2012 Penn State Preview – Offense
Penn State QB Matt McGloin
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Penn State Nittany Lion Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: O'Brien turn around one of the nation's worst offenses? The running game was mediocre, the passing game was abysmal, and now everyone has to go from the slow and stodgy conservatism of the old attack to a high-flying offense that wants to spread the ball around. The problem is that the quarterbacks aren't in place to do what O'Brien wants. Matt McGloin is hardly a top-shelf Big Ten passer. Paul Jones is the wild-card, but he hasn't done it in game action. The attack needs a running game after losing Silas Redd to USC, and the new backs will be working behind a green line with four new starters. If the quarterback play can be merely adequate the receiving corps should be in for a nice year despite the loss of top target Justin Brown to Oklahoma. There are plenty of bodies and options across the board, and now it's a race to see who can pick up the intricacies of O'Brien's scheme.
Star of the offense: Junior Adam Gress
Passing: Matt McGloin
125-231, 1,571 yds, 8 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Curtis Dukes
41 carries, 237 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Devon Smith
25 catches, 402 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior QB Matt McGloin
Unsung star on the rise: Gress
Best pro prospect: Gress
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Gress, 2) OT John Urschel, 3) C/G Matt Stankiewitch
Strength of the offense: Coaching, Opportunities
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, Playmakers
Senior Matt McGloin might not be big and he might not have an arm, but he's just accurate enough to get by and he has been around long enough to know what he's doing. The 6-1, 199-pound veteran became a bit of a folk hero going from walk-on to starting quarterback with a brilliant performance in a win over Michigan in 2010. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to build off the good finish to his sophomore season completing 54% of his passes for 1,571 yards and eight scores with five picks. He struggled to get the offense moving even though he was accurate at times. Outside of a busted coverage by Northwestern, there were few deep passes and not enough big plays to stretch things out, but because he's good on his short-to-midrange throws he's just good enough to take over the new offense and potentially be productive.
It might be addition by subtraction with Robert Bolden transferring to LSU. It's all there with 6-3, 214-pound size, decent mobility and a terrific arm, but there's one problem: he was awful
last season. The former coaching staff gave him
chance after chance, and while he showed a little
bit of promise two years ago completing 58% of his
passes, he fell off the map last season completing
just 39% of his passes for 685 yards and two scores
with seven picks.
Is it finally time to roll the dice on Paul Jones? The 6-3, 245-pound sophomore can move, has a huge arm and has the upside and ability to be a special player if the coaching staff is willing to work through a rough patch. He was supposed to be the true freshman to push for the job right away, but that turned out to be Bolden and he has yet to see the field and do anything. Great in practices showing off a world of upside and ability, he's deep in the mix for the starting job.
Watch Out For … McGloin to not be that bad. There's a hard ceiling on his ability and what he can do with the offense, but the coaching staff is looking for a smart decision maker who won't screw up. Jones
is far better, but McGloin will fit the role of game manager.
Strength: Options. For good and bad, Penn State has two quarterbacks to choose from with more talent on the way. While McGloin was named the starter, don't be shocked if the three-way battle for the job will continue into the summer. It's simple; whoever understands the offense first will probably get the gig, and Jones will continue to get his chances.
Weakness: Playing football. The Penn State quarterbacks aren't good at that. McGloin has to be a calm, cool senior leader, and that's not really his attitude or make-up. Bolden has to be able to hit an open receiver on a consistent basis, and he can't seem to do that. Jones has it all, but if you can't beat out McGloin, there's a problem.
Outlook: Under normal circumstances this would've been the year when one of the Penn State quarterbacks goes Michael Robinson/Daryll Clark and takes things to another level after years of mediocrity. Under the new coaching staff, though, it's a new offense and a new attitude with all the quarterbacks starting from Square One. The least-efficient passing game in the Big Ten isn't likely to be more productive unless one of the three main options suddenly channels his inner Tom Brady. McGloin isn't Tom Brady.
Unit Rating: 5.5
The loss of Silas Redd is going to be a killer; he was going to be the offense. The 5-10, 200-pound junior has worked to make himself better, stronger and more of a workhorse leading the team with 1,241 yards and seven scores averaging 5.1 yards per carry, and now he's going to bring all his talent to USC.
Now it'll be up to 5-9, 195-pound senior Derek Day to play a big role. He has mostly been a special teamer so far but he got a few carries running seven times for 27 yards and caught a 13 yard pass, but fast and tough with just enough quickness and fight to get a little bit of work, but there's a ten-mile wide gap between him and Redd.
Junior Curtis Dukes was out this spring to work on his academics, but even when he returns the team's third-leading rusher could have a hard time finding regular work. At 6-1 and 242 pounds he has excellent size and decent quickness averaging 5.8 yards per carry with 237 yards and a score in half of the season. He's not the right fit for what the coaching staff wants to do, but if he can get back on the field and in good standing he'll be an occasional power back.
Sophomore Bill Belton is a 5-10, 196-pound quick option who got in a little bit of work at the end of his true freshman season finishing with 65 yards and two scores on 13 carries. With decent hands and athleticism he has the potential to be the No. 2 back and a possible third-down specialist, while true freshman Akeel Lynch is a 6-0, 195-pound Canadian who was the Gatorade New York Player of the Year after winning for 2,131 yards and 25 scores. Expect him to be the starting back in 2014 once Redd is done.
The new offense doesn't really have a place for a true fullback, but 6-1, 242-pound senior Michael Zordich can fill in when needed as a strong blocker and a short yardage runner. He ran just 15 times for 30 yards and two scores and caught five passes for 31 yards. With his hands he could work as an extra tight end or an H-back at times. 6-1, 226-pound sophomore Zach Zwinak was a great recruit who hasn't been able to show much after getting hurt last year. He carried the ball three times for seven yards but he has the talent and ability to grow int a major factor as a receiver.
Watch Out For … Running back by committee. Redd was going to do everything for the offense, including being used more as a receiver, but those plans are scrapped now.
Strength: Lots of options. Redd was going to touch the ball around 300 times if everything went accordingo to plan, and now the opportunities will be there for others to step up and produce. It might take a while, but the Nittany Lions will find backs to carry the load. However, there's a problem with the ...
Weakness: The backups. Day isn't a Big Ten-caliber back; there are a ton of question marks around Dukes; Lynch is a true freshman; and Belton hasn't done it yet.
Outlook: 20 different players ended up getting at least a carry last season, and this year it will truly take a village to handle the work. It would be nice if Dukes could provide something in an offense that doesn't really fit his style, and it would be even better if Lynch and/or Belton can shine right away. Without Redd, though, Penn State might not have much of a running game.
Unit Rating: 6
With leading receiver Derek Moye gone, now it was supposed to be up to senior Justin Brown to be the main man after finishing second on the team with 35 catches for 517 yards and two scores. The 6-3, 209-pounder has terrific size and has been a steady target considering the quarterback play has been so lousy, but now he's going to be a good target for Oklahoma after transferring out.
6-3, 199-pound sophomore Allen Robinson only caught three passes for 29 yards but he has grown enough in the new offense to potentially take over one of the starting roles. With his size, speed and hands it's his job for the taking with the ability to grow into a matchup nightmare, but he'll have to battle with key backup Devon Smith for a starting job. The 5-7, 147-pound speedster finishing third on the team with 25 catches for 402 yards and two scores highlighted by a 104-yard day against Eastern Michigan and 110 yards against Northwestern. A flash of lightning, the potential is there to be an inside slot receiver in three-wide formats.
Junior Shawney Kersey originally committed to Rutgers before switching over to Penn State late in the recruiting game. Now he's going to battle for a No. 3 spot while likely working behind Brown after catching five passes for 108 yards averaging 21.6 yards per grab. However, all his production came over the first five games of the season.
Also in the backup mix is junior Brandon Moseby-Felder, a 6-2, 188-pound veteran who caught four passes for 53 yards. A few years removed from a knee injury, he has the ability to find a bigger role in this offense as a reserve, while 6-4, 222-pound Christian Kuntz is almost like a smallish tight end, but he has to stay healthy. The junior caught a pass for 17 yards against Eastern Michigan, but that was it.
The hope is that 6-6, 277-pound junior Garry Gilliam can finally be healthy after missing two years with a torn ACL. Fantastic so far in practices, he has taken to the new offense showing shocking athleticism and great hands for a player of his size. Now, he's not going to be Rob Gronkowski, but he has the potential to be a go-to target on midrange plays. He was going to be backed up by junior Kevin Haplea, a 6-4, 248-pound receiver who only caught three passes for 31 yards with a two-yard touchdown grab against Iowa. A top recruit he has the receiving skills to blow up - for Florida State. He's going to be used as a blocker right away for the Seminoles..
Watch Out For … Gilliam. Because of Bill O'Brien's work at New England the thought is that the tight ends will blow up and be mega-stars. That's a bit of a reach, but Gilliam has all the tools and the talent to grow into an All-Big Ten performer if his knee holds up.
Strength: The offense. It's not going to be Texas Tech, but the idea is to spread things out and get the passing game going to create matchup mismatches. The receivers should be salivating at the idea of getting lots and lots of passes their way.
Weakness: The quarterbacks. Can anyone throw accurately down the field to take advantage of the solid receiving corps? The consistency hasn't been there and there weren't any deep plays. That has to change with improved play from the passers.
Outlook: It's going to take a little while for everyone to get on the same page, and while the receiving corps doesn't have any superstars without Brown, the production should be even worse - if that's possible. The tight ends have to be better and a second receiver has to emerge, but more than anything else, the quarterback play has to improve. It will be ugly at times, but the potential is there for the receivers to potentially shine.
Unit Rating: 5.5
The offensive line did a great job in pass protection and wasn't bad at pounding away. Now the front five has to undergo a bit of an overhaul. The first step was finding a left tackle to replace Quinn Barham, and junior Adam Gress took the job by the horns this offseason. A 6-6, 306-pound guard, he beefed up over the last few years but showed enough quickness and athleticism to handle himself on the outside.
Johnnie Troutman started every game at left guard, and now it'll be up to 6-3, 286-pound junior Miles Dieffenbach, who appears ready to shine now that he has a chance. One of the nation's top center prospects when he came to State College, he's been buried on the depth chart but now gets his chance to show he can produce. He'll be backed up by 6-3, 287-pound sophomore Angelo Magiro, a versatile prospect who can play either guard position.
The key to the front five could be the return of 6-3, 295-pound senior Matt Stankiewitch stepped in for Doug Klopacz and starting all 13 games. The former guard did a great job in the middle with the smarts and quickness to be a good quarterback up front. He might not be considered an all-star, but he'll be steady. 6-0, 298-pound long snapper Ty Howie isn't tall, but he's a tough scrapper who can step in if needed.
6-3, 287-pound senior John Urschel will take over for DeOn'tae Pannell at right guard, but he's coming in a bit cold after working as mostly a backup. Extremely smart, he's an Academic All-American with a perfect 4.0 GPA. He has the strength to go along with the smarts, but he has to be consistent. Adding more size to the position is 6-6, 312-pound senior Eric Shrive, who has been a part of the backup mix for years and will fight for time.
6-6, 276-pound senior Mike Farrell has a little bit of starting experience and has been a decent backup. He's not all that big, but he can move and he could be a nice fit for the offense if he can somehow get by redshirt freshman Donovan Smith. The 6-5, 310-pounder has tremendous upside and talent with great size and surprising feet. Eventually a left tackle, he'll have a job somewhere on the outside for the next four years.
Watch Out For … Gress. After not doing much last year, he hit the weights hard and improved his conditioning. Now he should be a rock at left tackle looking so good in practices that there wasn't really a second option.
Strength: Age. In true Penn State form, players have been developed over the last few seasons and now the hope is that they're all ready to step in and produce. Smith is a redshirt freshman, but the line is mostly full of upperclassmen who have been waiting in the wings. However, there's a problem with …
Weakness: Experience. It always takes a little while for a line to gel, and considering last year's line had all five starters start all 13 games, only getting one starter back – Stankiewitch – it's going to be a work in progress in the new offense.
Outlook: Fortunately, the schedule is just light enough early on to allow the front five to find its groove. There's good size and enough smarts for everyone to know what they're doing, but considering last year's like was a major strength this could be a concern early on. Fortunately, Gress and Smith are keepers at tackle while Stankiewitch is a mainstay at center. As long as the group can pass protect, all will be fine.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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