PENN STATE

 

QUARTERBACK - Anthony Morelli. 2005 stats: 13-20, 155 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs. New starter.

Anthony Morelli is a one-time ND recruit who has bided his time at Penn State and now has the starting quarterback job all to himself. The junior's calling card is his strong arm, perhaps the strongest of any quarterback ND faces this year; when he was a freshman, he was once inserted into a game when the Lions needed to throw a long Hail Mary pass. The big question on Morelli is how he'll adapt to the mental aspect of the game in terms of reading defenses and recognizing blitzes. His two years studying the position certainly help, but the Notre Dame game will mark his first road game as the starter. Still, his strong performance at the PSU spring game has Nittany Lion fans optimistic. Depth: Morelli barely got in games himself last season and his new backup hasn't seen any action at all. Sophomore Paul Cianciolo hasn't thrown a pass in a game and frankly had a pretty awful spring game to boot. Pushing him for the backup spot will be redshirt freshman Kevin Suhey and hopeful quarterback of the future, freshman Pat Devlin.

 

RUNNING BACK - Tony Hunt. 2005 stats: 174 attempts, 1080 yards, 6 TDs. Returning starter.

Another tough, move-the-pile running back, Tony Hunt is the type of player who defines "workhorse". Big and strong at 230 pounds, Hunt will wear down a defense and his 6.0 yards per carry average from last year is very impressive. He also pulled in 20 receptions and was the team's leading receiver in 2004, so he has the hands to be a receiving threat. Depth: Austin Scott hasn't quite lived up to his billing, but is still a dependable running back and a solid backup for Hunt. Like Hunt, Scott is a tough runner who rushed for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns in last year's Orange Bowl when Hunt was injured. Rodney Kinlaw adds another experienced running back to the mix and is a bit quicker than both Hunt and Scott. Starting fullback Brandon Snow is one of the better fullbacks that the Irish will face and while he doesn't get to run the ball much, he's a fantastic blocker.

 

WIDE RECEIVER

Derrick Williams.
22 receptions, 289 yards, 1 TD. Returning starter.
Deon Butler. 37 receptions, 691 yards, 9 TDs. Returning starter.
Jordon Norwood. 32 receptions, 422 yards, 0 TDs. Returning starter.

The Nittany Lion receiving corp is led by a trio of sophomores who were all thrust into action last year. Derrick Williams (left), the consensus #1 recruit out of high school, was becoming more and more dangerous until he broke his arm and was forced to miss the rest of the season. This season he'll probably the be the #1 option on offense due to his playmaking abilities. Look for him to get a few carries out of the backfield too. Former walk-on defensive back Deon Butler helped replace Williams when he was hurt was and wound up leading the team in receptions. Butler isn't the biggest receiver at 5-10, 166 pounds but has good hands and his 18.7 yards per catch last season hints at deep threat potential. Jordon Norwood rounds out the sophomore trio; he was the team's leading receiver in the Orange Bowl and was very solid in the PSU spring game. Depth: Big-time recruit Justin King played some receiver last year, but will focus soley on cornerback this year. Still, he's an option if the team needs him. Junior Terrell Gordon adds a bit more experience while brief Notre Dame verbal commit James McDonald and incoming freshman and highly touted recruit Chris Bell add more size to the Nittany Lion receiving corp.

 

TIGHT END

 Patrick Hall.
2 receptions, 6 yards, 2 TDs. New starter.

Senior Patrick Hall played quarterback and inside linebacker in high school, was shifted to outside linebacker, then fullback, then defensive end at PSU before finally landing at tight end. He had a pretty efficient stat line (2 catches, 2 TDs) from last year and should see his numbers grow now that he is the new starter. At 6-2, 250 pounds, Hall is solid at both blocking and catching passes and his QB background will probably help him be effective in Nittany Lion offense. Depth: Jordan Lyons is a former QB that most likely will be used as a receiver when he's out on the field.

OFFENSIVE LINE

 

LT - Levi Brown. (#3 T) Returning starter.
LG - Gerald Cadogan. New starter.
C - A.Q. Shipley. New starter.
RG - Robert Price. New starter.
RT - John Shaw. New starter.

Levi Brown (left) is one of the top tackles in the country and probably the best the Irish will face this season. Massive at 6-5, 328 pounds, Brown will be a force on running and passing plays. The rest of the line is a big question mark. There are four new starters with only one collegiate start to their name. Robert Price started the first game last year, but lost his job by the second. Both A.Q. Shipley and John Shaw finished up last season practicing at defensive tackle, so they also are without the benefit of getting reps at offensive line last year. Shaw in particular is the biggest question mark on this young line. Depth: If Price loses his starting gig again, sophomore Greg Harrison will probably be the guy to take it.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

Jim Shaw.
6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 PBU. New starter.
Ed Johnson. missed 2005 due to suspension. New starter.
Jay Alford. (#9 DT) - 37 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF.
Returning starter.

Josh Gaines. - 9 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 PBU. New starter.

The Nittany Lion defensive line was hit hard by graduation, and there are rumors they might switch to a 3-4 to take advantage of their talented linebackers, but Coach Paterno insists they will likely stick with the traditional 4-3. One player sure to start on the line is returning veteran Jay Alford (left), one of the better defensive tackles in the country. A 2nd-Team all-conference player last year and three year starter, Alford will have to adjust to more attention from opposing offensive lines as the star of this year's line. Joining him in the middle is Ed Johnson, who missed last year after being expelled from school for the summer and fall 2005 semesters. He played in every game his sophomore and junior year while making 6 starts so he's a somewhat experienced new starter. Jim Shaw is a transfer from Rice and a big player for defensive end. In fact, he started at defensive tackle for a game last year. He will be very solid against the run and could give quarterbacks a hard time if he's able to bull his way into the backfield. The replacement for All-American Tamba Hali for now is sophomore Josh Gaines, who at over 260 pounds sounds more like a run stopping type than a pure pass rusher. Depth: If State wants to get more speed off the edge, they might turn to talented freshman Maurice Evans. Jared Odrick, Tom McEowen, and Aaron Maybin are other freshman possibilities to see the field early. The main backup in the middle is the large Steve Roach, the team's only 300+ pound tackle, with sophomore Elijah Robinson also providing depth.

 

LINEBACKERS

Dan Conner.
(#4 - OLB) 116 tackles, 3 sacks, 11 TFL, 3 PBU. Returning starter.
Tim Shaw. (#14 - ILB) 76 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 FF. Returning starter.
Paul Posluszny. (#1 - OLB) 76 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 8 PBU, 1 FR. Returning starter.

I think it's fair to say that this not only the best linebacking unit that the Irish will face, but also the best corp of linebackers in the nation. There is talent, experience, and depth at every position. Because of this, there are rumors they might shift to a 3-4 defense in order to get more linebackers on the field. Paul Posluszny (left) is the star of the group and after winning the Butkus Award last year should be no stranger to any Irish fan. From his outside linebacker position, he can stop the run and defend the pass. The only real question is how he'll return from a vicious knee injury suffered in the Orange Bowl last year. For what it's worth, he says he's back 100%. The other outside linebacker, Dan Connor, is burgeoning star who is extremely fast and made a big impact at the starting outside linebacker spot after being suspended for the first three games last year. In the middle is Tim Shaw, a load at 237 pounds who is very tough against the run and able to exploit an offense that pays too much attention to Posluszny and Connor. Depth: Tyrell Sales started the first three games when Connor was suspended and now provides some experienced depth at the outside spots. When Posluszny went down with the knee injury, Sean Lee stepped in and did a very solid job. He will be expected to do the same again this year if Paul can't go for some reason. If the Nittany Lions go to a 3-4, expect Lee to be the 4th linebacker on the field. Young players Dontay Brown and Jerome Hayes don't have much experience, but are still considered talented players waiting in the wings.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB - Justin King.
(#10 - CB) 11 tackles, 2 PBU. New starter.
CB - Tony Davis. 4 tackles, 1 INT. New starter.
FS - Donnie Johnson. 8 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU. New starter.
Hero - Nolan McCready. 9 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF. New starter.

There might not be a more athletic cornerback on the schedule than Justin King (left). An all-everything recruit, King played corner and wide receiver last year but now will focus exclusively on corner and while he's still an inexperienced sophomore, King will draw the opponent's toughest receiver. The other corner, Tony Davis, takes over the starting job after being a backup under Alan Zemaitis and will probably be picked on until he proves he can slow down his man. Hero-back Nolan McCready and free safety Donnie Johnson also rise up to the level of starter after being backups the past few years. Johnson did play as the nickel back at times last year so he does have more experience than the other new starters in the secondary. Depth: Listed as a co-starter with McCready at the hero position is sophomore Anthony Scirrotto. He played in 11 games last year, but still will be pretty inexperienced if he grabs the starting job. Lydell Sargeant played wide receiver last year as a freshman but has since been moved to corner, where he will back up Justin King. An extremely fast redshirt freshman, Knowledge Timmons, is only 3rd on the depth chart now, but might rise as the season progresses.