A few thoughts after 12 quarters and what it means going forward for Penn State
This opening three-game schedule could not have been any more ideal for this Penn State team. Three opponents with less talent than the Nittany Lions allowed the coaching staff to play a ton of players on a fairly consistent basis.
Despite the nip-and-tuck affair with rival Pitt, the bottom line is Penn State is exactly where you thought they would be after 12 quarters of football at 3-0.
Now comes a bye week before making the short trip to College Park to face an up-and-down but potentially dangerous Maryland team.
Here’s what I’ve learned through three games and what it means going forward.
Conventional wisdom says four running backs in a stable are too many and this would be a good time to shave the quartet in half and settle on one or two. I don’t see that happening. I see the rotation working and the mix-and-match has the potential to really keep defenses off balance going forward.
But if one of the four shows to have a hot hand that day … Noah Cain in that decisive drive against Pitt … it might be a good idea to take advantage of that. How Cain didn’t see the field again after that showing is a coaching fail.
The offensive line is struggling in pass protection and assignment communication. Pitt came after QB Sean Clifford right away and continued to bring the heat. And Penn State never adjusted. Honestly, having an expectation of this unit to improve is unrealistic.
Speaking of Clifford, he is a quicker than you might think and his arm talent is legitimate. I’m concerned about his completion percentage being below 60 percent. But you can see he’s just getting started. I expect him to improve.
James Franklin wasn’t wrong about having a wealth of elite talent at defensive end. But the production hasn’t lived up to that billing. Only three sacks in 51 attempts against Pitt is sub-standard for any team let alone one with a wealth of talent. They need to produce. I see flashes, but consistency is lacking.
The linebacker play is simply ridiculous good. Cam Brown and Micah Parsons are elite. The other five or six aren’t too bad either.
You can tell John Reid is a veteran and knows where he’s supposed to be and what his responsibilities are. He’s playing fast again. While I think this group has become outstanding at tackling in space, I’m still seeing too much soft coverage. To me that’s a coaching issue.
In the Pitt game, the more success the Panthers had throwing the ball the softer and more defensive Penn State’s secondary played. They are too reactive when I think they have the horses to be more proactive. Walk the corners closer and bring the safeties down and play aggressive in a tight spot. The speed alone tells me they are capable.
On Thursday I’ll have more thoughts on the bye week and Penn State. A little hint, this one centers on the coaching staff and the two coordinators in particular.