What: Penn State Blue/White Scrimmage
Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
When: 1:30 pm, April 12, 2014
autograph session starts on the field at 10:45 am (gates A&B opening at 10:30); the remaining gates all open at 12
Weather: Mostly sunny, high 68 degrees (aka, the best weather for a Blue/White game we've had in years)
Television: Airing live on BTN2Go (OSU's spring game will be live on the regular network at the same time); airing via tape delay on the Big Ten Network at 6 pm
Play by Play: unknown who will cover it for BTN, but there's a certain former Penn State linebacker that will be back in the booth for the Nittany Lions.
Michael Mauti (@Michael_Mauti) April 10, 2014
Now that we've got the nitty gritty over and done with, let's get down to business, shall we?
Three Things to Watch For
What the structure of the game will be
The last two years, then-head coach Bill O'Brien completely restructured the spring game, with a totally new scoring system and the offense going up against the defense. It was a radical departure from all spring games Penn Staters had seen in the past, and pretty confusing for most who were watching (even this blogger, who had tried to memorize the scoring system in advance--suffice it to say that that didn't happen). As a reaction to the sanctions and lack of depth at most positions, I can't fault the coaching staff too much for wanting to limit injuries and playing time, and pitting the offense against the defense on the scoreboard.
But, boy, am I glad to see it go. New head coach James Franklin has announced that this year's game will go back to the more-traditional scoring of years past, similar to the scoring of a regular football game. We do know that the offensive line will be wearing grey jerseys, instead of the blue or the white--thus making it easier to switch them between the two squads, due to the concerning lack of depth at that position group.
The jury's still out on whether full special teams will be implemented (typically, in the spring, things like rushing the kickers and punters don't happen, and there aren't returns--often, there aren't even kickoffs)--with our acknowledged weaknesses on special teams in 2013, though, it would be nice to see a renewed energy on those units out of the gate. But don't get your hopes up; Sam Ficken will likely be one of the players who we won't see on the field too much.
Who won't be playing much
Franklin has been vocal that every position on the team is up for grabs. While most don't really believe that every position is up for grabs, most of them are--but you can take a cue from Franklin's most recent interviews of some that aren't. In addition to Christian Hackenberg (because, duh), Franklin specifically named Ficken and senior linebacker Mike Hull as players who've stood out to him in the spring practices; as such, it's reasonable to infer that they've got their starting spots more or less locked up, and there's no reason for the coaching staff to risk injuries to them just to have the fans get long looks at the anointed starters (especially Hull and Ficken, who've both been injury-prone in the past). Chris Gulla, the expected starting punter, should probably see more playing time at place kicker on Saturday, and a general rotation of Ben Kline, Nyeem Wartman, Brandon Bell and Gary Wooten will likely be vying for starting spots in Hull's absence--though I'd expect walk-ons to take a lot of linebacker snaps by halftime.
Also absent from the field too, of course, will be players limited due to injury; as of now, those include Adam Breneman, who's been sitting out with a bone bruise, and Miles Dieffenbach, who tore his ACL and whose remaining college career is still up in the air.
What early enrollee will see significant time?
In this morning's players to watch, Nick picked three early enrollees as guys to look out for on Saturday. Whether that speaks to the team's overall depth or the talent in the incoming class is subjective, but I'm going to respectfully suggest that Michael O'Connor may not be the most watchable guy tomorrow. Expectations surrounding him are high, and comparisons to Hack are inevitable--and unfortunate. I'm super excited to see what DeAndre Thompkins brings to the table, though--he's going to be an exciting player to watch.
Antoine White is getting a lot of hype out of spring practice as a player to watch, but I'm actually more interested in seeing what Tarow Barney brings to the interior of the defensive line--a position group that Franklin has been surprisingly optimistic about so far this spring.
As for Chasz Wright, well--it's tough for a layperson to evaluate an offensive lineman. Unless he's being called for eight false starts. Or that layperson is bscaff.
Cari's Pick for Spring Player Who We Won't See Much of Ever Again
Typically a walk on (but not always), you know him when you see him. He's the guy who wows everyone in the spring game, makes all the fans hype and gets all the bloggers talking over the summer--only to fade to the back of the depth chart by the summer, and be nonexistent when the fall starts. Deron Thompson filled this role quite nicely last year. The most recent high profile occupier of this slot was Paul Jones (hi PJ!), two years running as an early enrollee and a redshirt freshman.
My pick this year? Well, it's gotta be a skill player, and someone who will get significant time because the person they're playing behind doesn't need to prove much. I'm going to say that DJ Crook is going to wow people (way outpacing his highly touted counterpart Michael O'Connor) and cause a furor in the fanbase over who should be the #2 behind Hack.