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Aug. 4, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; August 4, 2010 - The early morning workouts in the dead of winter, the informal summer workouts and all the hard work and efforts in between are over. On Thursday, the Penn State football team returns to the practice field to resume preparations for the Nittany Lions' 124th season.
Joe Paterno welcomes 36 returning letterwinners and 13 starters for his 45th season as head coach and 61st year on the Penn State coaching staff. Ten additional players with starting experience also return for the Hall of Fame coach, who joined the Nittany Lions' staff in 1950.
The coaching staff will schedule practices around the last seven days of classes and final exams for Penn State's second summer academic session. Final exams are August 13.
Penn State opens the season on Sept. 4, hosting Youngstown State at 12:00 p.m., as Beaver Stadium begins its 50th Anniversary season. The contest will air on the Big Ten Network, the Penn State Sports Network and www.GoPSUsports.com. The Nittany Lions then visit 2009 BCS National Champion Alabama on Sept. 11, as the national powers meet for the first time since 1990. Kickoff in Tuscaloosa is 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Penn State will become the nation's first squad to play three road games against winners of a Bowl Championship Series game from the previous season. The Nittany Lions visit Alabama, Iowa (FedEx Orange) and Ohio State (Rose) this fall. The Nittany Lions will join Kentucky (2007) and Auburn (2008) as the only teams to play three winners of a BCS game from the previous season (regular season games only).
Penn State will face seven teams this fall that played in a bowl game during the 2009 season.
The Nittany Lions have posted back-to-back 11-2 records and finished No. 8 in the 2009 USA Today Coaches poll and No. 9 in the Associated Press poll, earning their 23rtd Top 10 finish under Paterno. Penn State is 51-13 (79.7) since the start of the 2005 season, tied for the nation's No. 7 winning percentage over that span, winning four of its past five bowl games.
Among the returnees are two Nittany Lions who have earned pre-season All-America and 2009 All-Big Ten recognition. Senior tailback Evan Royster (Fairfax, Va.) earned first-team all-conference accolades in 2009 and was a 2008 semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. Royster enters this season with 2,918 career rushing yards, good for No. 8 in the Penn State record books. He needs 481 yards to break Curt Warner's school record of 3,398 yards, set during the 1979-82 campaigns. Royster needs just 82 yards to become the sixth Nittany Lion to eclipse 3,000 yards on the ground. During the 2009 season, he started all 13 games, gaining 1,169 yards, second-highest in the Big Ten, on 205 carries and scored six touchdowns. His 5.7 average was best among the Big Ten rushers with at least 110 carries.
Senior guard Stefen Wisniewski (Bridgeville) also was a first-team All-Big Ten choice last year and was selected a 2009 third-team All-American by Collegefootballnews.com and Pro Football Weekly. Wisniewski has been named a 2010 first team pre-season All-American by Sporting News, Phil Steele's College Football Preview and Lindy's Football Preview. He also is a candidate for the Rotary Lombardi and Outland Trophy. Wisniewski was selected a 2009 first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American®, as he added to his 2008 second-team honor. Owner of a superlative 3.92 grade-point average, the squad's highest mark, Wisniewski will have an opportunity in 2010 to become Penn State's first three-time Academic All-American®. The Schreyer Honors College student has earned a perfect 4.0 GPA the last three semesters.
The Nittany Lion offense returns seven starters, as well as five other players with starting experience. The most pressing needs will be finding replacements for record-setting quarterback Daryll Clark, tight ends Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler and tackle Dennis Landolt, a third-team All-American. Penn State was second in the Big Ten in total offense at 406.9 ypg and was the only team to rank in the top five in the conference in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense.
Starting wide receivers Derek Moye, Chaz Powell and Graham Zug return, but Powell spent spring practice working at cornerback. Three offensive line starters are back as well: Lou Eliades, DeOn'tae Pannell and Wisniewski, who was moved back to guard in the spring after playing center last year.
Five starters return from a defensive unit that was ranked in the Top 10 nationally in rushing and scoring defense for the fifth consecutive year and in the Top 15 in total defense for the sixth straight season.
Senior defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu (Staten Island, N.Y.) is a two-year starter and will anchor the line. Junior defensive end Jack Crawford (Longport, N.J.) started every game last season and emerged as a playmaker. Three junior starters return in the secondary in cornerback D'Anton Lynn (Celina, Texas) and safeties Drew Astorino (Edinboro) and Nick Sukay (Mount Pleasant).
Five additional defensive players return that have starting experience, including fifth-year senior linebacker Bani Gbadyu (Gaithersburg, Md.). The unit also will welcome the return of sophomore linebacker Michael Mauti (Mandeville, La.), who missed the 2009 season with a knee injury.
Among the top priorities will be replacing first-team All-America defensive tackle Jared Odrick and all three linebackers from arguably the nation's top unit - Navorro Bowman, Josh Hull and Sean Lee. The trio earned All-Big Ten honors last year, giving "Linebacker U." three of the six spots on the all-conference teams. Bowman was a second-team All-American.
Penn State was one of only three teams that finished in the top 15 nationally in rushing, total and scoring and pass efficiency defense, as well as sacks and tackles for loss in 2009, being joined by Oklahoma and Texas.
The Nittany Lions permitted just 12.2 points per game to rank No. 3 in the nation last season. Penn State led the Big Ten, trailing only Nebraska (10.4 ppg) and Alabama (11.7 ppg) nationally. The Lions held 10 opponents to 17 or fewer points, including five Big Ten opponents.
Penn State was No. 6 nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 89.8 yards per game. The Lions held eight opponents to less than 100 rushing yards this past season and have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past 16 games, the nation's third-best streak, behind only Alabama (34 games) and Ohio State (23).
Penn State ranked No. 9 in the nation in total defense at 274.5 ypg for its sixth consecutive Top 15 finish. The Nittany Lions were No. 15 in pass efficiency defense (105.62 rating), tied for No 6 in tackles for loss (105, 8.08 avg.) and tied for No. 10 in sacks (37, 2.85 avg.).
Tickets are on sale for Penn State's seven home games. Fans can purchase tickets directly through the Penn State Ticket website at http://www.GoPSUsports.com/tickets/psu-tickets.html. Pre-paid parking passes for the general parking lots also are available at www.GoPSUsports.com. Penn State has won 33 of its last 37 games in Beaver Stadium dating to a Senior Day win over Michigan State in 2004.