SportsProf

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Sunday, September 12, 2004

Not Only the Uniforms Are Dull

I don't want to pile on here, but Penn State looked totally lackluster and uninspired in its 21-7 loss to Boston College in Massachusetts. And it wasn't like BC is a pre-season Top 25 team, either. The Eagles gave a lackluster effort themselves a week ago against Ball State, and they played well enough to win against the visiting Nittany Lions last night.

It used to be that Penn State had the horses on both sides of the ball to control the game. Proof of that was the number of offensive and defensive linemen that made it into the NFL and had very good careers. Those numbers have dwindled in recent memory, and efforts like last night's are evidence as to why. Penn State just doesn't have the kids who can blow the other team off the ball -- either on offense or on defense. Behind the lines, they just don't have enough playmakers who can stop the other team on third and short or, conversely, can convert on a key third-down possession.

And if you look at the rosters of the Top 25 teams in the country, count how many of them have kids from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, formerly the most fertile recruiting grounds for the Nittany Lions. It used to be that if Penn State came calling in those areas, the other schools in the hunt were cooked. No longer. I did some informal looking a few weeks ago, and there are many of these players playing for better-ranked schools. The kids who formerly provided the core thirty or so players who made Penn State a perennial Top 25 team are now going elsewhere.

The Nittany Lions need a good year to reinvigorate their program, and they aren't likely to get it. What's worse, there isn't a likely successor to Coach Paterno in State College. And any possible successor will have to deal with the looming legacy of Joe Paterno, and that will be tough. Because State College isn't a bustling metropolis -- the Paterno influence is everywhere, and unfair comparisons -- to Paterno is his heyday -- will abound. Which means that any successor must have JoePa's blessing, a promise that JoePa will act like a statesman and not be too omnipresent as to the program, or else a very thick skin.

There are some very good coaches out there who could do wonders in State College, with Cal's Jeff Tedford being first on the list. Penn State will need a successor to Coach Paterno soon, and perhaps very soon. They still have this season to play, but if last night's game was any indication, not only is change inevitable, it also must be invited.

More quickly than the movement of the Penn State offense.

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