Team preview: Penn State

Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 119 Division I-A teams. To order the complete 2006 edition of Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

(All information as of July 1, 2006)


So, maybe the almost octogenarian can still get it done. With doubters surrounding the program both locally and nationally, Penn State head coach Joe Paterno showed in 2005 why he is smarter than the rest of us.

Making Michael Robinson his fulltime quarterback and using freshmen at critical positions, Paterno returned his team to glory with an 11-win season and an Orange Bowl victory against Bobby Bowden and Florida State. Not even a woeful job by his kicking team cost the Nittany Lions in the bowl game, Paterno simply sending out Kevin Kelly one more time for a 29-yard field goal and the win.

Paterno was this close to a perfect season, the Nittany Lions losing on the last play of the game at Michigan. After that, they ran off five wins in a row and captured a share of the Big Ten title.

Paterno tried to play the comeback season off like it was no big deal. We know better. Deep down, he had to be saying, "I told you so."

Or maybe something even stronger.

After 3-9 and 4-7 seasons in 2003 and 2004, the Penn State loyalists were growing bitter. They had a string of top-flight candidates in mind once they bounced the older fella off to retirement land. But give the Penn State administration credit for standing by Paterno, who has given the school so much more than 354 wins and a pair of national titles. He deserves to retire on his own terms, which apparently means never. Don't be surprised if 90-year-old Paterno is roaming the sideline in 2017.

A huge part of Penn State's long-term success is because of the stability in the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley is a lifer who will be a strong candidate to succeed Paterno, if he ever retires. Offensive line coach Dick Anderson, defensive line coach Larry Johnson, offensive tackles and tight ends coach Bill Kenney and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno have all been with the program for a decade or longer.

The addition of ultra-experienced Galen Hall as offensive coordinator seems to have given a jolt to the once-bland system. You don't win more games than everybody just with a stable staff. You have to adapt to the modern player without changing your basic values. That has been a Paterno strength. The feeling in State College is a whole lot better now than it was a year ago.