TYM: '07 Season Review

Welcome to the latest installment of Take Your Marks, the occasional series where FightOnState.com staffers Mark Harrington and Mark Brennan discuss and debate issues concerning the Penn State football program. In this installment, they look back at the regular season.


BRENNAN: Joe Paterno has spent so much time hyperventilating over quarterback Anthony Morelli (could there be an ulterior motive there?) that the real heroes of the offense have been overlooked. In my view, this is a group award this year, with the entire offensive line getting the nod. I have fired more than my share of criticism at line coaches Dick Anderson and Bill Kenney in recent years, but they deserve nothing but plaudits this fall. Despite losing a top-five NFL Draft pick in Levi Brown (not to mention how this area has been ravaged by injuries and transfers), the line was strong in every game but one this year -- at Michigan. And I give the group a pass on that one, as the offensive coaching staff's dummied-down game plan played right into the Wolverines' strength. The good news is All-Big Ten center A.Q. Shipley and all of the other significant contributors on the line are all back in 2008. If the unit can develop a bit of quality depth, it could be a real force.

HARRINGTON: I tip my hat to the line as well, but you can't overlook Rodney Kinlaw. This guy rolled up almost 1,200 yards and had 10 touchdowns. Consider that he didn't even start until the fifth game of the year. Most fans saw him as a "change of pace" back, but with Austin Scott's departure, Kinlaw took the reigns and had an impressive outing. In fact, his 5.3 yards per carry matched Michigan's Mike Hart and came just short of Ohio State's Chris Wells (5.8). Kinlaw definitely stepped in and provided balance in the offensive game during a season where PSU lost key backfield contributors like Scott and Matt Hahn.


HARRINGTON: You have to go with Dan Connor. The all-time tackles record aside, Connor posted eight double-digit takedown games and 136 tackles on the year (the most since Shawn Mayer's 144 in 2002). Toss in that he was mentioned for every major defensive award this year and he's the shoe-in for this honor. Connor's one knock is probably that he was not the vocal leader that the team could have used this season, but given his play and the overall impact he had on the program on and off the field, he will be remembered among PSU's best linebackers of all time.

BRENNAN: And I'll go with outside linebacker Sean Lee, who posted 124 tackles to go along with three fumble recoveries and an interception. Lee has a knack for making big plays at big moments -- like when he caused and recovered a critical fumble in the Purdue game. But the junior has also developed into a bona fide team leader, something that was extremely apparent after the Michigan State loss. After the postgame handshake with MSU's Mark Dantonio, Paterno tripped over a television cable and fell on his backfield. As a photographer began taking photos, Lee rushed over and unleashed a "Get the BLEEP out of here." I'm not suggesting that is a proper way to deal with the media in every instance. But this showed me something about the kid's attitude and respect for his head coach, something that is sorely lacking among certain other players in the program.


BRENNAN: This is the one no-brainer on our list. First-year starting punter Jeremy Boone not only replaced four-year stalwart Jeremy Kapinos, but he also out-performed him. He averaged 42.2 yards per kick on 54 punts. Opponents returned only 17 of those, for a TOTAL of 102 yards. Impressive stuff.

HARRINGTON: You took my guy. I can't disagree with you here. Boone stepped in after having an inconsistent off-season and just continued where Kapinos left off. Perhaps PSU is becoming Punter U.


HARRINGTON: I have to say Anthony Morelli. Sure, the stats looked good on paper, but with 12 lost turnovers (nine picks and three fumbles), Morelli simply did not protect the ball. Toss in that he had one touchdown pass total against Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and the senior QB simply wasn't a producer in big games. The biggest issue was his lack of leadership, between arguing with opposing fans on the sideline and a variety of helmet-tossing episodes in practice, he never emerged as the leader many hoped he would become as a captain.

BRENNAN: Tailback Austin Scott's season was a disaster even before he was suspended from the team prior to the Iowa game (he was later charged with raping a woman two nights before the game and never rejoined the team). If the circumstances surrounding his suspension were not so serious, I would be tempted to say his claims that it will cost him an NFL career would be laughable. Scott came into his fifth season with one last shot to prove himself at the major-college level. He was benched in favor of Rodney Kinlaw after four games, largely because he had lost four fumbles in those four outings. He played in five games overall, carrying 69 times for 320 yards, or 4.4 yards per carry. Kinlaw finished the regular season averaging 5.3 yards per carry and redshirt freshman Evan Royster checked in at 6.1 yards per tote.


BRENNAN: Nobody in the secondary can be happy with the way that unit performed this year. With three starters returning and what appeared to be a boatload of athletic ability, the defensive backfield figured to be a team strength. But it really turned out to be a liability, particularly in some of State's biggest games. The move of Tony Davis from corner to safety -- which seemed to be a good decision in the spring -- really backfired.

HARRINGTON: I have to say Justin King. I was amazed that he made the All-Big Ten team as a first-team selection. I certainly can't fault him for the issues he had against Indiana's James Hardy. After all, the guy had seven inches on King. However, the mystique wore off this season after teams realized they could exploit his coverage, starting with Buffalo, who went after his side of the field early and often. Your theory last season that King's limited number of interceptions was simply due to teams not throwing his direction was disproved this year. After all, he only ended up with two takeaways.


HARRINGTON: While his numbers were not horrible, I have to say I was disappointed in the issues place-kicker Kevin Kelly has had with his range this season. Kelly was 19 for 24 (79 percent) on field goals, but continued to have difficulty hitting anything past the 40-yard range. All-in-all, special teams were lackluster this year, especially for a head coach who says it's more important than the offense.

BRENNAN: Ranking No. 116 out of 119 in anything is … well … not good. But that is exactly where the Lions find themselves among the national standings in kick return defense. Only UNLV, Wyoming and Utah State are worse. The temptation is to blame this on the man who coaches the coverage team -- Brian Norwood -- and say there is something wrong with the scheme. But Penn State finished 23rd in the same area in 2006 with Norwood in charge. That tells me the players on the coverage unit this year just have not had the combination of intensity, intelligence and physical ability required to get the job done.


BRENNAN: We've already touched on Boone and the offensive line. So I'll point to the defensive line, which overcame serious graduation losses and injury issues to perform well for most of the season. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but it is going to be fun to watch Maurice Evans and the rest of this talented group develop over the next couple of years.

HARRINGTON: I have to go with the emergence of Mike Lucian and Stefen Wisniewski, who stepped into the guard position and really helped to solidify the interior of the offensive line. Lucian has shifted around throughout his PSU career, but finally found a position where he could consistently contribute. Wisniewski, a true freshman, showed he is going to be a force for the line in years to come.


HARRINGTON: The unrealized potential this team had. With so much speed and talent, this unit could have made a real run this year, but the self-imposed blunder in Ann Arbor and the lack of execution at Illinois, coupled with imploding with a 17-point lead in East Lansing, snuffed out what could have been a special season. The road woes continue, which at some point will have to be addressed.

BRENNAN: The continuation of the off-the-field issues -- especially during the season -- is extremely troubling. The week of the Iowa game, which featured Scott's situation, a couple of underage drinking citations and an alleged brawl at an on-campus party, was the latest indicator that too many players in the program have no respect for the head coach or the rest of the staff. You had better believe all of that will come into play when Paterno sits down with school president Graham Spanier to talk about a possible contract extension.


BRENNAN: The more I hear, the more I'm thinking San Antonio, with an extremely outside of chance of something better.

HARRINGTON: I think the Lions still have a shot at the Alamo, too.


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