Well, practice is, at any rate. Penn State begins its 42nd season under Head Coach Joe Paterno today as summer practice begins. Football is right around the corner and while most things are settled there are still a few questions that need to be answered before the Nittany Lions step onto the field against Coastal Carolina on August 30th.
Who will be the starting quarterback?
Much will be made over the next couple weeks about who the starting quarterback will be. I would prefer that this be an open "competition" but let's face it, its Daryll Clark's job to lose. Clark has waited his turn on the sidelines, kept his mouth shut and his grades up, and we all know Paterno rewards that kind of patience. The more poignant question is: will Pat Devlin get playing time and if so, how much? Derrick Williams was on record saying that there won't be a platoon at the quarterback position but I'm not convinced yet. Paterno said he should have given Clark more playing time last season and it's hard to believe he would make the same mistake with Devlin this season. Look for Clark to get the starting nod, Devlin to get in especially against Coastal Carolina and Temple, and if Clark slips up, he'll probably have a short leash.
What the hell is the Spread HD?
Jay Paterno dropped a bomb on the Big Ten when he revealed his dastardly plan to unleash what he called the "spread HD" on unsuspecting defenses this year. Ok, I just chuckled writing that. Much has been tossed around about what the new offense will be. JayPa says it's a running offense which kind of goes against the reason for a spread in the first place, isn't having 3, 4, or 5 receivers on the field a good time to throw? Jay wants the offense to average 200 yards passing and rushing this year. Uh not to burst his bubble but we already had that… last year.
How'd that work out for us? Yeah not so good. Who knows what's dancing through the mind of Jay Paterno, only time will tell.
Will the loss of Philip Taylor and Chris Baker hurt the defensive line?
Sure Taylor and Baker take 57 tackles and 7.5 sacks with them but if there is one position that has tremendous depth it's the defensive line. I doubt there will be much impact, if any, from the suspensions. Even if both were going to start, there was, and still is, going to be a lot of rotation on the defensive line, there's just too much talent sitting on the bench. Throw in the fact that L.J. Sr. seems to produce NFL caliber lineman faster than McDonalds produces Big Macs. Penn State has little to worry about when it comes to the Defensive line.
Can the loss of Sean Lee's leadership be overcome?
Short answer yes with a caveat, someone must step up and lead the defense when conference play begins. Lee's presence on the sideline alone will give the D a boost but someone has to become the leader on the field. Anthony Scirrotto was voted team captain and this is his final year and a golden opportunity to redeem himself after the unpleasantness of the off-the-field issues. The D will have 4 games to come together and create an identity before the Illini come to town, by then the team better have the kinks worked out.
Who will the starting linebackers be?
We know this: Tyrell Sales returns as the only veteran in this group and has a spot locked down. Could this be the year he steps up to the next level? The spotlight will be shining brightly on Sales now that Connor is gone. Outside of that we don't know who will replace Connor and the loss of Lee. Chris Colasanti was one of only two true freshmen to see the field in 2007 and probably will see plenty of playing time as will Bani Gbadyu who saw action in every game last year. Other options: Navorro Bowman, Josh Hull, or one of the incoming freshman; one thing's for certain, this unit will be talented if not experienced.