After 270 or so long, agonizing days, college football has returned for the boys in Blue and White. The season opens today against a Youngstown State team that should not put up much of a fight, and will allow the Nittany Lions to get some good looks at many of the question marks this team has entering the season.
First, in case you missed it, for the first time ever, a Joe Paterno-coached Nittany Lions team will start a true freshman QB at the beginning of the season. Robert Bolden comes into Happy Valley with a strong football background, so fans can be confident that he earned the starting job over Kevin Newsome, Matt McGloin, and Paul Jones.
Second, the offensive line will need to gel, and do it quickly, as the Nittany Lions head to Tuscaloosa in one week to face the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. A solid unit is in place, but it is a unit that has not played together with any sort of regularity, so a trial period is quite necessary.
Finally, how will the new defense fare? All three starting LBs are gone, as well as NFL first round draft pick Jared Odrick. However, as most Lion fans know, the defense is the backbone of this team, and will certainly be ready to play by noon today.
As for the opponent, YSU comes into the 2010 season with high hopes, but after a 6-5 season last year, they should be no match for the Nittany Lions. Offensively, the Penguins lose their top three producers from the 2009 season. Quarterback Brandon Summers threw for more than 2300 yards, adding 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He will be replaced by junior Marc Kanetsky or freshman Kurt Hess, neither of whom have seen any significant playing time. Running back Kevin Smith gained an admirable 810 yards on the ground as a senior; however, only two backups had more than 100 total yards all season. Finally, leading wide receiver Donald Jones will be gone after pulling in 77 catches for almost 800 yards and six touchdowns. The Penguins are confident that the receiving corps that remains is one of the strengths of the offense. The offensive line is the most experienced unit on the team coming into the new season, returning eight players that started at least one game in 2009, including Andrew Radakovich, who transferred to Youngstown State from Penn State after redshirting the 2008 season in Happy Valley
On the other side of the ball, the Penguins lose some firepower, but return many of the starters from the 2009 team. Gone is Mychal Savage, who led the team in tackles for loss (8.0) and sacks (4.5), but no less than three players with considerable experience are in line as replacements. The strength for this team is the play of the linebackers, with one-time Michigan man Taylor Hill leading the way. Hill led last year’s squad with 65 tackles. The Penguins return a cohesive unit in the defensive backfield that should be somewhat of a challenge for Penn State’s new quarterback. Cornerback Brandian Ross and safety Andre Elliott provided stability in the secondary last year and are only looking to get stronger in 2010.
The game will be aired at noon on the Big Ten Network. Other notable matchups today include:
No. 1 Alabama vs. San Jose State (7 p.m.)
No. 9 Iowa vs. Eastern Illinois (12 p.m.)
No. 12 Wisconsin vs. UNLV (11 p.m.)
Purdue vs. Notre Dame (3 p.m.)
Michigan vs. UConn (3 p.m.)