As I’ve said on numerous occasions, either in the Doghouse or at Pellagate, I couldn’t wait for fresh blood to be infused into the Penn State football program.
As I’ve said on plenty of other occasions, I couldn’t wait to see all the automatic improvements that would accompany a new staff. A new staff that was competent. A new staff that deserved to be there. A new staff that was hungry.
Sitting with a 4-2 record that could easily be 6-0, the bye week offers a perfect opportunity to reflect on what the new staff has accomplished.
To the naked eye, the most evident difference between this year and Joe’s waning years is fun. The players are having fun. The crowd is having fun. There is a tangible enthusiasm that previously only existed in rare spurts. This year, when the team scores a touchdown, the coaches get excited and relay that emotion into physical demonstrations of congratulations as the players head to the sidelines. Last year, Joe would turn his back and walk away after his players crossed the goalline. Which coach would you rather play for?
For the first time in most of our lives, Penn State football is not the same old predictable dinosaur. We don’t know what’s going to happen and neither does the opponent. Opponents must now gameplan for multiple formations with multiple personnel groupings with multiple play progression options. Gee, Kirk Ferentz must be ticked that he can’t make his usual Penn State prep week tee times.
Despite being young and inexperienced, this group of wide receivers has played really well. A lot of the focus falls on Allen Robinson and deservedly so. However, I have been extremely impressed with how they have handled all of Matt McGloin’s pre-snap reads/audibles. No longer can WRs get away with only knowing how to run a 5-yard out pattern or a simple hitch route. Nope, we’ve been treated to some of the same pass patterns that have plagued our vanilla defense for years. Tunnel screens, quick hitters, drag routes, inside slants, pick plays. Using the middle of the field has opened up so many more chances for our playmakers to make plays. Those archaic hit-the-receiver-when-he’s-flat-footed passes of yesteryear? Thankfully, they have been replaced by timing patterns that get the WRs the ball in stride, ready to make a big play. Lastly, how refreshing is it to see the receivers moving around to get open while McGloin improvises or eludes a sack? How often have we seen that in the past?
Simply put, we’re actually using them. They’re excelling. Wouldn’t you love to have seen what O’Brien would have done with a guy like Andrew Quarless???
Who would ever have imagined this offense would be able to play uptempo? Certainly not the same bunch who were handcuffed by the idiotic play calling system of the previous regime. Less than one year of cramming for a new offense has produced fewer delay of game penalties than some individual drives last year.
I will say this though- the games have been tougher on the DVR finger. Without the glacial pace of a Galen Hall/Jay Paterno “offense,” I can no longer use the 30-second ffwd button while re-watching games. The plays happen too quickly!!!
Players being used correctly
How would Kyle Carter be used by JoePa? He’d probably ride the bench until he put on enough weight to be able to block.
What would Gary Gilliam’s role be under JoePa? Being the senior tight end, he would probably be the primary TE target for McGloin. In other words, he’d be a safety valve on a broken down play, end the year with 13 receptions and one token touchdown. Yes, he’d lead all PSU tight ends in receptions and yardage.
How would JoePa use bruisers like Mike Zordich and Zach Zwinak? Ok, you got me there. Joe would love those guys!
Offensive Line/Strength and Conditioning
When was the last time we saw a Penn State offensive line dominate the line of scrimmage like we have this year? Do we have to go all the way back to 1994? It is probably too early to give complete credit to the new strength and conditioning program. In another nod to the offense, one has to assume that keeping Northwestern’s defense on the field for 99 plays contributed greatly to our 4th quarter domination.
Still, it is refreshing to see the offensive line improve every week. Players are being substituted to gain experience and keep starters fresh. Not because the coaches are too indecisive about who to play and where. Every week, the line improves in picking up blitzes. That’s probably because for the first time in their Nittany Lion lives, they’ve seen blitzes in practices.
Upon being hired, Ted Roof received a lot of flak on the message boards. Not from me. Ever since I was a wee lad, I hated Penn State’s vanilla defensive philosophy. I never understood the idea of not doing everything in your power to try to win. Over the years, we’ve seen our great defense get picked to shreds by elite quarterbacks, with nary an adjustment from us.
Roofball gives the quarterback a lot to process before the snap. Are those linebackers actually blitzing? Are the lineman dropping back? Is a defensive back coming on a blitz? With Bradley’s defense, the answer was always “no.” What you see is what you get. What you saw in 1991 is what you got in 2001 is what you got in 2011. Regardless of personnel.
Roofball gives me hope against good teams. All the risks might backfire and we could lose by 30. Or they could pay off and we’ll pull an upset. Either way, they give us a chance to win. Unlike uninspired “gameplans” that always result certain defeat.
I’m not ready to proclaim that Bill O’Brien is a genius. Heck, we’re not Notre Dame and we didn’t just almost beat Southern Cal. I believe that O’Brien and his staff have done a tremendous job. There is no reason to think they can’t keep it up. Offensively, we’ve probably only seen the tip of the iceberg. It is going to be a very fun ride.
But O’Brien is no genius. Because it doesn’t take a genius to see that Penn State football was broken. Nor does it take a genius to see that Obie and his crew were the perfect people to fix it. And yes, that was a shot at Dave Joyner.
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