Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Position review: Complete overview
By Josh Moyer
Penn State rebounded from an 0-2 start to finish 8-4 in 2012.
During the last two weeks, NittanyNation has reviewed each of Penn State's positions -- complete with summaries, grades, highlights and weaknesses.
For the final review, NittanyNation gives a quick-hitting overview of each position, along with each unit's unsung hero:
Thumbs up: Matt McGloin was a fiery leader with great pocket presence. Thumbs down: McGloin's arm strength could've been better.
Unsung hero: Steven Bench. Well, you could say he's the unsung hero based on process of elimination. But, as a true freshman, he learned the playbook fast enough to pass Paul Jones on the depth chart before the conference season even started.
RUNNING BACKS: B
Thumbs up: Zach Zwinak ran hard and was almost never tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Thumbs down: Bill Belton was arguably the biggest disappointment on the team; he never really got started despite big expectations.
Unsung hero: Michael Zordich. He was a senior leader and often spelled Zwinak when he tired. Zordich was consistently effective and did whatever the coaches asked, whether it was blocking, catching passes or taking over at tailback.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B-minus
Thumbs up: Allen Robinson showed great route-running ability and broke the school's single-season receptions record. Thumbs down: The slot receivers struggled mightily and never posed a deep threat.
Unsung hero: Brandon Moseby-Felder. He stepped up after Shawney Kersey left the team and, despite a few hiccups, he quickly became McGloin's No. 2 WR target. He was the closest thing to a vertical threat that PSU had.
TIGHT ENDS: A
Thumbs up: Four players contributed heavily to this unit, and the combination of depth and quality was remarkable. Thumbs down: Kyle Carter could stand to improve his blocking, but that's nitpicking at this strong position.
Unsung hero: Matt Lehman. The former walk-on remained steady in his production. Whenever Carter went down or PSU needed a changeup, Lehman was there to lend a hand. He showed great catching ability and was really a nice surprise at this position. He finished fourth on the team with 24 receptions.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
Thumbs up: Three players earned spots on either the All-Big Ten team or as an honorable mention. Thumbs down: Picking up the extra rusher -- especially against Ohio State -- proved problematic.
Unsung hero: Mike Farrell. His ability to switch back and forth at the tackle positions allowed PSU to have more flexibility there. When Donovan Smith went down, it could have been much more catastrophic without Farrell.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B-plus
Thumbs up: Jordan Hill overcame a slow start and had one of the most incredible finishes of any senior defensive tackle (12 tackles, 2 sacks). Thumbs down: Stopping the outside rush wasn't always the easiest assignment for the ends.
Unsung hero: Sean Stanley. Everyone talks about Hill and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes, but this senior also had a solid season. He finished with 9.5 tackles-for-loss in 11 games (0.5 TFL less than Barnes) and boasted two forced fumbles.
Thumbs up: Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges both made the semifinalist list for the Butkus Award, making PSU the only school with more than one candidate. Thumbs down: Never mind. This unit was close to perfect.
Unsung hero: Mike Hull. He was a big-play magnet who contributed three turnovers and blocked a kick. His ability and quickness was so much in demand he came on the field during passing downs as the middle linebacker, basically in place of a nickelback.
Thumbs up: The unit improved after performing poorly the first two weeks, and Adrian Amos impressed. Thumbs down: It remained a weak link on the defense and gave up too many big plays.
Unsung hero: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. It was pretty unanimous -- players thought no Nittany Lion improved more than Obeng-Agyapong. He was able to wrestle the starting spot away from Jake Fagnano, and he held on to it all season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-plus
Thumbs up: Sam Ficken nailed his last 10 field goals, including the game-winner against Wisconsin. Thumbs down: PSU still finished near the bottom of the NCAA in both field goal accuracy and punting average.
Unsung hero: Jesse Della Valle. After the failed Hodges' experiment, Penn State badly needed a returner -- and Della Valle showed up in a big way. He ended up averaging team-bests on punt returns (7.6 yards) and kickoff returns (25.2 yards).