Three Things to Stress Over in 2012: Penn State Offense

[I was supposed to follow up yesterday's post with the positive side of the PSU defense, but a trip to the fam in North Jersey wasn't conducive to writing. So we'll give you ALL the bad news first for 2012, then the positive starting tomorrow. -- MVP]

Jared took a critical look at the defense on Monday, identifying three concerning issues heading into 2012, and now it's time to take a look at the offensive side of the ball. With all new coaches on this side, issues were going to arise simply from the change. But the issues identified have either carried over or a natural occurrence. Either way, here are three things that could give you, Joe PennStateFan, cause for concern heading into the 2012 season.

1. A Quarterback Battle: Year Three

You've already seen the first two parts of this trilogy; the Matt McGloin/Rob Bolden/Paul Jones three-headed dumpster fire led Penn State to a 16-10 record (including an 0-2 bowl record) over the past two years and has returned for Part Three.

In Part One, Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin split the pass attempts almost evenly throughout the year. Bolden went 112/193 for 1360 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. McGloin countered with 118/215, 1548 yards, 14 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Paul Jones redshirted as the original reports of his academic troubles began to surface.

A year later, the same cast signed on for Part Two of this unfortunate drama. McGloin took the bulk of the snaps last year, though he ended the year with a passer rating less than both Bolden's and McGloin's from a year prior. The Penn State team as a whole had ten entire passing touchdowns in 2011 to go along with 12 interceptions. Three other players completed a pass for Penn State, but none of them were named Paul Jones, who once again dealt with academic issues.

Now, Part Three is set to premier on September 1 in Happy Valley. All three main characters are back, and will be joined by newcomer Steven Bench, who will be on campus in June. Varying reports have each of the quarterbacks impressing in early spring practice, though none are without fault. Paul Jones has been strong and apparently has a cannon for an arm, but can he stay academically eligible (early reports say yes); Matt McGloin is the incumbent and probably, at this moment in time, gives PSU the best chance for a victory, but his ceiling has likely been reached; and Rob Bolden is once again struggling with his mind-numbingly frustrating tendency to lock onto his first read and fire away.

2. Changing of the Guard (and other guard, and two tackles)

The good news, from a cohesion standpoint, for the 2011 season is represented by the following:

Tackles: Quinn Barham - 13 games, 13 starts; Chima Okoli - 13 games, 13 starts
Guards: DeOn'Tae Pannell - 13 games, 13 starts; Johnnie Troutman - 13 games, 13 starts

The bad news? All four players are gone. Well, bad news is subjective, I suppose. The offensive line certainly wasn't the beacon of hope for the Penn State offense in 2011, so the loss of four starters may end up being something of a positive. "May" being the operative word.

Two of the spots that need to be replaced were actually groomed throughout 2011, as Mike Farrell and John Urschel each saw regular time at tackle and guard, respectively. Heading into 2012, Farrell is the frontrunner for the left tackle spot and Urschel almost certainly has the right guard spot locked up. Add the lone returning starter, center Matt Stankiewitch, to the mix, and you could make the argument that the Lions actually return three solid linemen with quality game experience.

The remaining two spots, however, are still cause for concern. Mark Arcidiacono was an early front-runner for the remaining guard spot, but a foot injury has kept him out of spring practice. In his stead, youngsters Miles Dieffenbach (RS SO) and Angelo Mangiro (RS FR) have been seeing the bulk of the reps.

At the other tackle spot, Adam Gress is at the top of the chart for now, but is getting pushed by highly touted redshirt freshman Donovan Smith. Regardless of the outcome of this battle, whomever lines up at right tackle will have little to no game experience.

3. Meet the New Boss, Quite Different than the Old Boss

An entirely new offensive staff in place, Coach Bill O'Brien is certain to bring a different style of play to Penn State offense. While this excites many fans who had grown somewhat restless of the old, predictable offense, it still remains to be seen if the personnel in place can execute the new offense.

O'Brien's style will likely attempt to mirror his New England offense, to the extent possible given personnel and timing issues (while the Patriots could work on the offense for a living, non-SEC college football players are hampered by such trivial matters as "class" and "tests"). A new, more in-depth offensive playbook built around a style of play for which many of these players were not recruited will undoubtedly have growing pains. At the very least, it gives the team an excuse for early poor play ("Third and three...Rob Bolden back...fires across the middle to a crossing Bill Belton...aaaand the ball bounces four yards in front of Belton. Well, Herbie, it's going to take time for these players to grow into O'Brien's offense.").

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