Take Your Marks: State's Next A-A

It's been more than two full seasons since Penn State last produced a first-team All-American. With that in mind, FOS scribes Harrington and Brennan go head-to-head over which Nittany Lion will be the next to win A-A notice.

QUESTION: Penn State has not had a first-team All-American since Larry Johnson and Jimmy Kennedy won the honor in 2002. Who will be the program's next All-American?

HARRINGTON: Wow, lots of candidates for this honor at this. Not surprisingly, they all seem to be from defense (guys like Tamba Hali, Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor). But I have to go with cornerback Alan Zemaitis. A.Z. is a force who has had observers raving about him since he arrived in Happy Valley. He is aggressive, smart and “is one of the flat out fastest guys on the team,” according to one insider, which is no minor statement when you have Tim Shaw, Rodney Kinlaw, Justin King and Derrick Williams in the PSU stables.

BRENNAN: Though A.Z. gave FOS The Magazine its greatest unofficial endorsement to date when he said it was “Off the Chain” (I checked, and that's a good thing), he'll have difficulty winning A-A honors because nobody will throw at him. Unfortunately, the dolts who vote on these awards typically rely far too heavily on statistics. That'll be a good thing for a tackling machine like Posluszny. Count on the junior linebacker for 120 stops, a handful of sacks and two or three picks. Poz has a flare for making the big plays A-A voters love.

HARRINGTON: You know I love Poz and told him as a freshman he was going to be an All-American. But there is a reason why when the Penn State staff pulled in the nation's number one prospect it immediately matched him up against A.Z. That's right, Derrick Williams has been “challenged” in practice because he is learning from the best thanks to the teachings of Zemaitis. If Williams is ready to make an impact in 2005 it will be due in large part to the “schooling” of A.Z. Zemaitis has All-American written all over him, which would be a first for Paterno since he has never coached an All-American corner.

BRENNAN: I can see it now: Penn State Sports Information sending out a DVD of Zemaitis' practice highlights. A.Z. led the Big Ten in passes defended (18) in 2003. Last year, he had eight. Think there was a reason for that? Offenses will target Anwar Phillips and newcomer Justin King over Zemaitis. The FOS community can only hope you are learning as much in these head-to-head “challenges” as D-Will is learning in his.

HARRINGTON'S LAST WORD: If the defensive line lives up to the hype, Posluszny may not have as many opportunities to build his numbers. That is why Hali is the dark horse in this race. With the defensive front seven playing the role of brick wall this season teams will have to look to the air and I don't see Phillips as that much of a slouch. Teams will have to spread the ball out, which means Zemaitis will have plenty of passes coming his way. His play should be “off the chain, fo shizzle.”

BRENNAN'S LAST WORD: Two last words, actually: Capone and Mayer.

Neither the linebacker (Gino Capone) nor the safety (Shawn Mayer) had the all-around skill and athletic ability of Posluszny. Yet they tore the roof off like two dogs caged in 2002, combining for 230 stops even though Capone missed three full games. This was with current NFL players Anthony Adams, Michael Haynes and Jimmy Kennedy up front. A great line has never meant reduced production for the PSU 'backers. Quite the opposite, actually. Strong defensive lines keep the offensive front off the LBs, allowing them to roam the field and make plays. And, in this instance, win All-America awards.


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