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Michigan State Snap Counts: Donovan's Final Ride

In his last game as offensive coordinator, John Donovan improves in some ways but falls into some of the same traps.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

John Donovan's signature move in these snap counts posts over the 2015 season has been his bizarre insistence on using extra blockers. Tight ends and/or a sixth offensive lineman, none of whom are particularly good blockers, being thrown into the game instead of one of Penn State's skill players on the outside was a staple of Donovan's offense. It seemed that Donovan would rather put out a package that points out the deficiencies on the offensive line instead of one that plays to his players' strengths.

In his final game as offensive coordinator, Donovan was more willing to spread the defense out. He used more three and four wide receiver sets than he had all season, which is commendable. Part of this was by necessity: with tight end Mike Gesicki out and Kyle Carter limited, he didn't have the option of using as many two and three tight end sets as he normally would. In addition, Michigan State's front seven is so strong that even Donovan couldn't ignore the need to spread the Spartans defense out. Here is a look at the final regular season edition of Snap Counts.


Pos. No. Class Offense Snaps %Snap
LT/RT 59 RS Sophomore Andrew Nelson 75 100%
C 66 RS Senior Angelo Mangiro 75 100%
RG 72 RS Junior Brian Gaia 75 100%
RT/LG 70 RS Sophomore Brendan Mahon 75 100%
WR 12 Sophomore Chris Godwin 69 92%
RB 26 Freshman Saquon Barkley 64 85%
WR 5 RS Sophomore DaeSean Hamilton 63 84%
QB 14 Junior Christian Hackenberg 61 81%
WR 7 RS Junior Geno Lewis 53 71%
LG 53 RS Junior Derek Dowrey 41 55%
OL 73 Junior Paris Palmer 38 51%
TE 81 RS Sophomore Adam Breneman 29 39%
TE 11 RS Junior Brent Wilkerson 25 33%
WR 13 Sophomore Saeed Blacknall 17 23%
TE 87 RS Senior Kyle Carter 15 20%
QB 9 RS Freshman Trace McSorley 14 19%
WR 3 RS Freshman DeAndre Thompkins 12 16%
RB 22 RS Junior Akeel Lynch 10 13%
WR 10 Freshman Brandon Polk 10 13%
OL 55 RS Junior Wendy Laurent 2 3%
RB 24 RS Freshman Nick Scott 1 1%
OL 86 RS Junior Albert Hall 1 1%

Penn State started with an offensive line of Nelson-Dowrey-Mangiro-Gaia-Mahon. Based on the play against Michigan, they felt the need to bench Wendy Laurent and Paris Palmer. Laurent would only see the field twice, both times as an extra offensive lineman. Palmer saw four plays as an extra offensive lineman as well, but before the first half was even over, he replaced Derek Dowrey in the lineup and played the rest of the game. That unit went Palmer-Mahon-Mangiro-Gaia-Nelson. Walk-on Albert Hall also saw a snap as an extra offensive lineman.

At tight end, Penn State had to get creative with starter Mike Gesicki out with an injury he suffered against Michigan. Brent Wilkerson started, and we saw a little bit of Kyle Carter in the first half, but most of the snaps were split between Wilkerson and almost-forgotten tight end Adam Breneman, whose last significant playing time was under Bill O'Brien in the upset win at Wisconsin to close out the 2013 season. Breneman saw a few snaps in the "beef" package against Ohio State due to Carter missing that game, but Breneman was legitimately involved in the offense against Michigan State. He blocked, he lined up in the slot, he ran out for passes, and didn't show any obvious signs of his knee problems in doing so. Here's hoping Breneman can see the field on a regular basis in 2016.

At wide receiver, we saw more three receiver sets than we had all season. Geno Lewis got by far his most playing time, a testament to his strong play over the second half of the season. DeAndre Thompkins also saw his most snaps of the year outside of the blowout win against Illinois. Brandon Polk was still limited to jet sweep looks.

Saquon Barkley remains the premier back on the team. Akeel Lynch only played during obvious passing downs to help out in blocking. Nick Scott got one second half snap.

Christian Hackenberg yielded to Trace McSorley once the game was out of hand. McSorley was not just handing it off, as he threw a few passes and kept one on the read option.


Pos. No. Class Defense Snaps %Snap
MLB 40 Sophomore Jason Cabinda 59 89%
S 6 RS Junior Malik Golden 59 89%
OLB 42 RS Freshman Troy Reeder 49 74%
DE 98 Senior Anthony Zettel 48 73%
CB 15 Sophomore Grant Haley 48 73%
DT 99 RS Junior Austin Johnson 47 71%
S 2 Sophomore Marcus Allen 47 71%
OLB 11 Junior Brandon Bell 45 68%
CB 10 Senior Trevor Williams 45 68%
CB 29 Freshman John Reid 44 67%
DT 91 Senior Tarow Barney 43 65%
DE 19 RS Freshman Torrence Brown 35 53%
DE 94 RS Junior Evan Schwan 29 44%
S 28 Sophomore Troy Apke 26 39%
DT 93 RS Freshman Antoine White 18 27%
DT 41 RS Sophomore Parker Cothren 17 26%
DE 52 RS Sophomore Curtis Cothran 16 24%
OLB 43 Freshman Manny Bowen 10 15%
OLB 33 Freshman Jake Cooper 9 14%
MLB 8 RS Junior Gary Wooten, Jr. 7 11%
CB 12 Junior Jordan Smith 7 11%
S 7 RS Freshman Koa Farmer 7 11%
CB 21 RS Freshman Amani Oruwariye 5 8%
DE 95 Senior Carl Nassib 2 3%
DE 46 Freshman Colin Costagna 2 3%
CB 4 RS Freshman Daquan Worley 2 3%

With Garrett Sickels out and Carl Nassib again only able to stay on the field for the first two snaps of the game, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop had to get creative. This meant moving defensive tackle Anthony Zettel back to defensive end, the position he played at the start of his Penn State career. Torrence Brown got the majority of the snaps at the other side of the line. We also saw the first appearance of walk-on freshman defensive end Colin Costagna for the final two defensive plays of the game. With Zettel at end, Tarow Barney took over as the starter at tackle. Antoine White saw a healthier rotation of snaps with he and Parker Cothren being the only backups.

At linebacker, we saw the normal rotation of Cabinda, Bell, and Reeder until the game was out of hand. Freshmen Jake Cooper and Manny Bowen got some run outside while Gary Wooten, Jr. was in the middle.

In the secondary, Malik Golden continued to rotate in with Troy Apke and starter Marcus Allen in place of injured senior Jordan Lucas. In garbage time, we saw Koa Farmer at safety as well despite a fumble on the kickoff unit. The corner rotation, like the linebacker rotation, was normal until the game was out of hand, with the snaps being shared by Trevor Williams, Grant Haley, and John Reid. All three were on the field in nickel and dime situations. At the end of the game, Amani Oruwariye and Jordan Smith came into the game, with Daquan Worley seeing his first defensive snaps of the season at cornerback as well.