Take Your Marks: Spring Revisit

My how time flies when you are having fun. It seems like only a few weeks ago that we tackled the pressing issues of Penn State's 2005 spring practice, with both of us offering predictions on the keys to a successful spring and regular season, offering insight on personnel, and generally pontificating on the Nittany Lion program. So how did we end up doing?

Our original predicitions were posted back on March 29. Though time has gone by quickly, there have been some dramatic events since. Penn State went 10-1, Joe Paterno morphed from washed up to consensus Coach of the Year and, most importantly, we had that goofy Take Your Marks graphic done to accompany our semi-regular feature.

As if that were not proof enough that we don't mind looking silly, we thought this was as good a time as any to revisit the statements we made last march, to see who was right, who was wrong and who was full of...uh...well, you get the picture.

Since we were both a tad verbose when this original piece ran, we clipped our original answers so you can get the point. As if that is not confusing enough, we also added recent comments about our previous comments. You can read the original March article here.

1. Penn State's single most important goal of the spring should be:

BRENNAN THEN: Improving the offensive line.

HARRINGTON THEN: It's simple: win. This team needs a winning attitude. It needs confidence — something in which Derrick Williams should teach a class. The goal should be win, win, win.

BRENNAN NOW: Did I say improving the offensive line back then? I meant to say keeping the linemen away from all hunting gear. Funny how the "Arrowgate" controversy that seemed to leave the line in a shambles in the spring did not prove to be a big problem when it came to developing cohesion up front in the regular season. As for your answer back then, my 3-year-old has a way of responding to that kind of comment — "Duh."

HARRINGTON NOW: Confidence is a huge factor in success on the football field. Imagine if the Lions had not converted on that fourth and 15 in the Northwestern game — this team likely would have had its fragile psyche damaged and went on to a 7-4 season and a trip to the Alamo Bowl. As for your offensive line comment, did you consult a blind squirrel on that one?

2. What is the most overblown storyline of the spring:

HARRINGTON THEN: The H-back storyline.

BRENNAN THEN: Michael Robinson vs. Anthony Morelli at quarterback. We've all followed Joe Paterno long enough to know he won't turn his back on a senior like Robinson.

HARRINGTON NOW: Robinson's success caught the college football world by surprise, forget the Nittany Nation. As for the H-back rumors (remember everyone from Tim Shaw to Jeremy Kapinos were supposedly getting reps at H-back), you can file that with the Superback rumors from a few years ago.

BRENNAN NOW: Wow, we both got one right. In retrospect, it is difficult to believe people were still clamoring for Morelli when the season started. The H-back story was more definitely the most ridiculous rumor floated in the spring. Next year's version of the H-back rumor will be the "flex" tight end.

3. What is one change I'd like to see that won't happen:

BRENNAN THEN: A new quarterbacks coach.

HARRINGTON THEN: I would love to see Penn State consistently run a four-receiver set to spread the field thin and give the passing game a variety of options.

BRENNAN NOW: I conveniently edited out the part where I said PSU didn't have four capable wideouts. Who knew Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood would both be as effective as they were? As for the QBs coach, for all the crap he's taken the last few years, Jay Paterno deserves a least part of the credit for Robinson's emergence this year.

HARRINGTON NOW: Let's look at exactly what Brennan said in reply to my wish, "Don't you need four decent wideouts to run a four-wideout set? Even if the Lions had them (which they don't this spring), I'm not buying it." Perhaps this was motivation enough for young Butler and Norwood to step up and prove you wrong. As for your QB coach wish, Jay Paterno does deserve an element of the credit considering he got the brunt of the criticism when the team was down.

4: If I could move one player from defense to offense, it would be:

HARRINGTON THEN: I would go with J.R. Zwierzynski. He reportedly wants to play fullback, the position he tore up in high school.

BRENNAN THEN: A.Q. Shipley from defensive tackle to offensive line.

HARRINGTON NOW: Well, Zwierzynski shifted to tight end late this season, and with the emergence of BranDon Snow paving the way for Tony Hunt at fullback there was no need for him there. With all the depth at linebacker, an offensive shift made sense for him. You were spot on with Shipley, until he went back to defensive tackle and impressed fans with his play there. Watch for him to head back to offense in the spring given the losses on the offensive line.

BRENNAN NOW: Is Zwierzynski playing flex tight end or more of an H-back style position? I can't believe you are attempting to take credit for an accurate prediction on that one.

5. If I could move one player from offense to defense, it would be:

BRENNAN THEN: I can't shake the image of an explosive athlete like Rodney Kinlaw spending most of his career on the bench.

HARRINGTON THEN: I have always wondered how Dan Lawlor would do as a small defensive end or a big linebacker. Not that I would move him.

BRENNAN NOW: Guess that JRZ for Lawlor trade never came off. As for Kinlaw, I'm sticking with that theme. He had 16 carries for 34 yards and was thrown for 13 yards in losses in 2005, and I can't see him getting much more action at tailback in 2006.

HARRINGTON NOW: Yeah, Lawlor was a swing and a miss for me. Kinlaw put his explosiveness on display with kickoff returns. He would be a formidable weapon if the staff could figure out when and where to use him. Chalk up another one for the blind squirrel.

6. One walk-on who will make some noise is:

HARRINGTON THEN: Ross Muir. My close second is DB Deon Butler.

BRENNAN THEN: Lineman Tommy Schnell.

HARRINGTON NOW: Well, Ross Muir was sidelined with a knee injury, which held him back from tearing things up on the defensive line. For the record I also wrote, "My close second is DB Deon Butler. Not the biggest guy, but some turbo under the hood and good hands to boot." Not too shabby of a call. Boy, you hit it out of the park with your Schnell call.

BRENNAN NOW: Can I get a mulligan here? I knew I should have gone with a "close second," too. Mine was, uh, Ethan Kilmer. Yeah, that's right, Ethan Kilmer. As for Butler, we both thought he'd be playing DB in the spring. Which is why I wondered if the program had enough wideouts to run an effective four-wide set. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

7. Bigger immediate impact, King or Williams:

BRENNAN THEN: It'll be Derrick Williams. I expect his playmaking ability and winning attitude to rub off on the other receivers. That should make life easier for the quarterbacks and struggling offensive line. If he stays healthy, I can see him hitting the end zone as a receiver, rusher and passer next fall.

HARRINGTON THEN: I love Williams' big-play ability, but I have to go with Justin King. Why? Special teams. With King on returns the Lions could get an immediate impact in the battle for field position.

BRENNAN NOW: I must admit, I took a bit of a gamble with the receiving, rushing and passing TD line concerning Williams. And when he lined up at QB several times early in the season, I was probably the only one in Beaver Stadium rooting for him to toss the pigskin.

HARRINGTON NOW: Williams was great, but King was Mr. Versatility, playing offense, defense and special teams. If Williams had not broken his arm it would have been a tight race, but there is a reason Scout named King to their freshman All-American team.

8. One Penn State coach on the hot seat is:

HARRINGTON THEN: Anyone associated with that offensive line.


HARRINGTON NOW: Well the offensive line came through in a big way. I am not sure the heat has cooled off, though, since they need to reconstruct the entire unit for 2006.

BRENNAN NOW: Give credit to the staff for using a system that gave the offensive linemen a chance to succeed. Of course, Robinson's mobility didn't hurt there, either.

9. Which one player is on the hot seat:

BRENNAN THEN: Rodney Kinlaw. With Austin Scott out due to a broken ankle, Kinlaw will get more reps at tailback. If the speedy redshirt sophomore does not make the most of this chance by showing he is completely past the injury issues and poor hands which have hurt him to this point of his career, he could be left in the dust.

HARRINGTON THEN: Can I go with an entire unit? If yes, it's gotta be the offensive line. These guys have got to pull it together and give this offense a fighting chance.

BRENNAN NOW: In Kinlaw's defense, as strong as Tony Hunt was in the regular season, he did not get much of a chance. Did I mention I think they ought to move him to defense? Won't happen, but it should. To me, the offensive linemen responded to the challenge of being on the hot seat and emerged as the unsung heroes of the team.

HARRINGTON NOW: Very few had faith in the offensive line, but they came through in a big way. As for Kinlaw, he showed he is a big return threat and redeemed himself with the opportunity when Williams was sidelined.


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