big boost to this unit. The 6-5, 330 lb standout tackle is among those on the watch list for both the Lombardi and Bronko Naguski trophies. Sophomores John Bronson and Jeremiah Davis will contest the other end spot opposite Haynes. The secondary also returns three starters in safeties Shawn Mayer and Yaacov Yisreal and cornerback Bryan Scott. Both Yisreal and Mayer were pleasant surprises last season, but the real talent is Scott. He has great nose for the ball and led the team with 62 solo stops. The defense is the best since the days when Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington prowled Beaver Stadium and will be the main reason the Nittany Lions put aside their losing ways.

Penn State has long been known as Linebacker U, but this position represents the main weakness on the defensive side of the ball. Deryck Toles enter the season as the lone returning starter, but his playing time is limited to 25 to 30 plays due to a rare enzyme deficiency. Promising sophomore Derrick Wake is being counted on to recapture the big play ability he displayed as a freshman after suffering a season-ending knee injury early in last seasons Miami game. Behind Toles and Wake are untested second year players Lamar Stewart and Jimi Mitchell making Wake's return essential to the success of this unit. The inside spot will be heavily contested. Junior Sam Ruhe was moving from defensive end during the spring and will battle fellow Junior Gino Capone and sophomore Tim Johnson for playing time. The lack of depth in the secondary is another problem. At cornerback, Richard Gardner is the only other defensive back with any experience and will have to fend off youngsters Chris Harrell and Alan Zemaitis for the spot left vacant by the graduation of Bruce Branch. Lining up behind Mayer and Yisreal are Paul Cronin, Andrew Guman and James Millon. All have yet to see the field on a consistent basis.


Returning Starters in Bold
DE Sam Ruhe-Jr John Bronson-So
DT Anthony Adams-Sr Tim Falls-Sr
DT Jimmy Kennedy-Sr Tyler Valoczki-Sr
DE Michael Haynes-Sr Jeremiah Davis-So
OLB Deryck Toles-Jr Lamar Stewart-So
ILB Gino Capone-Jr Tim Johnson-So
OLB Derek Wake-So Jimi Mitchell-So
CB Bryan Scott-Sr Richard Gardner-Jr
CB Chris Harrell-So Alan Zemaitis-Fr
HERO Yaacov Yisrael-Jr Andrew Guman-So
FS Shawn Mayer-Sr Paul Cronin-So
P David Royer-Sr ..
Larry Johnson has the size, (6-2 222 lbs), and durability to become one of the best to wear the Blue & White. - (