Morelli OnLion: Media Day

Under a hot August sky, the Penn State football team hosted its annual media
day last week. In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll take a look inside
media day, have another moment to remember and feature another member of the
Class of 2009.

Let’s start with media day.


Joe Paterno was all smiles at media day.
(Photo courtesy of Blue White Illustrated)
Media Day
Before
the players were trotted out for interviews, coach Joe Paterno met with the
media and addressed several topics. Here are some highlights from the
session:

Changing the Line
Paterno announced that offensive linemen
Dennis Landolt and DeOn’tae Pannell will swap positions. Landolt, a senior, will
now play left tackle, while Pannell, a sophomore, will move to right
tackle.

According to Paterno, the move was a no-brainer.

“Landolt
is a better tackle now,” Paterno said. “Pannell was just a true freshman last
year. I mean, it would be foolish to put Pannell over there. We had him there
last year, but we had him there because we didn’t have anybody behind (Gerald)
Cadogan.”

Landolt started all 13 games at right tackle last season. The
move means that he will be responsible for protecting quarterback Daryll Clark’s
blindside.


Daryll Clark and the Nittany Lions celebrated a Big Ten title in 2008.
(Photo courtesy of Blue White Illustrated).

We’re No. 8?
Penn State enters the season ranked No. 8 in
the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Once again, though, Paterno said that he doesn’t
pay attention to those sorts of things.

“Is that where we’re ranked?”
Paterno said. “What does it mean? Does it guarantee us anything? You know, it’s
good for the fans. Maybe it will sell some tickets. I don’t know. But I don’t
really pay any attention to it.”

While the Nittany Lions are ranked
eighth in the coaches’ poll, they’re ranked No. 14 in Sports Illustrated’s
preseason edition.

Kickin’ It
With Penn State all-time leading scorer
Kevin Kelly gone to graduation, the Nittany Lions face the daunting task of
replacing their former placekicker.
According to Paterno, the kicking job
belongs to State College Area High School product Collin Wagner.

“He was
very close to Kevin last year. He may have a little stronger leg. I don’t think
he’s as consistent as Kevin was. We’ll have to see, but I think he’s got a
chance,” Paterno said.

The other placekicker on the roster is true
freshman Anthony Fera, who was one of the nation’s top prep
kickers.

While he’s competing with Wagner, it’s likely Fera will begin
the year as Wagner’s backup.

“He has a strong leg, but he’s all over the
place right now. If we get his footwork down, I think he’ll be pretty good,”
Paterno said.

‘I’m concerned with everything’
As is usually the case
at media day, Paterno expressed concerns about his team’s deficiencies. Of
course, things aren’t nearly as dire as the 82-year-old coach made them out to
be. But, there are legitimate concerns.

“If you said the biggest ones,
obviously I think the offensive line. We’ve got to find a couple of kids that
can play,” Paterno said.

“The wideout situation and offensive line, I
think, is better than you project it would be at this time. I think we need
another defensive back, maybe two.”

Moment No. 2: Football Team Wins
Another Big Ten Title

Sticking with the football theme, our No. 2 moment of
the year is about the Nittany Lions.

Through nine games, the Nittany
Lions looked like they just might be a player for a berth in the national
championship game. A Week 9 road win over nemesis Ohio State, Penn State’s first
win in the Horseshoe since 1978, put the Lions at 9-0 with what looked like
three winnable games down the stretch.

Even though Iowa dashed those
national title game hopes with a 24-23 win in Iowa City, the Lions closed with
two more wins to claim their third Big Ten title.

The season, however,
ended with a thud when USC pounded Penn State, 38-24, in the Rose Bowl on New
Year’s Day.

Class of 2009: Derrick Thomas
Of Penn State’s
cornerback commitments from the class of 2009, Greenbelt’s Derrick Thomas is the
highest rated by Rivals.com, coming in as the No. 28-overall ranked cornerback
recruit in the country.

On the same weekend of the State College NIKE
Camp that safety prospect Stephen Obeng-Agyapong committed to the Nittany Lions
in May, Thomas pulled the trigger as well, thanks in large part to his
recruitment by Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

“He really
was (big), because coach Johnson was one of the coolest recruiting
coordinators,” he said. “He was there for me when I had questions, he had all
the right answers. He was really committed to me, so I committed to
them.”

A solid early commitment to the Nittany Lions in May, Thomas’
recruitment was the source of speculation throughout the summer months as rumors
swirled that he was a possible decommit following an Outside the Lines segment
aired on ESPN in July.

In August, Thomas put those rumors to rest and
affirmed that he would stick with the Nittany Lions.

His senior season,
Thomas was a first team all-state, all-county and all-conference selection in
addition to second-team all-Metro recognition and an invite to play in the Crab
Bowl in December.

Although Thomas is an accomplished cornerback, the
four-star recruit did it all for Derrick Williams’ alma mater this season,
scoring 16 touchdowns and picking up 923 total yards of offense.

Upon the
completion of the season, Thomas was named as having the fifth-best ball skills
for a cornerback by Rivals.com and the sixth-best overall prospect in Maryland
for the Class of 2009.


Chris Morelli is the award-winning editor of Blue
White Illustrated, a weekly publication devoted to Penn State athletics. He is
also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and
State College. E-mail him at morellionlion@gmail.com. This column
does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of BWI’s writers or
publisher.

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