Penn State Dream Team; 1994-2019

Written by Cory Lestochi (@Cory_Lestochi)

In an almost impossible challenge, I have tried to compose a Penn State “Dream Team” from the year 1994-2005. I asked numerous people for their opinions in order to select the most dangerous Penn State football team. Now, I did misunderstand the rules of this series, and I thought the pool of Penn State Greats had to be from 2000-2019. Therefore, I do not have Lavar Arrington, Brandon Short, Courtney Brown, Kerry Collins, and others on my team. Still, I believe the team I have built is quite lethal. There were little rules for this series, and it is important to note, that the individual’s success once they left Penn State does not necessarily exclude them from being selected. Let’s jump right in!

Offense

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Offensive Coaches: Joe Moorhead and Josh Gattis

First of all, I would like to interject that I have had the privilege of meeting both of these men and I can promise you that these are two of the greatest people you will ever meet. I would assume these two picks would be in everyone’s top ten, if not top five. The reason for choosing them is simple; they brought a revival to Penn State’s offense. The year before Joe Moorhead arrived, Penn State’s offense was 101st in the country in points  per game. In 2016, Penn State’s offense under Moorhead was 21st in the nation, averaging 37.6 points per game. Then, in 2017, they were 7th in the country, averaging over 41 points per game. Yes, Moorhead had a lot of help around him, but Joe Moorhead worked immediate magic on the Nittany Lions offense.

Coach Gattis was a recruiting weapon for Penn State. His charisma opened the door for numerous top tier recruits to join the Penn State family. Furthermore, as evidence from last year’s poor receiving performance, he is a hell of a receivers coach. It will be interesting to see what he can do as the offensive coordinator at Michigan (grr).

I am confident that these two coaches, with my team, could out scheme anyone in the country.

Quarterback: Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson made it cool to be a Penn State quarterback again. Perhaps I am biased because I grew up idolizing the scrambling quarterback, but Robinson brought electricity back to a mundane Penn State offense in the middle 2000’s. In 2005 Robinson was awarded BIG Offensive Player of the Year by the Coaches and totaled 28 touchdowns. Oh, and he finished fifth in Heisman voting. In my offense, Robinson would be the leader of the read option attack I would submit my opponents too.

Running Backs: Larry Johnson and Saquon Barkley

Can you imagine a backfield with Larry Johnson and Saquon Barkley? Who would a defense key on? Who would they try to stop?

In 2002, Larry Johnson ran for over 2000 yards and averaged 8.0 yds per rush (!!!). Somehow Johnson didn’t win the Heisman, but walked away with the Doak Walker and Maxwell awards. In his career, Johnson’s stats include: 48 games played, 460 rushes for 2,953 yards and 26 TDs, 65 catches for 681 yards and 7 TDs. Oh and he can block punts.

Saquon Barkley. Do I need to even say anything. He would be able to roam free in my offense. Running, Catching, you name it. I would have him in the slot quite a bit too.

Tight End: Mike Gesicki

Mike Gesicki is a proven mismatch for opposing defenses. Furthermore, nobody knows trials and tribulations like Mike Gesicki. After a disappointing sophomore season, nobody enjoyed a more successful season in 2016 than Mike Gesicki, when he almost quadrupled his receptions, added almost 500 more receiving yards and 4 more touchdowns from 2015. Gesicki finished his career at Penn State with 15 TD catches.

Wide Receivers: Allen Robinson and Jordan Norwood

Allen Robinson was a big-time receiver when Penn State really needed one. After the crushing blow of the sanctions, and the program in disarray, Allen Robinson was instrumental in making two quarterbacks look really good: veteran Matt McGloin and true freshman quarterback, Christian Hackenberg look like the five-star prospect, Hack was coming out of high school. Robinson’s ability to go up and catch the ball at the highest point will always be a trademark of his around State College; nobody will forget his snag against Michigan to set up the game tying QB sneak to go to OT. However, one part of his game that was never given enough credit was his ability to run after the catch. He was a special ball player at a crucial juncture for the program.

I once watched Jordan Norwood make catching balls from a JUGS football passing machine effortless. I still think Norwood may have had the softest hands in program history. He wasn’t the flashiest guy, but the local State College receiver was always Mr. Reliable, even if he was laying on the ground.

Offensive Tackles: Levi Brown and Donovan Smith

Levi Brown was one of the most dependable offensive tackles in Penn State football history; he racked up over 3,000 snaps for the Nittany Lions. Oh, and he was a damn good leader too.

Donovan Smith, was almost the polar opposite of Levi Brown in some ways. Smith played in a time where there was little depth at the offensive tackle position and because of his skill, was never threatened to lose his starting job. Regardless, Donovan Smith just secured the bag with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is making lots of money.

Offensive Guards: Stefen Wisniewski and John Urschel

Stefen Wisniewski was another one of those offensive linemen for Penn State that seemed to anchor the Nittany Lions for years upfront. Wisniewski was able to play both guard positions and moved to center for his last season. His versatility would be helpful for my Dream Team.

John Urschel makes my list simply because he is the most awesome player. Urschel won the Campbell Trophy, which is the “academic Heisman”. He played in the NFL for three seasons before retiring. However, what is more impressive is his brain and charisma. Urschel taught a mathematics class at Penn State called integral vector calculus. He co-authored a paper titled “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm”. He is currently working towards his PhD in Mathematics at MIT and was named to Forbes “30 under 30” list of outstanding young scientists. He is the ultimate student athlete and I want him on my team.

Center: AQ Shipley

AQ Shipley was known to play as Santa Clauss at Penn State’s annual Christmas parties and if that isn’t enough for you to want him on your Dream Team than how about him winning the Rimmington Trophy, giving to the best center, in 2008.

Defense

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Defensive Ends: Michael Haynes and Tamba Hali

Before all of the Courtney Brown fans yell at me, I would like to remind you that I thought I couldn’t choose players from before the 2000’s. Still, I have no issue going to battle with Michael Haynes and Tamba Hali. The focus of my defensive ends were nothing more than to get after the quarterback.

Haynes, the 2002 BIG Defensive Player of the Year, produced 80 tackles, 15 sacks (school record at the time), 23 TFLs, and 7 forced fumbles his senior season. He ended his career at Penn State with 25.5 sacks. The 1st round selection to the Bears didn’t have a successful NFL career, but his college stat-line puts him on my team.

Tamba Hali’s story of tirelessly working to make it to the NFL in order to reconnect with his mother is remarkable. Oh, and he was pretty good at football too. Hali was the 2005 BIG Defensive Linemen of the Year, when he led the conference with 11 sacks and 17 TFLs. In the NFL with the Chiefs, Tamba gathered 89.5 sacks, and forced 32 fumbles (!!!).

Defensive Tackles: Jimmy Kennedy and Anthony “Spice” Adams

Kennedy was the 2002 BIG Defensive Linemen of the Year. Kennedy ended his career at Penn State with 213 tackles, 14 sacks, and 39 TFLs. Kennedy was picked 12th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft to the St. Louis Rams. Kennedy enjoyed a ten-year career in the NFL.

Anthony “Spice” Adams is a great TV personality for the Big Ten Network and chef. He is also a much better storyteller than he is field goal kicker. In his final two seasons at Penn State, Adams racked up 5.5 sacks and 24 TFLs.

Linebackers: Paul Posluszny, Sean Lee, and NaVorro Bowman

Obviously picking just three linebackers from 25 years of Penn State football is an absolutely tough challenge.

Paul Posluszny though, was an obvious choice. When Jack Ham says you are the greatest linebacker to ever play at Penn State, you are pretty good. Paul won the Bednarik Award twice, becoming only the second player to do so. In his career, No.31 had 372 tackles (a record at the time), 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He would be the heart and soul of my dream team.

Sean Lee’s senior injury prevented his impressive career at Penn State from being spectacular. Still, Sean Lee put up incredible numbers while playing next to another stud in Dan Connor.

Bowman saw more playing time when Lee went down. He totaled 117 tackles, 36 TFLs, 8 sacks, a pick-six, and a scoop&score. Bowman had a solid NFL career with almost 800 tackles, 14 sacks, and 12 turnovers forced.

Defensive Backs: Alan Zemaitis, Grant Haley, Adrian Amos, and Marcus Allen

Zemaitis was a back to back semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, a tri-captain, and a three-time All BIG DB. Zemaitis had 12 interceptions in his career at Penn State.

Grant Haley and Marcus Allen make my list because of this. Marcus Allen also because he is so fun to watch dance.

Adrian Amos is one of the hardest hitting DBs I have ever seen. Watch this hit at 1:37. He had 101 tackles, 9 TFLs, and 7 interceptions in his career. He just signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers.

Special Teams

Kicker: Robbie Gould

Robbie Gould made 39 field goals for Penn State and accounted for 232 points. However, he is on my team because of the illustrious NFL career he has enjoyed. He has made 350 out of his 400 field goal attempts, with a long of 58 yards.

Punter: Blake Gillikin

Although he had an off-year last year, Blake made an immediate impact when he got on campus. He should have been a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2017. Look for Blake to bounce back in a big way for his final season (already?) in a Nittany Lions uniform.

Returner: KJ Hamler

There was a lot of options for this position, including Justin King, Chaz Powell, Derrick Williams, and a whole host of other greats. I went with KJ Hamler because of his potential. As a freshman, Hamler showed he can make an instant difference in the return game. If he continues to improve, he could set school records before he leaves State College.

There you have it, Cory’s Penn State Dream Team. Please tell me where I went wrong and who you would have!

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