Bobby Engram heard voices as he walked out of the tunnel and
into the south end zone at Beaver Stadium for the Blue-White
spring game. No, the Penn State senior wide receiver hadn't run
one too many crossing routes; he was surrounded by fans calling
his name, clamoring for his autograph. As Engram signed away in
the shadow of a sign celebrating Penn State's two national
titles, in '82 and '86, one couldn't help but wonder if there
weren't another voice inside his head telling him he should be
in New York waiting for NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to call
his name at the draft.
After all, Engram's roommate Ki-Jana Carter was already wearing
a multiyear smile. By the time the spring scrimmage was over,
former teammates Kerry Collins and Kyle Brady had followed
Carter to the dais at the Paramount Theatre. Certainly Engram,
last year's Fred Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top
receiver, would have found welcoming arms in the NFL if he had
declared for the draft. So why did he return to State College?
"I want to graduate, and I think we have a chance to be better
this year," Engram says. "And, oh yes, I do want to play with
Wally, as in Richardson, is another Engram roommate and the
quarterback who replaces departed All-America Collins in Penn
State's high-powered attack. Richardson, a junior, has seen
little duty with the first unit since 1992, his true freshman
year, when injuries to starter John Sacca and backup Collins
forced him into action in wins over Cincinnati and Temple.
Though Wally Cleaver could have led Penn State to those wins,
coach Joe Paterno is confident that a mature Richardson can
guide the Penn State attack against more formidable foes.
"Wally had a good spring, and I've never questioned his
leadership," Paterno says. "I worry about Wally the way I did
about Kerry--he just needs to get enough reps."
Richardson should have an easy break-in, with early games
against Texas Tech, Temple and Rutgers. Another positive is that
Penn State's three toughest opponents--Wisconsin, Ohio State and
Michigan--all play at Happy Valley in '95.
The offensive line is another reason why Richardson should
succeed. The unit, led by senior All-America guard Jeff
Hartings, allowed only three sacks in 1994 and has four of five
starters returning. Even if Richardson gets pressured, he can
count on the nation's best receiving tandem in Engram (52
catches, 1,029 yards, seven TDs) and junior Freddie Scott
The Nittany Lions lost 56% of their rushing offense when Carter
came out early for the draft, but the next seven leading rushers
return. Topping the list is senior tailback Mike Archie, whose
versatility (303 yards rushing, 215 yards receiving) compensates
for a lack of explosiveness.
Last year Penn State lost its No. 1 ranking in the CNN/USA Today
poll because the pass defense crumbled in a game against Indiana
on Nov. 5. After the Hoosiers fell behind 35-14 midway through
the fourth quarter, they took to the air and scored two
touchdowns. Penn State won 35-29, but the close result prompted
the pollsters to drop the top-ranked Lions to No. 2. Then, when
Penn State needed an overwhelming victory in the Rose Bowl
against Oregon to regain the top spot and win the national
title, it was again betrayed by the pass defense. Duck
quarterback Danny O'Neil threw for 456 yards and kept Oregon
close until the Nittany Lions pulled away in the second half to
win 38-20. So what must Penn State do to shore up what is
perceived as its biggest weakness? Absolutely nothing.
Penn State's secondary had more interceptions (eight) than
touchdowns allowed (seven) through the first seven games last
year. It had held USC's Rob Johnson to 221 yards and no
touchdowns and had given up only 94 passing yards to Ohio State.
Then injuries doomed the defensive backfield. Junior safety
Clint Holes and junior cornerback Mark Tate both sprained knees
in Week 7. Two games later senior safety Cliff Dingle blew out
his knee, and in Week 10 a similar injury knocked out junior
safety Kim Herring. But last year's bad luck has made Penn
State's defensive backfield deep in '95: Eight players with
starting experience return.
The secondary, Paterno says, "is not as big a concern as other
positions, namely the defensive line."
Should either of the defensive tackles, senior Eric Clair or
junior Brandon Noble, go down, Penn State may have to fill the
hole with redshirt freshman Floyd Wedderburn (following page).
At 6'7" and 320 pounds, Wedderburn has the size and potential to
fill two or three holes, and he should see action early.
Penn State replaces linebackers like a shark replaces teeth: For
every one that leaves, there are several sharp ones waiting to
move in. Senior Terry Killens (42 stops) leads a group so deep
that freshman Brandon Short, who was chosen as Pennsylvania's
top high school player in '94 over Florida State's ballyhooed
quarterback Dan Kendra, may see a lot of bench time.
If Penn State's defense can catch up to its offense, one more
sign may soon be hanging in Beaver Stadium: 1995 National
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER COVER PHOTO Flyin' Lion Bobby Engram leads Penn State's awesome offense
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Archie (2) will step in for the departed Carter. [Mike Archie in game]
THE DATA BOX
Head coach: Joe Paterno
Career college record: 269-69-3
30th year at Penn State (269-69-3)
1994 RECORD: 12-0
Big Ten record: 8-0 (first)
W at Minnesota 56-3
W USC 38-14
W Iowa 61-21
W Rutgers 55-27
W at Temple 48-21
W at Michigan 31-24
W Ohio State 63-14
W at Indiana 35-29
W at Illinois 35-31
W Northwestern 45-17
W Michigan State 59-31
W Oregon 38-20 (Rose Bowl)
Final '94 Ranking: 2 AP, 2 CNN/USA Today
Lettermen lost: 21
Lettermen returning: 42
Returning starters, offense: 7
Returning starters, defense: 4
Sept. 30 Wisconsin
Oct. 7 Ohio State
Nov. 18 Michigan
PLAYER TO WATCH
It didn't need to happen. The play was over. I was downfield,"
junior free safety Kim Herring says, recalling the moment his
sophomore season ended two games too soon. "Basically, it was
The play--a chop block by a Northwestern receiver near the end of
the second quarter of Penn State's 45-17 win over the Wildcats
on Nov. 9--resulted in a torn medial collateral ligament and
torn medial meniscus in Herring's left knee. What made the
illegal block even more of a crime was that it ruined Herring's
finest collegiate performance to date. He had thwarted the
first two Northwestern drives with an 80-yard fumble return for
a touchdown and an interception in Penn State territory.
With eight solo stops against Michigan and a career-high 10
tackles versus Indiana, the 6-foot, 191-pound former tailback
had built his reputation more on big hits than on big plays.
Now, when he returns this fall with a fully recovered knee,
Herring will be a big plus for the Nittany Lions.