I love this time of year. Another college football season is just around the corner. Everyone is 0-0 and full of hopes and dreams for a National Championship. But everyone has their holes to fill as well, and Penn State is no exception. So with that we'll start a series that has kind of become a BSD preseason tradition: Five Reasons for Hope and Five Reasons for Concern for Penn State. Since I'm the heavy Kool-Aide drinker I'll be handling the Hope end of things while RUTS will be playing the part of Debbie Downer. We'll count down starting today with...
Reason for Hope #5: The Spread HD Offense
In the spring of 2008 it was a running punch line that started just after the Alamo Bowl when Jay Paterno described the offense Penn State planned to employ in 2008 as the "Spread HD" offense. Penn State was going into the season with a new quarterback, a new running back, and a group of wide receivers that nobody outside of the Penn State family could find much of anything good to say about. But after a few games the critics were silenced as Penn State's offense showed it could light up the scoreboard with the best of them.
In a lot of ways the Penn State offense reminds me of Purdue. Stick with me here for a second. Year in and year out the Boilermakers rank near the top of the conference in passing offense. But who was the last Purdue wide receiver to go in the NFL draft? (Answer: Vinny Sutherland in 2001 - 5th Round to Atlanta) They don't overwhelm you with amazing athletes. They just spread the ball around and mix up the play calling to keep the defense guessing.
There isn't anything particularly innovative about the Spread HD offense. A lot of people, including Joe Paterno, have drawn comparisons to the Wing-T offense of the 1940's. It's just an offense that is highly diverse in its personnel and play calling. They spread the defense and distrubute the ball getting everyone involved. The defense can't just focus on shutting down Evan Royster.
A main talking point for those who doubt the Nittany Lions this year is the new receiving corps. They say Daryll Clark will not be the same quarterback without Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood. These same people were the ones calling Butler and Norwood average at best and Williams a bust a year ago. And I suspect they were the same people who said Michael Robinson wouldn't have any receivers back in 2005.
But I say Penn State doesn't need a Michael Crabtree that can catch 12 passes a game for 185 yards and three touchdowns. When you look back at Penn State's stats the past few years, we didn't have a dominating wide receiver. But all three guys would usually finish the day with three or four catches for 50-70 yards. At the end of the day none of their stats jumped out at you, but Daryll Clark would get his 250 yards and two touchdowns. This is what made Penn State so effective.
When I look at this team this year I see plenty of talent for Clark to work with. Chaz Powell will play the Derrick Williams role with the quick slants, screens, and crossing patterns. Graham Zug will be the mid-range to deep threats. Though he lacks Butler's speed, he runs precise routes and has good hands. Brett Brackett will be the guy in the middle replacing Norwood. He's not as shifty, but he's a big physical presence that can fight off linebackers and safeties with his body. Add to this mix some of the talented freshmen like Justin Brown and Curtis Drake and I think there will be plenty of weapons for Clark to work with.