By: Thomas Frnank Carr
Five Things To Watch For: Blue White Game
Don’t expect to see much of the sophomore tailback today. Franklin and the coaching staff have been limiting his contact throughout the spring and it’s doubtful they will risk injury to their most prized player more than they have to today.
That doesn’t stop fans from wanting to see the sensational tailback after the winter he’s had. It’s hard to make news in the offseason during college football but Barkley has done that, thanks in part to a viral video of him setting a lifting record at Penn State for the power clean. (Previously held by defensive tackle Anthony Zettel)
That along with the information that he’s gotten faster, as well as stronger, brings an excitement level to Penn State fans that hasn’t been matched since Christian Hackenberg completed his freshman season. A word to the wary, don’t forget what happened to him when expectations got too high.
- Defensive Alignment
The Penn State defense has been building an identity this spring. Not just what system they play, or what alignment they use, but also how they play. Led by linebacker Jason Cabinda and safety Marcus Allen the defense has built a certain swagger this winter that all great defenses play with. The young pieces in the secondary are now more mature and Head Coach James Franklin wanted to put more on their plate from a schematic standpoint.
“We’re playing with a lot more personality. We’ve been very good but we’ve been predictable with our indicators (of what coverage they will play). I think coach banks and Coach pry are doing a really good job of disguising some things.
Taking that next step to being an elite defense will be very important for the Nittany Lions this year, especially with the uncertainty on the other side of the ball.
- New Offense
Newly minted Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead has brought Penn State into the modern era of collegiate football, by bringing a true spread option offense to Happy Valley. While you’ve seen teams like Ohio State, Baylor, and Oregon run this offense, Penn State fans haven’t seen the blue and white run this scheme before.
The new offense is designed to take the pressure of the offensive line, according to left tackle Andrew Nelson,
“I think this offense is really good for the offensive line. A lot young players are making a lot of good steps. I’m excited about where we are…This offense just fits us better.”
That is a relief, given the struggles of the offensive line for the past three years.
- Quarterback Battle
This is the most important position battle since Matt McGloin and Rob Boldin split time in the Penn State backfield to mixed results…which is putting it politely.
Both quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens are made for the spread system with their quick feet and elusiveness. It will be on one of them to show that they can move the ball down the field with their arm as well. Whoever can do that more effectively, will be leading the Nittany Lions in the fall.
Right now the apparent leader is McSorley who was last seen leading the Nittany Lions on a fourth quarter comeback against Georgia in Penn State’s bowl game. Don’t expect a resolution to this battle anytime soon. Franklin would ideally like this battle to go for a while,
“To me you want to keep the competition going as long as you possibly can, unless the gap is significant.”
Expect this competition to sweat it out all summer and into camp.
- Blue White Star
Every year there is a player who steals the show during the Blue White Game. Last year, Carl Nassib and the defensive line put on a show and put the rest of the Big 10 on watch. Nassib ended the year with a school record in sacks, and was the defensive player of the year in the Big 10. Who will it be this year?
An early leader in the clubhouse for breakout player this spring has been defensive tackle Kevin Given. Givens was moved from defensive end this offseason and is currently growing into his role of tackle. While at only 6’1”, roughly 270, Givens is still undersized for the position, but he plays with incredible quickness, explosion and power. Givens will have to add at least 10 more pounds before the start of the season to hold up as an interior lineman, but he’s got the tools to be a disruptor on the inside of the defensive line. Going against the perpetually weak offensive line, Givens has a great chance to shine today in front of the Penn State faithful.