Five More Months, Damnit!

by Ben Goldfarb on April 13, 2014

in Penn State Football

Well, the Blue-White-Grey game has come and gone, so we’ve had the last taste of football until August. The game gave us a chance to build our expectations for the fall, and then cruelly kissed us off until then, but such are the tortuous ways of football. We use the off-season to bitch about Mark Emmert, Vickey Triponey, and other sordid crap.

Coming out of the spring classic, there is good reason for optimism at running back, and the damn secondary was looking better than I’ve seen from this bunch of jokers in quite a while. I mean, seriously. (I know, right?) Clearly, the big problem will be staffing the interior lines, and I’m still a little shaky about the kicking game.

It was good to see the loyal fans returning to Beaver Stadium for the spring game — 72,000 of them (or 82,000 unofficially, if you believe Franklin — I guess he must have counted). It appeared to be a gorgeous day, so I’m interested in knowing who of my five readers actually made it to the game.

Here at the Cave, we gathered and watched the damn delayed BTN broadcast while enjoying the usual Bacchanalia, which this time featured Maryland crab cakes contributed by Jackstand, who commutes to Maryland. They arrived via FedEx and were amazingly fresh, completely authentic, and damn good.

Not much to say, I know. Now, to compound my time expenditures, the NHL Playoffs loom large, and I’m back to home improvement hell. The Penguins take on the Columbus Blue Jackets for their first-round series starting Wednesday. As for me, I think I’ll next vent here about home improvement loans and the schmucks who approve them, unless the siding job takes an unexpected turn.

 

K. John April 13, 2014 at 7:10 pm

A few things.

1. I think there were more than 72,000 at the game. 82,000? Maybe. Maybe not. I entered at the student section and walked to WG to meet some friends then back again. The crowd appears to be its biggest during the second quarter. I did not see any noticeable gaps in the lower bown which was completely filled, though not as tightly as normal games. The luxury boxes appeared full. The south end zone appeared to be about 30%. The North end was less full. I counted the people in one section. There were about 60 and the remaining sections appeared equally full.

2. You can’t take anything from the score. The blue team was stacked. The rules favored the defense. Of the so-called nine sacks, maybe four would have been sacks in games. Overall, it looked more like a seven on seven drill with extra linemen than a scrimmage.

3. This is the best Penn State secondary in years. Could be the best in the Big Ten given the losses to Sparty’s no fly zone.

4. The defense line is stacked. From the looks of it Oliniyan, Barnes, Sickels, Bars and Nassib give State five ends. Johnson, Zettel, Smith, Barney and White give them five legit tackles, though they are undersized.

5. Linebacker looks pretty strong though Wartman and Kline sat out and Hull barely played. Bell, Wooten and Von Wilker doing his Obeng impression give some depth. Some of the walk ons looked like they are ready to contribute should the injury bug hit again.

6. I saw enough out of the receivers that I don’t think they will miss ARob much once the Big Ten season gets going. O’Conner looked great. Crooks was very accurate and has a quick release though doesn’t appear to have a lot of arm strength. You can do (and we have) a lot worse for the third string QB.

7. I think the hubbub about the O-line is overblown but will dominate the news for the next five months. Between Mangiro, Dowrey, Alosi (yes I think he will be reinstated before camp), Gaia, Terlingo and Mahan, I think they will be able to put together a good guard combo. I expect Laurent to start at center, with Smith and Nelson at tackle and Wright backing them up.

That is about what I have. I left the game confident going into the year. The bye weeks set up nicely to get people healthy half way through. I would expect them to be favored against 10 opponents and to win betwen 9 and 11 games this year should the injury bug stay away. If it doesn’t, another 7 and 5 season is likley. Too much talent for anything lower.

The Nittany Turkey April 14, 2014 at 10:12 am

Excellent recap, K. John. I hope that the dreaded injury bug leaves us be this year and that your 9-11 win prediction is a reality.

It is too soon for me to form any impression or the season, not having seen what the rest of the conference has to offer. At this point, they can still be 12-0.

I hope our mutual observations about the secondary’s comeuppance are valid. If they can produce turnovers in real games like they did in the spring scrimmage, this should be fun to watch.

Have a great summer. I’ll be posting sporadically between now and Croke.

—TNT

Joe April 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm

The only thing I like about the B-W game is that it’s just bringing us closer to August practice and the start of the season. I’ve yet to see one of these games where individual or Offense/Defense/Special Teams unit performance meant anything of significance for the start of the season.

Yeah attendance was great, but so was the weather! To me the number of cheeks in seats for the U Mass, Temple and Akron games will tell a lot and I don’t believe there will be 107K in attendance for those games.

To your points:

3. I agree, the secondary does look better than it has in years, but again we are going to be an injury or two away from being good to having an oh-oh situation.

4. I would say the starting 4 looks pretty good on the DL. At DE Olaniyan looks like the real deal. Barnes needs to show me that last year was a fluke and he is ready to play to the level he showed during his freshman year. Sickels, Bars & Nassib-who knows. At DT I think Zettel will be the next superstar D-lineman at PS. Johnson also looks good. The rest look capable, but again who knows. I didn’t put anything into their collective performance on Saturday as the line they played against was virtually non-existant.

5. I disagree with your assessment of the LB’s. If Hull goes down again WE ARE . . . SCREWED! If Bell plays like he did at the end of last season he will add strength to the group. Beyond that, I don’t know what’s up with Wartman (I think he’s injured-again) as he hasn’t lived up to his potential yet. I don’t know if Kline is ready to come back from his injury as it looks like he hasn’t had too much contact this spring. Beyond these three, there are bodies and that’s it. I don’t share your enthusiasm for this position group. I’m worried that Franklin is talking about using a 4-2-5 due to the lack of capable LB depth. We are one injury away to Hull or Bell and a catastrophe at this position.

6a. I saw nothing from the receivers, but that was due mostly to what looked like a lack of familiarity between them and the QB’s, the DL spent most of their time in the backfield and the absence of any effective pass blocking by the RB’s. I think there is talent there and I think it will develop over the summer when the QB’s and receivers get together. I’m concerned that Carter looked like crap and the TE’s may have to do more blocking than receiving to help the line out. There is also some talent that may be available with some of the freshman.

6b. Couldn’t tell much from Hack’s performance (and I think ARob catches the ball that Lewis missed) but if he can get time he’ll do okay. O’Connor has potential (if he avoids falling down drunk in the street again), but he has a long way to go. He won’t get the snaps in practice and I think they would prefer to RS him this year if they can. Crook and Whipple! Sorry there isn’t anything there and we are in deep shit if Hack goes out and Franklin wants to preserve O’Connor’s RS.

6c. Okay so where the hell was Zwinak? Yeah one of the coaches said they didn’t want him hurting anyone, but you would have thought he would have gotten a couple of carries (although I think Belton only had one and Lynch had four). Sorry I don’t see “Chip” as a key part of the RB rotation even though he had the best day of the bunch.

6d. I HATE THE WILDCAT!!!!!! I hope the hell this is not going to part of our offense on a large scale. It tells me there are issues on the offensive side of the ball right now and to me putting Hack out at a WR position while a RB takes a direct snap for a handful of yards doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy.

7. I hugely, hugely disagree with you on the OL. This is the biggest issue on this team and it’s only going to get worse. Each DC from every team we will play this year is licking their chops planning blitzes and stunts to throw at these poor guys. They were getting blown off the line of scrimmage by 6-8 yards on each play and I think if the DL was going full speed there would have been 19 sacks instead of 9! I don’t know what they do with Alosi. I think there’s a 50-50 chance Franklin gives him a bunch of time off including some games to send a message. Laurent walked off limping and Nelson is hurt. You’ve got a couple of guys who’ve moved over from the DL that have potential, but need a lot of work. Smith has to get his head out of his ass and play up to his potential-he didn’t do that last year. Our season will go based on this group’s ability to protect Hack and open running lanes and if you saw the same game I did it looks like it’s going to be a long season.

Some random thoughts.
-Ficken looked good now that he has his holder back (but the XP miss was due to a bad hold). Still doesn’t look like he can reach the end zone on KO’s. Gulia needs some work on punts. Couldn’t tell much on returns the way they ran the game.

-I’m thinking a lot of freshman are going to have to step up this year. This is a good thing and a bad thing for the obvious reasons.

-Franklin is turning out to be a hell of a recruiter, but he hasn’t coached a game yet. I’m still not sold on this staff until I see their results on the field. And give injury reports-sheesh what’s the big deal, unless he doesn’t want people to know how bad the situation really is.

-I think this season will be the apex of the sanction affects (perhaps one of the things that helped influence OB’s departure!) The schedule is actually favorable (thank God there is no Wisconsin or Nebraska this year). Another 7-5 season may be possible, but I would not be surprised at 6-6 or even 5-7. OSU, MSU and Michigan will be losses. UCF (first game and out of country), Maryland (they are going to have a pretty good team this year), and Indiana, NW and Illinois are all possible losses. And I’m even thinking Akron could be our Appalachian State as it’s the first game back from Ireland. But again way too early for any predictions that make sense.

-I think results will start to improve (if Franklin and staff can actually coach) in 2015 and I think 2016 will be the year we step into the sunlight and should be competing for at least the B!G title.

Can’t wait for this thing to get going and the discussions I’m sure we’ll have during the season. Maybe the Turkey will be done with his home improvement projects by then.

K. John April 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Wow, and I thought the ever doom and gloom Penn State media was negative. I disagree with almost everything you have to say.

You don’t seem to understand that Franklin doesn’t care about the spring scrimmage. If he did, a lot of players who didn’t play would have and those that did would have played more.

As far as the schedule, they have a legit crack at Ohio State. They WILL beat Michigan. Michigan has the worst offensive line in the Big Ten. If they avoid injury, Penn State could (not will) have the best. Yes, the best.

The Nittany Turkey April 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Even if you pulled the notion of Michigan having the worst offensive line in the Big Ten out of the air, I would think it would still be better than no offensive line at all!

—TNT

K. John April 15, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I didn’t pull that one out of thin air, that is based on observation. I saw Michigan play three times last year, several more on television. The interior line was a train wreck. They had two NFL bound tackles, one of which is a natural guard and a great blocking tight end who protected the right tackle on almost every passing down. Given how bad the interior was, the fact that they didn’t move Schofield inside is an indictment of how bad the tackle situation is. Butt is now out for more of the year. Lewan and Schofield are on their way to the NFL and their future starters couldn’t block either their defensive starters or their backups, none of which would get playing time in Happy Valley.

As much as the press wants to rip on State’s O-line based on the spring game where the top players really didn’t play much, and when those did play played, had a walkon next to them, the fact is there is still a lot of talent as as far as the O-line goes, depth only matters if there are serious injuries. Injuries are what they are. They happen or they don’t. If they don’t, State will be fine. If they do, they will have to work around them.

Joe April 15, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Well I figured you would disagree or you would have written it yourself. This team has a new coaching staff, new offense and defense, no appreciable depth at critical positions (LB and OL) and more walk-ons than a Div III program and you don’t see anything to worry about?

Yeah I do understand the B-W doesn’t mean shit. It didn’t mean shit to Paterno or O’Brien and it certainly didn’t mean shit to Franklin, but if you think there are no issues on this team and that a couple of freshman converts to the OL are suddenly going to learn the complexities of protection schemes and magically gain experience in a month of August practice, than you must also think O’Bama care was an unmitigated success.

Legit crack at Ohio State!!!!!!!! The team we had last year was better and do you recall that score?

As I said earlier, you remind me of a great friend of mine who has been a Cub’s fan for years.

K. John April 15, 2014 at 9:54 pm

The team has a new coaching staff but what it doesn’t have is a new offense or defense. By most accounts, the offense is a simplified version of O’Brien’s with a few new features. The defense is another evolutionary step. It isn’t new either. As for depth, yeah it is an issue, but only if there are injuries.

As for the rest, I never said the team didn’t have issues. If I thought they didn’t, I would have picked them to go 12 and 0, win the title and beat everybody they play by three scores. However, they are in a lot better shape than you are willing to acknowledge.

And yeah, they will have a legit crack at Ohio State. Maybe not Sparty. Penn State is going be better this year on both sides of the ball. With any luck, they will enter the game without the injury situation they had on defense, which was the worst I have ever seen. O’Brien’s play calling was horrible in that game as he got into one of his dogmatic funks that cost the team several games during his two years.

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