Monday, November 26, 2012

Ranking the best of Penn State football 2012

Penn State's best players and coaches this season - The Fab 44 - ranked in order, after the Lions compiled an 8-4 overall record, 6-2 in the Big Ten, and played under sudden, harsh NCAA sanctions and in the most extraordinary circumstances of the Sandusky scandal aftermath. How much have things changed at PSU in the past year? Of the 44 listed below, just 13 were on this list after last season.

The Fab 44 for Penn State 2012
(last season's ranking in parentheses)

  1. Bill O'Brien, Head Coach (NR) - O'Brien would be great coaching any team, anywhere. But without question he is the best man for this job, among the most difficult imagineable when he inherited it, then greatly exacerbated when the sanctions dropped in late July, but now one with optimism for the future. It's his program now.
  2. Michael Mauti, LB, Sr. (31) - A real leader, Mauti stepped to the forefront amidst scandal and sanctions, and demonstrated the Penn State Way was about passion, excellence, integrity and grace, not anything coming out of Mark Emmert's disgusting mouth. Also played pretty darn well coming off his second major knee injury, making 95 tackles with team highs of 3 int. and 3 forced fumbles before incurring his third major knee injury on an illegal chop block vs. Indiana in Game 11.
  3. Gerald Hodges, LB, Sr. (5) - Another standout season for another complete-package Penn State linebacker. Tireless and dogged, Hodges wasn't truly great in 2012, but he was very, very, very good. And, like Mauti, he was a rock of commitment to PSU, and of proper defiance of the NCAA, when the sanctions hit. Carried the burden well, leading PSU with 109 tackles and 9 passes defensed. Has an NFL career ahead of him.
  4. Jordan Hill, DT, Sr. (9) - The anchor of the defensive line. Like the linebackers just above him in these rankings, Hill was tireless in pursuit of the football from kickoff to final whistle. Ranked fourth on the team with 64 tackles, incredible for a nose tackle and third among all Big Ten linemen. Saved his best for last, registering 12 tackles, 3 for loss and 2 sacks vs. Wisconsin.
  5. Matt McGloin, QB, Sr. (29) - So you can teach an old dog new tricks, eh? The 5th-year senior exceeded expectations by grasping O'Brien's system, learning to go through his progressions, minimizing mistakes and leading the offense to a record-breaking season. Set a slew of PSU passing marks, notably single-season passing yards (3,266) and TD-int. ratio (24 TD to 5 int.). Took some huge hits to his throwing elbow at Virginia and returned to lead the almost-comeback, setting the tone for the turnaround with his toughness.
  6. Allen Robinson, WR, So. (NR) - Wow, has Robinson made tremendous strides since enrolling in 2011. PSU lost its top five receivers from last season, but Robinson made all of them forgettable with his remarkable, record-setting sophomore season. Highest-rated "Supa Six" player this season, set the PSU single-season reception record with 77, and eclipsed 1,000 yards (1,013) with 11 TDs - all Big Ten-bests.
  7. Ted Roof, Defensive Coordinator (NR) - College football fans and Penn State supporters were underwhelmed when Roof was selected as O'Brien's most important hire. Yet he has kept up the incredible defensive tradition in State College. The challenge will be bigger moving forward, as Hodges, Hill and Mauti depart. His game-to-game changes and in-game adjustments were subtle, but he showed tactical savvy and an understanding of personnel by keeping three LBs on the field at all times.
  8. Adrian Amos, CB/S, So. (37) - The second member of the self-proclaimed Supa Six, a consortium of second-year PSU players, to make the Top 10 (they all made the Top 44), Amos is a football player's football player. He has the full range of secondary skills, is adept at both corner and safety, has a nose for the ball and can cover and hit. If PSU could clone three of him it would have the Big Ten's best secondary.
  9. Ron Vanderlinden, LB coach (3) - Continues to coach the position that sets the world standard for linebackers. Since 2004, no school has had better LB play or produced better NFL linebackers than PSU.
  10. Larry Johnson Sr., DL coach (4) - Despite depth and injury issues, and less talent than he is accustomed too, Johnson Sr. once again coaxed the near-maximum out of his charges. PSU led the Big Ten in sacks with 34, despite no one having more than six.
  11. Matt Stankiewitch, C, Sr. (26) - The pillar in the middle of an effective OL, Stankiewitch was the only returning starter and he played like a capable veteran, steady and reliable. PSU utilized a lot of shotgun this season, and Stankiewitch always was on target with his snaps.
  12. Craig Fitzgerald, Strength & Conditioning coach (NR) - Completely overhauled the style and personality of PSU's training regimen, and has been widely praised for infusing energy into the program. The conditioning of the defense - several players never come off the field - is a testament to his work.
  13. Michael Zordich, RB, Sr. (36) - The new offense diminished Zordich's FB role, so he reinvented himself as a tailback alternative behind emerging star Zach Zwinak, one with patience who reads blocks and makes cutbacks (80 carries, 301 yards, 3.8 avg, 4 TDs). Who knew? Also, like many of the other seniors, he was a great team leader during the turmoil, and this rating is boosted by that.
  14. Kyle Carter, TE, Rs Fr. (NR) - Emerged from the depths of the roster to become a reliable playmaking threat. Carter lined up almost everywhere, and was productive wherever he lined up. Only injuries prevented him from breaking PSU single-season TE receiving records. He still finished second on the team with 36 rec, 453 yds, 12.6 avg. despite missing nearly four games. Possibly the least-heralded Supa Six member last season; people sure know him now.
  15. Zach Zwinak, RB, So. (NR) - A well-regarded recruit who made a nominal impact his first two years, he might still be unknown if not for Silas Redd's departure and Bill Belton's ankle injury in the first game. Ultimately proved to be the best TB on the roster with his Larry Csonka-esque forward momentum, but fumble problems plagued him. An epic 36-carry, 179-yard, 1-TD effort in the finale vs. Wisconsin gave him exactly 1,000 yards on the season, making it eight straight seasons for PSU with a 1,000-yard rusher.
  16. John Strollo, TE coach (NR), and Stan Hixon, WR coach (NR) - The way PSU utilizes its TEs, these jobs are almost merged together. Who knew the Lions had so much talent and depth at tight end? Strollo nurtured a breakout star in Carter, emerging huge targets Matt Lehman and Jesse James, blocking force Garry Gilliam and utilityman Brian Irvin. They combined for 82 receptions and 10 TDs. Nicely done. Hixon propelled the extraordinary development of Robinson, as well as the surprising contribution of Brandon Moseby-Felder. PSU needed them to emerge, and they did. Must get more from talented Alex Kenney. 
  17. Stephon Morris, CB, Sr. (38)- Very quietly, Morris had a very good season. The diminutive speedster was a tough, sure tackler (60 total tackles, 5th-best on the team, including 41 solo, better than all but Hodges and Mauti) and, for the most part, was stout in man-to-man coverage (5 passes defensed). Too bad PSU never tried him on kickoff returns.
  18. Glenn Carson, LB, Jr. (24) - Another solid season for Carson, who started at MLB for a second straight year and was third on the team in tackles with 85. He is a top candidate to be a team leader next fall. Along with Mike Hull and possibly Ben Kline or Nyeem Wartman, Carson will middle another strong, albeit less experienced, LB crew in 2013.
  19. John Urschel, G, Jr. (NR) - Penn State's resident genius anchored the interior line alongside Stankiewitch, and will be one of three returning starters next season when PSU should have a very good OL. By then, in his spare time, he might have achieved his doctorate and cured cancer.
  20. John Butler, DB coach (NR) - Fiery coach inherited a unit with little depth and only moderate experience and got off to a bad start. Then things got better, and by the end of the season PSU was third in pass efficiency defense in the Big Ten.
  21. Deion Barnes, DE, Rs Fr. (NR) - Possibly the best pro prospect on the team, Barnes is 15-20 pounds of muscle away from terrorizing the Big Ten. Rangy, aggressive and with strong hands, the Supa Six member led PSU with 10 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and 3 forced fumbles despite only playing part-time. Needs to play the run better.
  22. Mac McWhorter, OL coach (NR) - Veteran coach crafted a solid season out of a relatively inexperienced unit. Also, he utilized subs and backups much more than PSU has in the past, which should benefit the team moving forward: Two starters have to be replaced in 2013, and now the newbies can be chosen from a pool of experienced players.
  23. Mike Hull, LB, So. (NR) - Supersub had about as good a season as a backup can have, filling in regularly for the starting LB trio and making 58 tackles, 4 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. Handles running and passing downs equally well and made some big plays, including the memorable blocked punt vs. Ohio State. Will be a key cog next season.
  24. Charles London, RB coach (NR) - When PSU lost Redd, it was a huge blow. London's remaining RBs, after a shaky start, emerged as a solid unit, especially Zwinak. With only Zordich and Derek Day not returning in 2013 and more good OL play, expect continued production. 
  25. Charlie Fisher, QB coach (NR) - It's hard to ascertain how much credit O'Brien deserves and how much Fisher deserves for McGloin's development this season. Regardless, McGloin's statistical explosion sure looks good on Fisher's resume.
  26. Donovan Smith, OT, Rs Fr. (NR) - Talented left tackle battled through injuries, even playing with a cast for awhile, to have a good season and give hope for the future of the offensive line. Another Supa Six member, his continued development is critical to the offense.
  27. Sean Stanley, DE, Sr. (23) - Battled through some nagging injuries to make good contributions in several games and finished with style - his OT sack pushed back Wisconsin's final-play FG miss - but overall not the breakout season he was hoping for: 35 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles. Too bad Stanley never redshirted; the undersized DE just turned 21 four months ago, yet his career already is done.
  28. Mike Farrell, OT, Sr. (NR) - Rotated with Adam Gress early but seized the job after a few weeks and never looked back. He and Gress were able to help PSU overcome Donovan Smith's short-term injuries. After four years on the bench, he has to feel good about his senior year.
  29. Miles Dieffenbach, G, So. (NR) - Another first-time starter on the OL, Dieffenbach held the left guard position all season, spelled occasionally by Ty Howle. Dieffenbach, Howle and Angelo Mangiro all are candidates to slide over and replace Matt Stankiewitch at center in 2013.
  30. Brandon Moseby-Felder, WR, Jr. (NR) - Appeared destined for another non-impactful, anonymous season until Shawney Kersey quit the team in September. Turns out Moseby-Felder was ready to go, and his 31 catches for 437 yards both were third on the team.
  31. Malcolm Willis, S, Jr. (35) - A middling season for one of the few experienced DB returnees. He didn't make big plays or stand out much in any way, good or bad. Finished seventh in tackles with 45 in 10 games. Still, due to the lack of depth at DB, he is one of the most valuable PSU returnees in 2013, and more is expected from him.
  32. Sam Ficken, K, So. (NR) - A symbol of the 2012 team's resilience. Ficken, who inherited the job when Anthony Fera transferred, rebounded from a nightmare game at Virginia to finish 14-for-21 on FGs, making his last 10 attempts, including the OT winner vs. Wisconsin.
  33. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, S, Jr. (NR) - SO-A's season mirrored that of the secondary: Terrible at first, turned the corner after a few games, and good the rest of the way. One of the best athletes on the team, he is a potential late-blooming, big-play, breakout star in 2013, if he keeps improving and can tighten up his game.
  34. Bill Belton, TB, So. (NR) - A somewhat forgettable year for Belton (60 carries, 263 yds, 4.4 avg, 3 TD), who seemed poised for a 1,000-yard season when he claimed the No. 1 TB job after Silas Redd's transfer. But injuries, Zwinak's emergence and a stint in O'Brien's doghouse have Belton's future surprisingly clouded, and he enters the offseason at the bottom of the Supa Six.
  35. Matt Lehman, TE, Jr. (NR) - The 6-6 Shippensburg transfer is a talented catch-and-run guy - 24 rec., 296 yds, 12.3 avg, 3 TD - who was a revelation this season. With a little more strength training he can become a legit NFL prospect in 2013, just one year after languishing in anonymity.
  36. Jesse James, TE, Fr. (NR) - The staff developed so much confidence in the 6-7, 264-pound true freshman they split him out wide regularly the last few games after Carter's injury. James provided bang for the buck, averaging 18.4 yards on his 15 catches and notching 5 TDs, which, amazingly, ties him with several others for the PSU single-season record for a TE.
  37. Garry Gilliam, TE, Jr. (NR) - Another huge TE (6-6, 262) and the best blocker by far at the position, Gilliam's lack of speed frequently kept him down the list of progressions on pass plays, resulting in just seven receptions. Team leader candidate for 2013, Gilliam has overcome serious injuries to become a quality player.
  38. Jake Fagnano, S, Sr. (NR) - His contribution will be underestimated when recalling 2012, as he had a few tough moments in the passing game. But Fagnano, a former walk-on, was a productive player - 38 tackles, 6 passes defensed (2nd-most on team) - while splitting time with Obeng-Agyapoing, and his interception late vs. Wisconsin might have been a game-clincher if PSU could have killed out the clock. 
  39. DaQuan Jones, DT, Jr. (NR) - The true junior (he should have been redshirted in 2010 or '11) had a rather nondescript 22-tackle season as the starter alongside Jordan Hill, and he split time with senior James Terry most of the way. The onus is on the 324-pounder to take it to the next level and become an every down stalwart in 2013.
  40. Derek Day, TB, Sr. (NR) - Day became a forgotten man once The Z Boys, Zwinak and Zordich, eclipsed him on the TB depth chart. But the pluck and grit he showed in the season's first few games helped define PSU's toughness in 2012, and he contributed throughout on special teams, as always. Finished with 33 carries for 109 yards.
  41. Pete Massaro, DE, Sr. (NR), and James Terry, DT, Sr. (NR) - This DL duo are two of PSU's seven scholarship 5th-year seniors who arrived in 2008. Sadly, Massaro's career was decimated by injuries, and 2012 was spent frequently injured and on the sideline. Appeared in parts of nine games and made eight tackles. An Academic All-American, Massaro never was allowed to fulfill his football potential due to the injuries. The burly 316-pound Terry quietly provided a decent complement to Hill inside while spelling Jones, finishing with 13 tackles and a sack.
  42. Alex Kenney, WR, So. (NR) - Mystery man. Kenney is among the biggest enigmas on the team. The No. 3 receiver at the beginning of 2012, he seemed poised for a bigger role when Shawney Kersey quit. Instead, Kenney played even less, and Moseby-Felder and the TEs flourished, and true freshman WR Trevor Williams also contributed. Then, in the last game, Kenney re-emerged with 3 catches for 28 yards, to finish with 17 rec, 171 yds, 10.2 avg. Has explosive potential but has never scored a TD.
  43. Jesse Della Valle, PR/DB, So. (NR) - Walk-on proved a reasonably sure-handed and competent punt returner (15 for 114 yds, 7.6 avg), also returned some kickoffs (6 for 151 yds, 25.2 avg) and was a top backup in the secondary. Will compete with Da'Quan Davis for Morris' CB spot in 2013, and also could be the nickel back.
  44. Anthony Zettel, DE, Rs Fr. (NR) - If he keeps this up, the Supa Six will become the Supa Seven. In extremely limited action Zettel was very productive, notching 4 sacks and 15 tackles. Due to the lack of depth in the middle and his size (6-4, 253), he's a good candidate to move to DT next season - and move way up this list.

For more insight, analysis and opinions about Penn State football, check, or follow Pete Young on Twitter @AllPSUfootball.

The Fab 44 for 2011

  1. Tom Bradley, DC/Head Coach - Perhaps his best season yet in his 12th as a coordinator, comparing favorably to 2005, 2008 and 2004. But much more than just good PSU defensive play was the steady hand Bradley provided in the most difficult of circumstances when asked to replace Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Despite the blowout finale at Wisconsin, Bradley gets Penn State football's top honor for 2011 from RFBS.
  2. Devon Still, DT, Sr. - For PSU to succeed, he had to play every snap like a beast. He did. Rarely taking a breather, Still consistently made big plays, including 17 tackles for loss, Still has earned all of the honors coming his way, such as Big Ten defensive lineman of the year, the fifth Nittany Lion to do so (Courtney Brown 1999, Jimmy Kennedy 2002, Tamba Hali 2005, Jared Odrick 2009), and conference defensive player of the year. Should be picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
  3. Ron Vanderlinden, LB Coach - Since about 2004, there have been no better collection of LBs in college football than Penn State's. And Vanderlinden, in his 11th season at PSU, is as much the reason for that as anyone. Emerging star Michael Mauti injured his knee early on, and PSU barely flinched, plugging in Nate Stupar and continuing to excel.
  4. Larry Johnson, DL Coach - And the beat goes on, Part II. Like Vanderlinden, since about 2002 there have been few if any DLs in America than can match PSU. And Johnson, in his 15th season at PSU and 11th as defensive line coach, is as much the reason for that as anyone. 
  5. Gerald Hodges, LB, Jr. - When Mauti went down in Game 4, Hodges, a true junior who was injured much of his sophomore year, stepped it up, emerging as a complete 'backer, big-play maker  and occasional pass-rush specialist. He joined Still as PSU's lone first-team All-Big Ten selection, leading the Lions with 97 tackles.
  6. Silas Redd, RB, So. - As the season went along and the passing game regressed, Redd kept adding more and more responsibility. He responded in a big way - until an injury Nov. 12 vs. Nebraska slowed him for two weeks - leading the nation in rushing in October. Chosen second-team All-Big Ten, Redd finished with 1,188 rushing yards, a 5.2 avg and 7 TDs. Barring injury, he should challenge PSU's all-time rushing mark before he is finished.
  7. Jack Crawford, DE, Sr. - Once upon a time he was considered a prime candidate to be the next great PSU defensive lineman. It never quite materialzed, but Crawford was a rock this season and should be a mid-round NFL draft pick due to his size/speed/toughness combination. Led PSU with 6.5 sacks and led the DLs with 5 passes defensed.
  8. Derek Moye, WR, Sr. - He missed almost three games due to a freak foot injury, but his gutty return for the final drive vs. Illinois was one of the highlights of the season, and it's not his fault the QBs were lame. With good health and QB play, Moye (40 receptions) would have been first-team all-conference. He departs third all-time at PSU in receiving yards (2,395), fourth in receiving TDs (18) and fifth in receptions (144), and like Crawford figures to be a mid-round NFL draft pick.
  9. Jordan Hill, NT, Jr. - The always-hustling overachiever just keeps getting better. Like Still, he rarely took a breather due to lack of quality depth at DT, yet he continued to make plays into the fourth quarter, notching 58 tackles, 8 for loss, and 3 fumble recoveries - great numbers for a nose tackle.
  10. Anthony Fera, K/P, So. - Started the season in Paterno's doghouse and on the bench, then pounded too many punts into the end zone. But he was very good on field goals (14-17), good on kickoffs (10 touchbacks) and his punting improved late in the year, stabilizing PSU's special teams.
  11. Chaz Powell, CB/KR, Sr. - His excellence on kickoff returns gave him an edge among the quartet of senior DBs in these ratings. He could play in the NFL if he can settle on a position at the next level (offense? slot receiver? nickel back/special teams gunner?) and devote himself to special teams.
  12. Joe Paterno, former Head Coach - Penn State's internal investigation of the Sandusky scandal, and the trial, obviously will dramatically alter Paterno's perception and legacy. We'll see how much. As far as his coaching this season goes, JoePa needs to get some credit for the close wins and strong defense and some blame for the offensive regression.
  13. Drew Astorino, SS, Sr. - In the playing rotation since his redshirt freshman season, the once lightly-regarded recruit had the best season of his career, finishing second in tackles with 77, with 5 for loss and 7 passes defensed. His size/speed combo makes him an NFL longshot.
  14. Nate Stupar, LB, Sr. - Stupar figured to be the hard-luck story of the year, a productive veteran supplanted in the starting lineup when Mauti moved from MLB to OLB in the preseason. Then Mauti got hurt, Stupar stepped in and was superb the rest of the way, finishing fourth with 68 tackles. Like LB predecessors Tim Shaw and Josh Hull, Stupar could stick in the NFL and might be a late-round draft pick.
  15. John Thomas, Strength/Conditioning Coach - In his 20th season at PSU, Thomas must be credited for the extraordinary performance in the second half of games by the Lions defense this season.
  16. Nick Sukay, FS, Sr. - Had a good season and made a lot of big plays, but also seemed to just miss on some other critical opportunities and occasionally struggled tackling (he's now featured on Montee Ball's highlight reel). Sukay also could possibly get a look from the pros if he's dedicated to playing special teams and his 2010 injury continues doesn't red-flag him with NFL teams.
  17. Johnnie Troutman, LG, Sr. - A bull in the trenches, Troutman was good at pulling or plowing on run plays and was stout against the pass. Like Powell, Sukay, Stupar and a few other PSU seniors, he has just enough ability to play in the NFL if he can stay healthy and is fully committed.
  18. Justin Brown, WR/PR, Jr. - Despite improvement each season, Brown, a true junior, still seems to be not quite fulfilling his potential. Came very close to making several great catches, made a few of them, but looks a bit overweight for a WR and misses some makable plays for someone with his ability. Finished second to Moye with 34 receptions for 448 yards.
  19. Chima Okoli, RT, Sr. - PSU quarterbacks were sacked just 12 times, least in the Big Ten, and Okoli was one of the primary reasons. He played DL for a few years before settling in at RT last season, and this season earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.
  20. Quinn Barham, LT, Sr. - Had played relatively little prior to this season (13 starts) for a senior captain starting at an important position, and by and large he came through for the Lions. Bookend tackles Barham and Okoli won't be confused with Levi Brown, but they were solid. 
  21. Dick Anderson and Bill Kenney, OL/TE Coaches - The offensive line was loaded with fifth-year seniors, but it wasn't overly experienced or talented. Nonetheless, Anderson (centers/guards, 34th season at PSU) and Kenney (tackles/TEs, 24th season) molded them into a quintessentially solid-but-unspectacular unit (of note is that the TEs were well below average this season). Redd's 5.2 per carry average and the low sack total are excellent measures for the OL.
    1. D'Anton Lynn, CB, Sr. - Injured in a midseason collision, Lynn missed a couple of games, and he came up with few big plays (the Nebraska game was not a good one for him). But Lynn was reliable most of this season and in his four seasons in the lineup. He's one of many seniors on the bubble re: the NFL, where he might play safety and special teams. 
    2. Sean Stanley, DE, Jr. - With the graduation of Crawford and Eric Latimore, Stanley will be counted on even more next season. Though a bit undersized (6-1, 245), he notched 4.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in 2011 - and could pair with returning-from-injury Pete Massaro and redshirt freshman Deion Barnes, among others, in a nice DE rotation in 2012.
    3. Glenn Carson, MLB, So. - Named a surprise starter just before the season, Carson proved his back injury was a thing of the past and that he is a capable Big Ten-caliber LB. He'll need to take it up a notch next season as fellow sophomore Khairi Fortt and others are pushing for playing time.
    4. De'Onte Pannell, RG, Sr. - Had some bad moments, but overall was decent. He fended off John Urschel to remain the starter throughout the season and put a generally good finish on a very uneven career.
    5. Matt Stankiewitch, C, Jr. - The nondescript offensive line steadily improved as the season went along, as did Stankiewitch. He will be counted on next season to lead a revamped unit as the lone returning starter.
    6. Joe Suhey, FB, Sr. - Ultimately it was a disappointing season for the talented Suhey. He battled injuries at midseason and was underused otherwise, his excellent receiving and surprising rushing skills rarely on display. He also split time with Michael Zordich in PSU's "legacy" FB tandem. Suhey should get a chance to make an NFL roster as a FB, H-Back and special teams player. 
    7. Stephfon Green, RB, Sr. - Green capped a bizarre season and career with a blaze of glory in the final few games. Booted off the team for several months, Green was granted a reprieve during training camp after the seniors pleaded with Paterno for his reinstatement. He scarcely touched the field the first half of the season but finished with 203 rushing yards and 5 TDs. His special teams prowess and third-down back potential should get him a free agency opportunity in the NFL.
    8. Matt McGloin, QB, Jr. - Provided leadership during the Sandusky crisis and handled the two-quearterback situation much better than Rob Bolden, earning the starting job the final few games. Nonetheless, if/when the new coaching staff comes in McGloin, due to mediocre performance, will be tossed back into the pool of QB candidates for 2012, along with Paul Jones, possibly Bolden (who seems likely to transfer) and likely incoming recruit Skyler Mornhinweg.
    9. Kermit Buggs, Safeties Coach - PSU safeties Sukay, Astorino and Malcolm Willis played both the pass and the run well throughout 2011, aside from the Wisconsin game (which could be said about many PSU players). Buggs is in his ninth year on the staff and fourth working with the safeties.
    10. Michael Mauti, LB, Jr. - Was off to a sensational start before tearing an ACL for the second time in his career early in the fourth game of the season. Has the total package of LB skills and looked like the successor to Posluszny, Connor, Lee, Bowman, etc. The questions now are if he can get back up to speed, and if he can remain healthy.
    11. Eric Latimore, DE, Sr. - An occasional starter throughout his career, Latimore was always hustling, if not always producing. Continued the pipeline from Delaware (Devon Still, Justin Brown) to PSU. His size (6-6, 275) and effort will get him an NFL look.
    12. Devon Smith, WR/KR, Jr. Bad hands, diminutive stature and bad instincts (impossible to believe he didn't block the Wisconsin DB who made the tackle on Stephfon Green's 89-yard run that was called back vs. Wisconsin) offset Smith's blazing speed and grit. Third-leading receiver with 23 catches for 353 yards and 2 TDs.
    13. Khairi Fortt, LB, So. - Saw significant action as Carson's backup, and it will be hard to keep Fortt from getting more playing time in 2012. Shows good instincts and speed and should be in the Top 20 on this list the next two seasons, if not higher.
    14. Malcolm Willis, DB, So. - With the four senior DB starters departing, Willis will anchor the secondary next season, and like Fortt should be a defensive pillar the next two seasons. He should be up to the task after stepping in adequately for an injured Sukay in 2010, and playing effectively in some nickel and dime packages this season.
    15. Michael Zordich, FB, Jr. - If not for a late-season "hands of stone" display, Zordich would be much higher. The fiery blocker dropped a few passes and fumbled a kickoff, costly errors. With Suhey graduating, Zordich will need to improve his ball skills for next season.
    16. Adrian Amos, CB/KR, Fr. - The true freshman was a revelation in limited duty in the secondary and as a kickoff returner. When Lynn and Stephon Morris both were injured, Amos stepped in at CB like a veteran. Should start at CB or safety next season and vault up this list. He's a gamer.
    17. Stephon Morris, CB, Jr. - Small (5-foot-8) speed merchant played better this season in limited action than the past two seasons when he started 10 games. A prime contender to regain his starting CB role in 2012, Morris had five passes defensed.
    18. Curtis Dukes, RB, So. - A big back (237 pounds) with good speed, Dukes had a nice stretch as Silas Redd's backup then fell off the map, allowing Stephfon Green to shine in the final few games of his career. Dukes was second in rushing yards with 237 and a robust 5.8 avg.
    19. Galen Hall, Offensive Coordinator/RB Coach - Though the play-calling was poor much of the season and the offense was mediocre at best overall, Hall must be given some credit for the sterling performance this season by RB Silas Redd.
    20. Curtis Drake and Shawney Kersey, WRs, So. - Both are spectacularly underutilized, combining for just 10 catches for an eye-popping 21 yards per catch. In Drake's case his recuperated broken leg apparently had lingering issues, but he's a playmaker when healthy as demonstrated the final two games when he played some option QB. Kersey, for unknown reasons, receives scant playing time. 
    21. Jay Paterno and Mike McQueary, QB and WR Coach (respectively) - Had to be one of the toughest seasons ever for JayPa, with Rob Bolden's regression and the Jerry Sandusky scandal resulting in the firing of his father. McQueary's ascending career was derailed by his grand jury testimony and subsequent administrative leave, putting his future in the profession in doubt.
    22. Brandon Beachum, RB, Jr. - Never quite seemed fully recovered from an ACL injury, though at times he was the No. 2 RB and short-yardage specialist before a hamstring injury slowed him. Sadly, late in the final game at Wisconsin he broke his leg. Apparently he might not return for his final season of eligibility. Was fourth with 137 rushing yards.
    23. Rob Bolden, QB, So. - Whatever happened to the skinny kid with the textbook release who started at QB from Day 1 of his true freshman season in 2010 after just a few weeks on campus? Hopefully we see him again someday. Bolden 2.0 was a case study in lost confidence.

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