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August 26, 2008

Secondary looks to rebound from tough '07 season

Pride in ones work is what drives most individuals to succeed.

For Penn State's secondary, that pride took a hit after having what each member considered a sub-par season last year.

In particular, Anthony Scirrotto said today that he felt the secondary did not step up to plate in the big games, and despite the constant rotation of players and the inexperienced group; in Scirrotto's mind they were not a factor in the shortcomings.

Penn State's secondary gave up 216 yards per game through the air last season, far larger numbers than the team had become accustomed to.

"I think that (constant change) is just an excuses" Scirrotto said via teleconference. "We were together all year - it was unacceptable for all of us and we have been working together to lower that number and improve and our stats because we know that is what you need to do to beat teams like Ohio State."

Of course, the yardage allowed shows up in the stat sheets, but there was also something missing that has become a huge point of emphasis for the players in the secondary - turnovers.

Penn State's secondary combined for 11 total interceptions last year. In 2007, Scirrotto alone tallied seven interceptions.

The ability to force teams into mistakes is what made the 2005 team so special, and according to Scirrotto, the Penn State staff has made a concerted effort to return to that style of play.

"As a whole unit we could have been a lot better last year, and as a unit we just need to be getting a lot better every day and work on getting after the ball and getting turnovers," said Scirrotto. "Coach Paterno and Coach Bradley and all the coaches are stressing the fact that we need to go after more turnovers, not just knocking the ball down but going after it and trying to make big plays."

Penn State assistant coach Kermit Buggs may serve as that change of pace the secondary needed after last year's struggles, as he replaced Brian Norwood as the safety's coach.

According to Scirrotto, coach Buggs has taken a different approach than Norwood in a way to become a more aggressive team.

"Coach Buggs has us working on playing the ball more than playing the man," said cornerback Tony Davis.

As for upcoming tests for the confident unit, Ohio State is the prohibitive favorites in the Big Ten, and the team to beat. But, last year proved with Appalachian State's upset over the then fifth-ranked Michigan Wolverines, nothing is guaranteed.

"Ever since I have been here we have prepared for everyone like it was the national championship game," said Scirrotto. "We all saw what happen to Michigan last year and you just can't roll through because it is a 1AA team and we don't want that to happen to us."


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