Brennan: He only played in eight games and did not even lead the team in passing. But the Penn State offense finally came alive when redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin took over at quarterback. The confidence he showed after replacing rookie Rob Bolden proved to be infectious, and after a 3-3 start the Lions closed with four wins in six games -- and the only two losses to top-10 opponents in Ohio State and Michigan State. He was so good that the projected starting quarterback heading into the season, sophomore Kevin Newsome, never rose above the third team and is now set to transfer out of the program, according to several sources.
Harrington: It's tough to argue against the impact McGloin had, but I am going to one of his favorite targets in Derek Moye. Moye pulled in 48 passes for 806 yards (16.8 ypc) and seven touchdowns, the most TD receptions by a Lion since Deon Butler grabbed nine in 2005. Moye definitely served a critical support role for Bolden and McGloin as they got acclimated to the starting job under center.
Harrington: This isn't your typical Penn State defense. In years past this was a tough decision with situations where you had guys like Jared Odrick, Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman making big impacts. This year the defense didn't present that issue. I am going to go with Nate Stupar, who saw action in all 12 games, making 72 tackles (38 solo) good for the team's second on the team. He also had 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, four pass breakups and one forced fumble. He may have not been the most flashy guy on the field, but I saw him as a consistent force on an inconsistent defense.
Brennan: Had he been healthy all season, I suspect Mike Mauti would have been the runaway winner here. As it stands, this is the most difficult pick for defensive MVP I can remember. There just weren't any real playmakers for the Lions this year. By default I'll go with cornerback D'Anton Lynn, who ranks third on the team in tackles (71) and second in interceptions (two). But it says something about the performance of the defense when Moye leads the team in forced fumbles (two) and safety Nick Sukay, who missed the final five-plus games due to injury, leads in interceptions (three).
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP
Brennan: Redshirt freshman Anthony Fera was a pleasant surprise at punter. Though recruited as a place-kicker, he stepped in to replace Jeremy Boone at punter and averaged a solid 41.6 yards per kick before missing the final two games after an emergency appendectomy. More importantly, PSU leads the Big Ten in net punting, with an average of 38.4 yards per kick. Fera was also strong on kickoffs.
Harrington: It may be unconventional, but I am going with the punt coverage team. A year ago this group gave up an average of 15.4 yards per return. However, with a renewed emphasis and new formation, the coverage unit trimmed that by more than 50 percent to 7.3 yards per return, not a bad improvement over what was a weakness a year ago.
OFFENSIVE TRUE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Harrington: I have to go with Silas Redd. The idea that Paterno is against playing freshman is a myth, but he certainly is not big on playing freshman ball-carriers. This alone made Redd's emergence impressive. However, he rushed for 424 yards on 69 carries, good enough for a 6.1 yards per carry. He also ran in two touchdowns. His vision, physique and wiggle point to an exciting career ahead for the young back.
Brennan: Paterno reluctant to play freshman running backs? That'll come as news to D.J. Dozier, Curtis Enis, Eric McCoo and Tony Hunt. Redd has been fun to watch when given a chance. But we'd be remiss in not giving a nod to Bolden, too. The first true freshman to start the season at QB for Penn State in a century, most of his 1,360 yards came in the first half of the season. Yes, he made mistakes. And yes, this team is better with McGloin at the helm. Considering Bolden arrived on campus during the summer, though, his performance this year bodes well for the future.
DEFENSIVE TRUE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Brennan: Not much to choose from here. The nod pretty much has to go to linebacker Khairi Fortt, who played in nine games (making 17 tackles) and got a start against Illinois. Paterno said Fortt was slowed by an injury late in the season, which was too bad. He has the look of the most athletic linebacker on the team and seems to be a much more instinctive player than starter Bani Gbadyu.
Harrington: Fortt was impressive, but I am going to give the nod to DaQuan Jones. Jones saw action in eight games and granted he only made four tackles and one for a loss, but he showed a propensity to get out of the blocks and was aggressive and agile in his play. He could really step in to give a boost to a defensive line that struggled all-around this year.
Harrington: I was impressed with Malcolm Willis' play in the secondary. He showed impressive pursuit and wrap-ups. On the year he pulled down 47 tackles (23 solo), one interception and two pass breakups. In my view Willis gave a needed boost to the depth of the secondary.
Brennan: It was great to see senior captain Brett Brackett bounce back from a tough junior year with his best season as a Nittany Lion. He already has twice as many catches (37), yards (497) and touchdowns (five) as he had in his entire career prior to 2010. With graduation and injury issues depleting the tight end corps, Brackett has been used as a wideout/tight end hybrid and may well be the team's most dependable pass-catcher.
EXPECTED MORE OUT OF
Brennan: I'd say Newsome but we already touched on him above. Defensive end Jack Crawford has had a tough junior season so far. He missed three games with a foot injury. Even when he returned, the foot still bothered him and he was limited in what he could do. Crawford finished the regular season with 14 tackles and only two sacks, and his lack of production -- understandable though it may have been given the injury -- had a ripple affect across the defensive line. PSU has 16 sacks through 12 games. Last year, it had 37. Here's hoping Crawford can attack his senior season at full strength, because he had the look of a player when completely healthy.
Harrington: Gbadyu struggled with his assignments this season. Sure, he has 48 tackles (20 solo), but he he's had issues being out of position and simply did not consistently step up to plug holes or contain the wing. Given that he is a senior I expected him to have nailed down his reads and angles this season.
Harrington: You pointed to it previously, but I am going with Mauti. If he can shake the injury bug he has the mental and physical aspects of his game to really be a game-changer for the defense. Even dealing with some lingering injuries he still managed to snag 63 tackles (31 solo), five tackles for loss and two sacks during the regular season. Tom Bradley should really look at him as wrecking ball on blitzes next season.
Brennan: After a bit of a mid-year lull, sophomore receiver Justin Brown was outstanding at times in the final three games of the regular season. He combined for 15 catches for 220 yards and a score in those outings, accounting for roughly half of his season totals in the first two areas.
SHOULD HAVE SEEN MORE OF
Brennan: Redd is averaging 6.1 yards per carry (Evan Royster is at 4.9) and is the kind of home run threat who might have been able to shake the PSU offense out of its doldrums in lopsided losses to Alabama (where he had five carries), Iowa (two carries) and Illinois (four carries). At Alabama, his first touch came in the fourth quarter, with PSU down 24-0. At Iowa, he had two second-quarter carries (for 19 yards) and a late reception. He had two touches in the first half against Illinois.
Harrington: I think Glenn Carson should have seen more meaningful snaps at the middle linebacker position. Granted he saw reps in all 12 games, but usually in mop-up time. He seemed to show better speed and endurance than senior Chris Colasanti and the experience could have helped him and given a boost to the defensive front seven to plug up running lanes.
BIGGEST LOSS FROM 2009
Harrington: I think it's been Daryll Clark. The guy not only was a play-maker, but seemingly willed the team to victory in games. He also provided a big boost with his leadership in the huddle and on the sideline. Penn State has some talent at quarterback no doubt, but losing Clark left some big shoes to fill for some young guys.
Brennan: The defensive line obviously was not prepared to lose All-American Jared Odrick, who was taken by the Miami Dolphins in the first-round of the 2010 NFL Draft. With nobody up front demanding double teams, opposing offensive linemen have been able to easily get into PSU's rebuilt linebacker corps. Likewise, the D-line cannot generate any serious pressure on the QB, which leaves the 'backers and secondary vulnerable to the pass. To compensate, Bradley tried to dial up more blitzes late in the regular season, but the better opposing quarterbacks on the schedule have not been phased by the tactic.
WILL BE MOST DIFFICULT TO REPLACE FROM 2010
Brennan: The good news is Penn State is not going to lose the overall level of talent and leadership it did from the 2009 team. With that in mind, to me, All-American offensive guard Stefen Wisniewski will be the most difficult senior to replace from this team. Even when the line was awful early in the year, he kept working hard, and set a positive tone for the unit. Eventually, the line improved, and as it did, Wisniewski began to shine. He brings athleticism, technique and intelligence to the line that will be missed in 2011.
Harrington: I think kicker Collin Wagner is a guy many take for granted and is one of those quiet impact players. Fera no doubt has a strong leg and is the guy likely to take over place-kicking duties, but Wagner has been a reliable special teams weapon that I think will be missed.