In the FedEx Orange Bowl in January, then-defensive tackle Jim Shaw made one of the key plays in Penn State's 26-23 victory.

The Spring Grove High School graduate forced Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford into an intentional grounding penalty -- resulting in a safety that proved crucial in the Nittany Lions' triple-overtime win.

This season, Shaw expects to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks as a defensive end.

After shedding 18 pounds to get down to 264 in the offseason, the Rice University transfer is in line to anchor the Penn State defensive line as a senior.

Phil Grosz, publisher of Blue-White Illustrated, spoke
about Shaw and Penn State football yesterday at the Valencia Ballroom. He was the guest speaker for the 21st annual York County Chapter Penn State Alumni Association Dinner.

Grosz expects John Shaw (6-4, 299), Jim's brother, to earn a starting spot at right tackle over Chris Auletta. York native Knowledge Timmons is competing for a spot at cornerback and may see time as a punt returner after an impressive high school track career.

"Jimmy Shaw is going to be the biggest surprise on defense this year," Grosz said. "He's strong and quick, and they're expecting a breakout performance from him."

The Nittany Lions enter the season with a number of question marks after losing four starters on the offensive line and mobile quarterback Michael Robinson to the NFL. Junior Anthony Morelli takes over at quarterback, and despite lacking Robinson's speed, the Pittsburgh native has shown off his incredible arm strength in practice.

"At Camp Hill in June, Joe Paterno said Morelli will play in the NFL," Grosz said. "He can do things with the football that no other quarterback at Penn State has ever done."

PSU may use different de fensive sets: Paterno and his coaching staff intend to utilize different defensive schemes this season to make up for the lack of experience in the secondary and defensive line, and to utilize PSU's strength at linebacker, Grosz said. Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley met with Pittsburgh Steelers defensive guru Dick Lebeau to learn more about the Steelers' 3-4 set.

Bradley also visited with West Virginia coaches to study the Mountaineers' 3-5-3 scheme. The Nittany Lions have tinkered with the defensive alignment in practice, using linebacker Sean Lee in place of a strong safety.

While many skeptics doubt Penn State can repeat its Top 10 performance from a year ago, Grosz is optimistic about the season.

"Penn State now has unlimited weapons at wide receiver and they're returning all their skill players at the running back position," Grosz said. "Teams will have to play them honest on offense."

Many Penn State alumni packed the Valencia Ballroom to listen to Grosz's take on the upcoming season.

Dale Spahr has attended PSU home game since the early 1970s and traveled to every away game for nine years.

"Phil (Grosz) is a great writer and I enjoy hearing him speak because he knows everything about Penn State sports," Spahr said.

"All these fair-weather fans are coming back this year after the successful season," Murray Friedman said. "I never lost faith in them."

-- Reach Jeffrey A. John son at 505-5406 or at sports@yorkdispatch.com.