Here's this morning's story looking at the team's lineup of regulars filled with a slew of seniors. It's the most experienced group of players the Lions have had since the 2005 season. And we know how that year turned out.
Also, here's a story with 5 Big Questions for the season that was in this morning's paper, but not online:
1. Who's the long snapper? Just kidding. We already know that Daryll Clark is the starting quarterback and that backup Pat Devlin will see his share of snaps tomorrow, but it's what occurs thereafter that will likely dictate the ebb and flow of the season. If Clark seizes his opportunity and reaches Michael Robinson heights, the calls for Devlin will be muted. But if he struggles or is inconsistent and Devlin shows flashes in limited time, the Lions will have themselves an old-fashioned quarterback controversy. And we know how that goes.
2. What's the "Spread HD" offense? Clark tried to explain: "Hopefully, the 'HD' will stand for 'High-Def' or 'Highly Diverse,' and it doesn't turn out to be a 'Huge Dud.' " We're banking on "Hardly Different." Yes, Clark will run a whole heck of a lot more than Anthony Morelli. And he will be in the shotgun often. And there will occasionally be an empty backfield. But the offense isn't going to be drastically different than the one Penn State has run in the last decade. Almost every player has said that, to a man. If the quarterback throws, the receivers catch, the line blocks and the running backs run, "HD" will stand for the "Halcyon Days" of 1994.
3. Can the defense survive its notable losses? Dan Connor and Justin King are earning paychecks in the NFL. Sean Lee will be in street clothes. And Chris Baker and Phil Taylor are part of the large fraternity of ex-Lions. That's five regulars gone from a unit that traditionally carries the offense. And the thing is, the defense wasn't really that dominating last season, as coordinator Tom Bradley took his first arrows in some time. The key will be the secondary. If A.J. Wallace can be a shutdown cornerback and senior safety Anthony Scirrotto regains some of that sophomore moxie, opposing offenses won't torch the Lions' Cover 2 defense.
4. Can this be a season without off-the-field distractions? At this point, last season's spate of incidents with the law is old news. ESPN's Outside the Lines made sure to dredge up the past without really putting Penn State's plight into national context. The fact is, the team has avoided notoriety since April and appears to have gotten coach Joe Paterno's message. Of course, several players had to be dumped and the school year has just begun. If Paterno can avoid road rage, surely his team will steer clear of player rage.
5. Is this JoePa's last hurrah? Only Paterno and university president Graham Spanier know for sure. The iconic coach is in the last year of his contract and will be 82 by the time the two men, along with director of athletics Tim Curley, meet after the season to discuss the future. Paterno wants to coach for perhaps as many as five more years. This season's success or failure, the team's behavior and the coach's health are all variables that could affect whether he will be allowed to continue. When asked yesterday if a pie-in-the-sky 9-0 start would warrant an in-season nod for 2009, Curley said, "We'll play it by ear as we go along. But right now, we're committed to after the season." Yawn.