2011 Penn State Preview – Offense
Penn State RB Stephfon Green
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Penn State Nittany Lion Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense struggled way too much. Ninth in the Big Ten in both yards and scoring, the Nittany Lions couldn't get the ground game going and the passing attack was woefully inefficient. The line is athletic, and should be again, but it couldn't blast anyone off the ball and it didn't do enough against the better teams. Once again the pass protection should be great, and now the offense needs to find a quarterback to benefit. Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin will once again battle for the starting job, and the Derek Moye-led receiving corps is in place to make either one look good. The running game loses Penn State's all-time leading rusher, Evan Royster, but there's more speed and flash in the backfield now.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Derek Moye
Passing: Matt McGloin
118-215, 1,548 yds, 14 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Silas Redd
77 carries, 437 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Derek Moye
53 catches, 885 yds, 8 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior C Matt Stankiewitch
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Silas Redd
Best pro prospect: Moye
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moye, 2) OT Quinn Barham, 3) OT Chima Okoli
Strength of the offense: Receiver Size, Backfield Speed
Weakness of the offense: Run Blocking, Settled QB Situation
State of the Unit: The quarterback situation went from promising, to questionable, to now being up in the air with two decent options and a threat hanging over the team's head. Tenth in the Big Ten in efficiency and 52nd in the nation in yards, the air attack didn't exactly explode and it wasn't a positive on a consistent basis, but there are two veterans to work around in a battle to see who can best run the program for the next few years.
Sophomore Rob Bolden is the team's best quarterback option. The 6-3, 211-pounder became the first true freshman to start a season under Joe Paterno, and considering the pressure he was under in some bad situations – like at Alabama – he wasn't awful. Interceptions were a problem throwing seven to go along with five touchdown passes, but he completed 58% of his throws for 1,360 yards in his time over the first half of the season before suffering a concussion against Minnesota. Never really a part of the mix the rest of the way, he threatened to transfer, wanted to transfer, and is still around. A great athlete, he didn't show off much of his running ability and didn't air it out enough with his big arm. Not nearly a finished product, there should be a huge payoff if he's allowed to develop.
The offense didn't do much with Bolden under center, he got hurt, Matt McGloin stepped in, and then the folk hero was born. The former walk-on threw for 250 yards and a touchdown in the win over Michigan and pitched four touchdown passes against Northwestern as the season started to turn around. A disastrous second half against Ohio State was erased by a 315-yard day in a win over Indiana and 312 yards in a loss to Michigan State. And then came the Florida game. He threw for 211 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw five picks to open up the quarterback competition again this off season after finishing with 1,548 yards with 14 touchdown passes and nine picks. The 6-1, 209-pound junior has a decent arm and good mobility, and while he has a spark and the right attitude, he doesn't have the pure talent of Bolden.
Will Paul Jones be a part of the mix> The 6-3, 245-pound redshirt freshman got bigger over the last year but he still has terrific mobility, a huge arm, and the pro-style ability to push the ball all over the field. He was supposed to be the true freshman who was going to push for time right away, but that turned out to be Bolden. Now Jones has to keep pushing to try to take over the No. 2 job, but he needs seasoning. Also in the fight for backup time is junior Kevin Newsome, a smart, athletic 6-2, 231-pound passer who seemed to be ready to fit the mold of recent Penn State quarterbacks as a leader and a game-manager, but he was quickly pushed aside for other options. He completed 6-of-13 passes in his limited time last year, but he could be a steady option if the offense isn't moving.
Watch Out For … the constant fight for the starting job. Will the coaching staff have the time and the patience to allow Bolden to fight through his mistakes and inconsistencies? McGloin is fine and he did the job when he got his chance, but there's a ceiling on what the offense can do if he stays under center. The idea is to settle the situation early this summer, but the job will be in the spotlight all year long.
Strength: Veteran options. The quarterback controversy might not be a positive, but at least there are several different ways to go. Bolden is the multi-talented option, but McGloin is the steady passer and leader. Newsome could be just fine if he ever became the main man on a regular basis, while Jones has the potential to be phenomenal with time to grow.
Weakness: Bolden's threats. If he doesn't win the starting job, is he gone? The Penn State coaching staff will never make decisions based on a threat, and Paterno might not let him go after not releasing him the first time the transfer talk kicked up. There are four quarterback prospects and the goal is to find one to work around for the next few years. If that's not Bolden, it'll be hard to keep him around.
Outlook: It always, always, takes a few years for Penn State quarterbacks to grow into the job. Daryll Clark needed time, Michael Robinson became special late in his career, and now the goal is to find the one passer who can be the main man for the program to work around. There are several veterans to try out, but one has to step up and grab the job.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: Evan Royster was the textbook definition of serviceable. He might have finished as the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,932 yards and 29 touchdowns, but he was a plugger who wasn't a gamechanger. Now the ground game that finished a mediocre 74th in the nation averaging 143 yards per game needs more flash and more fire
Sophomore Silas Redd turned heads in spring ball of last year, but he didn't get too much work with 77 carries for 437 yards and two scores. He finished second on the team in rushing and averaged an impressive 5.7 yards per carry, but he didn't get the ball in his hands enough to do something with it in space. The 5-10, 201-pounder packs power and has a great burst, and he showed what he could be a difference-maker with 131 yards and a score on just 11 carries against Northwestern and with 50 yards and a score on nine carries against Indiana. Now the job is his for the taking, and he could carry the ground game and become a workhorse.
Senior Stephfon Green was supposed to be a steady No. 2 back throughout last year, and while he saw time in every game he only ran for 188 yards and a touchdown averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. The 5-10, 198-pound speedster came back from a broken leg suffered in the Rose Bowl loss to USC a few years ago to prove in practices that he still might be the team's fastest player, but he hasn't been able to break out. The hope is that he'll be a speedy change-of-pace back in the rotation, while 6-0, 230-pound senior Brandon Beachum will supply the power. Out all of last year with a torn ACL, he's back and ready to be a factor after running for 227 yards and two scores in his first two seasons.
6-1, 239-pound senior Joe Suhey is a veteran fullback who started throughout the first half to the season being used almost exclusively as a blocker. While he only ran eight times for 15 yards, he continued to show off his ability as a receiver catching 15 passes for 154 yards with a score after catching 21 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown in 2009. He's the versatile option at fullback, while 6-1, 242-pound junior Michael Zordich has a defined role as a short-yardage runner and a blaster of a blocker. He got 18 carries for 40 yards with three touchdowns and caught two passes for seven yards while also serving as a key special teamer.
Watch Out For … more focus on getting the ground game to work. After struggling way too much to get anything consistently going with the rushing attack, there will be a more concerted effort to get tougher and more physical up front and flashier in the backfield. The jury is still out.
Strength: Speed. Royster was a plugger who occasionally ripped off a decent run. Redd and Green are speedsters who can occasionally rip off the home run. If they get any sort of blocking, they should combine to make the Penn State ground attack far more dangerous.
Weakness: The line. The Nittany Lions struggled throughout last year to generate any sort of a consistent push up front, and while they weren't miserable, they weren't good enough against the better teams. This year's line might not be appreciably better and could end up needing time to jell.
Outlook: Royster was as quiet a 1,000-yard rusher as Penn State could possibly have. Redd, Green, and Beachum have the potential to form a decent rotation to crank out more than 2,000 yards after finishing last year with an unacceptable 1,853 yards and 16 scores.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: Despite all the quarterback issues and the team's inconsistencies, the Nittany Lion receiving corps showed excellent promise and production with several players getting involved. Two starters are back and the depth should be solid despite the tough loss of Curtis Drake, the snake-bitten playmaker who broke his leg this offseason.
The offense needed a No. 1 target to work around, and senior Derek Moye filled the role. Super-steady, the Honorable Mention All-Big Ten performer was good for around three catches a game over the first part of the season but caught four or more along with a score in each of the final five games to close out the season with a team-leading 53 grabs for 885 yards and eight scores. At 6-5 and 202 pounds he has the size to go along with sub-4.4 speed and great hands. A Pennsylvania state champion sprinter, the one-time running back is great in the open field, can track the deep ball well, and can stretch the field. Working as the backup will be 6-2, 185-pound sophomore Brandon Moseby-Felder, a nice-sized prospect who saw a little work catching three passes for 13 yards. A few years removed from a bad knee injury that knocked him out as a high school senior, he's ready to start producing.
6-3, 214-pound junior Justin Brown came up with a very nice, very steady season finishing third on the team with 33 catches for 452 yards and a score. His only touchdown grab came against Ohio State, but he came on late in the year with 17 catches in the final four games with a 106-yard day against Michigan State. He has the size to go along with good speed as a perfect No. 2 target and a complement to Moye. Sophomore Shawney Kersey originally committed to Rutgers, switched to Penn State late in the game, and now needs to be a factor after making just one catch for two yards. At 6-1 and 203 pounds he has good size to go along with blazing deep speed. It's all there to become a breakout playmaker.
Ready to step up and play a bigger role is 5-7, 157-pound junior Devon Smith, a small, quick flash who made 27 catches for 363 yards and a touchdown. The production slowed down over the second half of the season finishing with just five catches over the final five games, but he'll be the No. 3 target while also being used as an occasional runner and punt returner. 6-4,197-pound sophomore Christian Kuntz adds more size to the spot, but he has to show he can stay healthy after getting hit with a knee injury early on in his career and getting sidelined by a collarbone injury. If he can stay in one piece, he has the talent and the ability to provide a nice boost in the rotation.
The offense needs more out of the tight ends, and that starts with 6-4, 250-pound sophomore Kevin Haplea, who started three times last season and caught three passes for 39 yards. A top recruit, he has the receiving skills and the talent to become a go-to target, while 6-6, 266-pound senior Andrew Szczerba is looking to get back into the mix after missing last year with a back injury. The 2006 Gatorade Delaware High School Player of the Year was a star defensive end in high school, but he hasn't been more than a special teamer so far for the Nittany Lions. When healthy, all the skills are there to be a great all-around tight end, but he has to finally show it on the field.
Watch Out For … Smith. With second-leading receiver Brett Brackett gone and with Drake unable to stay healthy, the team needs a running mate for Moye. Smith, along with Brown, should do more than fine if the quarterback play can be steady, and they should both shine in single coverage.
Strength: Size. Smith is a tiny 5-7 and 157 pounds, but the rest of the Nittany Lion targets are NFL sized led by the 6-5 Moye. This group won't get pushed around and there are matchup problems across the board with so many fast, decent-sized targets.
Weakness: Proven tight end production. Szczerba hasn't been able to show off his skills or live up to his promise and potential, and Haplea is just getting started. If these two are healthy and the quarterback play is fine, they could be devastating underneath targets while the receivers open things up deep. The tight end talent is there; now it has to shine through.
Outlook: The Nittany Lion receivers aren't going to get any national attention and there isn't any star power, but this should be a very good, very sound, very productive corps if there aren't major injury issues. Moye has All-Big Ten talent and Brown and Smith are more than fine. The tight end talent needs to shine through for the passing game to take a big step up, but if the overall passing production isn't there, it probably won't be the receivers' fault.
Unit Rating: 7.5
State of the Unit: The Penn State offensive line hasn't been the Penn State offensive line. The pass protection was terrific last year, leading the Big Ten and finishing tenth in the nation allowing just 12 on the year, but it was shockingly mediocre when it came to generating a push for the ground game. The rushing production sputtered way too much with a mere 65 yards against Illinois and 54 against Iowa, and it's no coincidence that the team was 1-6 when rushing for fewer than 140 yards – with the lone win against Youngstown State – and was 6-0 when going over 140.
The big loss for the line is at right guard where Stefan Wisniewski was an all-star, and now it'll be up to John Urschel, a 6-3, 284-pound sophomore who saw a little bit of time on the field getting his feet wet, but has mostly distinguished himself in the classroom with a perfect 4.00 GPA. He's built like a tackle, but he needs to be a blasting run blocker from the start. Adding more size is 6-5, 316-pound senior DeOn'tae Pannell, a versatile, promising blocker who can see time at right tackle, where he started four games in 2009, or can work either guard spot. Consistency has been his problem, especially in pass protection, but he's one of the team's biggest blockers and has to find a spot somewhere for the ground game.
The other big loss on the line is at center where Doug Klopacz started every game. Junior Matt Stankiewitch started the first two games of the 2009 season at left guard and was a part of the rotation over the first half of last year before getting sick and being sidelined over the second half. Very smart and very quick, the 6-3, 296-pounder could grow into the role as the leader of the line with a little bit of time. He'll be backed up by 6-3, 291-pound redshirt freshman Miles Dieffenbach, who was widely considered to be one of the nation's top center prospects, if not No. 1, in 2009. Extremely smart and with good size, he could push Stankiewitch out of a job early on.
Looking to be more of an anchor is veteran Quinn Barham, a 6-3, 302-pound senior who started every game at left tackle and had a terrific year as a pass protector. A former backup guard, he got a bit bigger and didn't lose his quickness or athleticism with a great 2010 offseason. Now he knows what he's doing and he should be the one the offense works behind. 6-6, 303-pound junior Mike Farrell got a start against Indiana at right tackle but is better suited for the left side. A high character player with a great work ethic and great numbers in the classroom, he'll step in wherever needed.
Helping Barham on the left side is 6-4, 323-pound senior guard Johnnie Troutman, a starter for most of 2010 and 11-game starter in place of Pannell last year. Very big and ridiculously strong – he's one of the team's weight room stars – he's built for the inside but has the tools and athleticism to work at tackle if needed. Now he has to be a far better blaster for the ground game. 6-6, 290-pound sophomore Adam Gress is a more natural tackle, and he could end up on the outside, but he'll get a long look at a backup job at left guard.
6-4, 301-pound senior Chima Okoli started out his career as a defensive tackle, but he was shockingly decent as a pass protector taking over the right tackle job after starter Lou Eliades suffered a knee injury. While he's still working on his technique and he's not quite polished, he's a big, physical blocker who should be far better after the time logged in. 6-6, 302-pound sophomore Eric Shrive is versatile enough to work at either guard or tackle, and he'll start out working behind Okoli as an understudy who'll likely take over the job next year.
Watch Out For … the center job. Stankiewitch will get the job early on, but Dieffenbach might be the more talented player. They're both big, smart, and good enough to handle the work.
Strength: Pass protection. Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin aren't sitting ducks, but they're not exactly Denard Robinson when it comes to running skills. Even so, the line did a great job in pass protection. Good in 2009, allowing just 17 sacks, the line was even better giving up a mere 12 sacks.
Weakness: Run blocking. Bad two years ago, it was even more disappointing last season. This is an athletic line with plenty of versatile blockers and good overall quickness, but it would be nice if the front five could line up and blast someone off the ball.
Outlook: Injuries have been a bit of a problem over the last few years, and consistency hasn't been there for the ground game, but there's good experience, nice talent, and enough decent blockers to not be a liability. This should once again be a decent line, but does it have the nastiness to be a great one? The star power isn't there, but that's no big deal as long as there's a running game.
Unit Rating: 7
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- Penn State Previews 2010