The fanfare that heralded the Nittany Lions' arrival into the Big Ten last year has quieted. There will be no more trumpeting the first Big Ten win, first Big Ten pass completion, first pounding of Northwestern. Those were inevitable. Only a Rose Bowl victory, which would be an NCAA-record 16th bowl win for coach Joe Paterno, would cause the horns to sound in Happy Valley.
The band should tune up—just in case. The Lions have so much talent at tailback that Paterno has been toying with using a splitback formation to complement his traditional power-I. The idea is to get more playing time for junior Ki-Jana Carter, who rushed for 1,026 yards in little more than eight games last fall, and for his almost-as-talented classmates Mike Archie (766 yards) and Stephen Pitts (351 yards).
Senior Kerry Collins will be the quarterback. Collins began to shine in '93 as the dust settled from a controversy that had begun when he replaced John Sacca in Game 3. Tension existed until Sacca quit the team in October. (He is now enrolled at Eastern Kentucky.) Under Collins, Penn State won its final five games as he threw for 1,056 yards and eight touchdowns.
Wideout Bobby Engram and tight end Kyle Brady will make sure Collins gets even gaudier numbers this year. Engram caught 13 TD passes last season, and the 6'6", 260-pound Brady will provide Collins with a big target and those tailbacks with big blocks. He's part of an offensive line that is the heaviest in Penn State history.
The Lions are less solid on defense. Senior Brian Gelzheiser leads the always deep linebacking crew, but gone are stalwart tackles Lou Benfatti and Tyoka Jackson, as well as three backfield first-teamers.
The defensive line will be tested when Southern Cal's monstrous offensive line hits town on Sept. 10. If the Lions get past the Trojans—then Michigan, on Oct. 15—they will play for more than a personal record on Jan. 2.