Early January was a tumultuous time for the football program. Not only did quarterback Robert Bolden try to transfer, but defensive coordinator Tom Bradley openly flirted with the Pitt and Connecticut head coaching jobs. Well, it's March now, and at least on the Bradley front, things have calmed down considerably. The coach recently talked to Neil Rudel of the Altoona Mirror about his feelings after Pitt passed on him and what he sees as the defense's biggest issues this season. Here are a couple big ones.
Mirror: Switching gears, what are the biggest challenges facing this year's defense?
Bradley: We certainly have to get better, first and foremost fundamentally. We violated a lot of the principles last year, some things Coach Paterno has preached. No. 1, we didn't tackle well, and we've been known as a good-tackling defense. We didn't do a good job putting up fences, and we allowed too many big plays. We had problems with vertical entries. These are all things that can be corrected. We've got to get back to being a tough, hard-nosed defense. I see this spring as a chance for us to get better. The NCAA limits the number of days you can have full contact, but I can guarantee the days we're allowed to hit, we're going to get back to being a physical defense.
Mirror: Where will the defensive leadership come from?
Bradley: I think that's what we're trying to solve. I don't know that we got that done last year. We've gone through winter workouts. We're going to put them in situations where someone has got to step to the front. I really think we'll have an opportunity to have a pretty good defense this year.
Penn State fans can, and will, complain about defensive schemes from now until the end of time. It doesn't change the fact that last year easily could have been a win or two better with better tackling. The game at Alabama sticks out particularly in my mind. Could Penn State have won that game? It's debateable. Trent Richardson gave the Nittany Lions for more problems than he should have, though, simply by busting through arm tackles and taking advantage of poor fundamentals. Before fans worry about Bradley reinventing the wheel this season schematically, they should hope he gets back to basics with the unit this season
It's also interesting to see that leadership is still a big question mark on this team. Joe Paterno was asked about locker room leadership many times last season, and rarely did he committ to any one or two players he thought stuck out. Three months and change after the Outback Bowl, it appears that void is still there. Perhaps spring practice will bring out a leader or two.
How McGloin and Newsome have acted publicly has been admirable.
Sure, McGloin-- the Lions’ starter over the second half of 2010 -- said Bolden "would make a good backup" when queried over winter break about the freshman’s possible transfer. And he had a prolonged hissy fit via Twitter. (Just when does Joe pull the plug on that?)
Since then, nothing. Maybe someone got to him. Or it may be the five interceptions McGloin threw against Florida in the Outback Bowl. Or the fact that the Lions lost three of their last four games on the way to a 7-6 record. Whatever, but McG has been quiet.
And NewNew seems to have his act together.
If only Bolden would follow their lead.
In the piece, Poorman makes a good case that Bolden is handling his situation poorly. However, I'm not sure McGloin is even close to a proper role model for the will-be sophomore. The behavior outlined by Poorman above and and his erratic play on the field at times last season suggest McGloin is quite a loose cannon himself.
Ultimately, all of the guys in Penn State's quarterbacking stable at the moment have to grow up a little if they're going to be successful. The offense needs a leader, not a thrower, and the sooner someone realizes that, the sooner Penn State can make progress toward an improvement on last season's 7-6 record in 2011.
Sukay Coming Along
Safety Nick Sukay figures to play an important role on the 2011 defense. He has to recover from a torn pectoral muscle first, though. Ron Musselman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette caught up with him to talk about how he's doing as spring practice begins.