The first four weeks

So, it’s been more than a month, and four games for the Nittany Lions, since my last post.

Really, I didn’t want to regurgitate all that was out there already by the national and regional media (Joe Paterno “coaching” from the press box, the musical chairs at quarterback, questionable play calling, ect.), but now that Penn State is 3-1 (with wins over juggernauts Indiana State, Temple and Eastern Michigan and an embarrassing reminder of what PSU football has become in a lethargic loss to Alabama) I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the team so far.

The defense is stout, although less so with linebacker Michael Mauti done for the year with another ACL injury. Devon Still is playing like a monster, benefited by having a stud in Jordan Hill playing next to him. Even thought he gets double teamed more often than not, Still has been a disruptive force from the first snap of the season. It’s really too bad the beginning of his career was derailed by injuries or we’d be talking about an all-time great. The loss of Mauti hurts because that means the Penn State coaches will put Nate Stupar in his place instead of Khairi Fortt. Stupar shows flashes of good play, but you want more than flashes from a fifth-year senior. While Fortt is just a sophomore and inexperienced, his ceiling is through the roof and getting him on the field now to develop for the future would be lovely, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. The secondary has been OK, which is a disappointment for a group of four senior starters. The safeties are nothing more than average, while D’Anton Lynn is playing the wrong position at corner instead of safety. Chaz Powell has been the best of the group. It’s a shame the coaches pulled him back and forth between offense and defense throughout his career.

The offense, well, it’s been pretty ugly outside of Silas Redd, who has been nothing short of spectacular despite running behind a subpar offensive line. I could care less if Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin plays quarterback, but to be four games into a season and still not have a starter is both a joke and insult to the team and its fans. That McGloin won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week means nothing because Eastern Michigan is awful defensively. Derrick Moye was terrible the first two games of the season, but has been better the past two weeks. Finally, after nearly three years on campus, the Penn State coaches figured out that Devon Smith’s best route would be a drag all the way across the field about five yards off the line of scrimmage. I don’t know if one of the guys starting on the offensive line could start for any top 25 team. The best linemen on this team might be true freshman tackle Donovan Smith and sophomore Nate Cadogan, who is playing tight end because 19-year-old Kevin Haplea decided to celebrate his play in the Alabama game with a drink in public.

The special teams have been a disgrace. To have a walk-on wide receiver (Evan Lewis) kicking field goals over a kid who Penn State gave a scholarship to (Sam Ficken, a true freshman) is mind boggling. Anthony Fera is the kicker from here on out after a good performance last week, but he’s also punting and kicking off so you worry if he can handle all that. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ficken kickoff to give Fera a break. The coverage units have been OK and outside of Powell’s season-opening kickoff return the return units have been non-existent.

Recruiting has been pretty slow lately and doesn’t figure to pick up anytime soon since most players Penn State is still involved with won’t be making a decision anytime soon. I did see offensive lineman J.J. Denman play two weeks ago against Pocono Mountain West and the kid is the real deal. He played center that night, but he’ll be an offensive tackle for the Nittany Lions. I’m thinking right tackle, but that’s just a guess. Right now there are 17 players verbally committed with room for five more (again, that’s a guess because right now you don’t know what kids who have a year of eligibility and don’t figure to play might just move on with their lives). The biggest fish out there is Harrisburg defensive end Noah Spence, who is just an absolute stud. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is on the case so that’s the good news, but Penn State hasn’t pulled in a five-star recruit since 2006 with A.J. Wallace, who had a forgettable career at Penn State. Spence won’t announce until early in 2012 so Nittany Lion fans will be on the edge of their seats until then.

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