Bill Belton showed what he can do at his new position on Saturday. (BSD/Mike Pettigano)
Penn State certainly didn't give fans much to take away from the year's Blue-White Game. It's clear that this team will need every last minute of practice time to install and get comfortable with new systems on both sides of the ball. Nevertheless, we reflect on Saturday's performance (after several viewings from most of us) and try to figure out what it all means as we look forward to fall. - Jared
1. Which player pleasantly surprised you on Saturday?
Adam: Allen Robinson. It surprised me when he saw the field as a true freshman last year, although he didn't see much time. Given everything we've heard about the sheer volume of wide receivers we have, who knew if we'd actually ever hear from him again? Instead, Robinson looks like the kind of guy who can contribute significantly as a flanker. He caught the ball well, made defenders miss, and racked up some yards-after-catch. If he can be this reliable in the fall, we'll be in good shape opposite Justin Brown. Honorable mention goes to the entire offensive line, particularly redshirt freshman Donovan Smith, who opened up holes for every back on the roster, and Zack Zwinak, who put together a few highlight reel power runs.
Cari: Shane McGregor. I know he wasn't competing against our first (or even second) team defense for much of his time. That doesn't negate the fact that he was the first QB to orchestrate a TD drive for the offense, or put up the best stats of all QBs. Plus, he has a head of perfectly-coiffed hair, even after being stuffed into a football helmet.
Jared: Donovan Smith. There were a few players on offense that really improved, but I'm going with Smith. I have heard practice reports that Smith has a ton of potential, and it looks like he will live up to it rather quickly after taking a redshirt during his freshman year. Smith started at right tackle on Saturday, and was effective in both run and pass-blocking. Best of all, it looks like Penn State has the right tackle position locked down for the next four years.
Devon: Bill Belton. I figured he'd be good--the guy was a natural playmaker whenever the ball was in his hands last year, and a move to running back would only provide him more opportunities. But for him to be that good? That shifty, strong, and quick to hit the hole? He's a natural. I'm starting to get pretty damn excited about this running back corps.
Nick: Allen Robinson. Regardless of who was behind center, he often found himself the target downfield.
Who did you expect to see more from in terms of playing time or performance?
Cari: Michael Zordich. I knew Redd would sit out much of the game because the RB position is well sewn up, but I was glad to see Zordich not playing much either--he's always one of the most exciting players on the field, in my opinion, and his absense seems to me that they've basically anointed him the starter after spring, no question.
Adam: Silas Redd. Selfishly, I wish we had seen more of Silas Redd. Not because he's unproven; he might be the best back in the Big Ten. But realistically, we all expect to see Redd a bit more involved in the passing game, and seeing Redd split out wide would have been interesting. If he's still suffering from tendinitis, though, it's best he stayed on the bench.
Jared: Michael Zordich. I was really excited to see how the fullback position would be used in the new offense. Plus, Zordich is a throwback-type player that is always brimming with intensity. However, he's a fifth-year senior who has the FB position locked down, so it makes sense we didn't see much of him on Saturday.
Devon: Zach Zwinak. I was disappointed with how little burn Zach Zwinak got, especially given how good he's looked all spring. It was clear that BOB wanted to use this opportunity to look at his quarterbacks, but it would've been nice to see Zwinak prove that he can be a great short-yardage back. Now, he might be more of a secret weapon.
Nick: Silas Redd. I understand why, but I thought we'd see more of Silas Redd.
Dan: Rob Bolden. Performance-wise, I really wanted to see something out of Rob Bolden. With that being said, I wasn't surprised to see him struggle so badly.
After watching the B/W Game, what is your gut reaction as to who will be QB1 come September 1st?
Jared: My gut tells me to throw up. Seriously, I'd have to say Paul Jones. He certainly has more upside and made plays that Bolden and McGloin aren't capable of making. He has three years of eligibility, and should get better with coaching and experience. I say start him from the begining if he continues to improve, let him take some lumps, and good things will eventually happen.
Dan: Paul Jones. If he can develop a bit of touch over the summer so that he doesn't overthrow wide-open receivers, I think he's the best for the job. Strong arm and can make something happen if receivers can't break away from their defenders.
Adam: Matt McGloin, and it will be perfectly acceptable. The interception wasn't a "bad decision," but was certainly a fixable play. His best asset, as I mentioned the other day in our position preview, was his ability in the two-minute drill. McGloin commands the huddle, understands the tempo, releases the ball quickly, and keeps the offense moving. He won't be a star, but he's capable.
Paul Jones will get some needed experience this year as McGloin's backup and will be ready to start for his final two years, assuming he can maintain his academic eligibility. The multiple overthrows drove me a little crazy, but you have to love the way Jones moves in the pocket, avoids the rush, and throws the ball on a frozen rope.
Bolden is the antithesis of the other two. McGloin and Jones just look like quarterbacks who can make plays when things break down. Bolden.....doesn't. It was difficult to watch him play. He still shows the cannon of an arm, still stands tall in the pocket. He has his positives, but at this point they are far outweighed by his drawbacks.
Cari: McGloin. It's what I expected before the game, and after the performances, what I still expect. Jones looked very good at times, but still seems somewhat raw. I could see him grow into the starter later on in the season, however, a la Zach Mills in 2001 (though, hopefully, without the abysmal start to this season).
My gut tells me it's Paul Jones. He's still raw, obviously, and he needs to learn how to put touch on the ball so he doesn't overthrow a half-dozen open guys every game. But Jones has the talent and ability to succeed in any offensive system, and the way O'Brien talked about him in the post-game, it seems like the entire staff is pulling for Jones to take the job. McGloin is a known commodity, and I imagine that BOB is going to hold out as long as he can for something better.
Of course, my head is preparing me for the inevitability of Matt McGloin, but that's not the question, is it?
Nick: My chart would read 1. McGregor 2. Jones 3. McGloin 4. Bolden at this point. If the QB competition is truly open, than Shane McGregor has to be in the discussion, he appeared most comfortable in the system and could be the best steward of the offense. That being said, this team has the highest ceiling with Jones behind center. Athletically, he's worlds apart from anyone else in the competition. If he gets his academics straight and gets the reps, I find it hard to believe anyone else doing what he's capable of.
What are your thoughts on the role of the TEs in the new system? What about their individual performances? Is it too early to start printing TEU t-shirts?
Jared: I didn't see too much innovation involving the tight ends, but that will come with more practice reps. The talent is there, though. Gilliam is going to be a beast. He runs so well that it's hard to believe he's actually 275 pounds. Jesse James should make an impact as a true freshman, and did a fantastic job blocking for someone that is practically still a senior in high school. He has loads of potential, and will help create mismatches all over the field for the next few seasons. The new staff will surely make use of Kevin Haplea more over time, and I also think that Penn State has a tight end coming next year that's supposed to be good.
Dan: We'll know more when the rest of the offense is installed, but it definitely looked like the TE position was going to be used a lot more in the BOB era. Gilliam and James should make a formidable combo for LB's and safeties this year.
Adam: Jesse James is huge. Just a monster. He looked capable as a blocker and pass catcher on Saturday. Garry Gilliam is finally healthy and looks the part. I thought the tight ends played well as a unit. It might be too early to start printing t-shirts, but Adam Breneman gets here soon enough.
Cari: I don't feel like we saw anywhere near the TE playbook we'll see in the fall, but so far, so good. I think Gilliam and Haplea can be beasts opposite each other, and Gilliam especially is looking ferocious. James was a welcome surprise as well--I can't wait to see all of them in an in-game situation.
Devon: Let's get Adam Breneman on campus first, but man, pairing him with Jesse James and Garry Gilliam might turn State College into New England south-west. James is an early-enrollee freshman who might start from day one, and showed why with his blocking and pass-catching; Gilliam looked as smooth as any 275-pound man can, and got open repeatedly. The BOB offense is about exploiting mismatches, and these two guys are poised to do that plenty.
Nick: We haven't seen their full role yet, but Gilliam, James and Haplea are all big targets that are certainly capable of being defensive nightmares to prepare for.