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How Joe Moorhead Can Improve Personnel Usage on the Offense

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Using last year's distribution of snaps to figure out where to go in 2016.

Penn State Athletics

Penn State fans are well aware by now that the 2016 offense is going to look significantly different from the 2015 offense. There is a new offensive coordinator, as Joe Moorhead replaces John Donovan. On the offensive line, Matt Limegrover steps in for Herb Hand. And Christian Hackenberg is with the New York Jets, so the quarterback position will be manned by Trace McSorley or Tommy Stevens (or even true freshman Jake Zembiec, though that seems to be a long shot).

Temple (54 snaps)

42 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
12 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE

This was Donovan's simplest effort in terms of personnel usage. While it was very predictable from a playcalling standpoint (the "Brandon Polk = jet sweep or fake jet sweep" thesis was established immediately), and did not use the best players inside of the individual player groups (Saquon Barkley barely played in this game), the position group deployment was not the inherent issue. Unfortunately, it seemed to take the blame moving forward.

Buffalo (65 snaps)

31 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
25 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
9 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE

After the Week 1 debacle, Donovan threw more tight ends at the problem. Tight end was not a strength of Penn State's team, but that did not deter him. Tight end will continue to not be a strength for the team this year, barring impressive play from the team's freshmen. Hopefully Moorhead will factor that into his personnel packages.

Rutgers (60 snaps)

23 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
19 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
17 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
1 play: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE

San Diego State (70 snaps)

34 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
16 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
16 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
4 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE

That's a lot of three-tight end sets, John! Your tight ends are Mike Gesicki in a sophomore slump, Kyle Carter, and Brent Wilkerson. None of them are particularly good blockers, and you never let Wilkerson run patterns, so I'm not sure about this. I think Moorhead would disagree with this approach.

Army (53 snaps)

20 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
17 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
15 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
1 play: 1 RB, 0 WR, 4 TE

In Donovan's defense, both Barkley and Akeel Lynch were injured for this game, and there were wet conditions. But it probably could have been better, especially with an opponent like Army.

Indiana (73 snaps)

36 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
12 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
11 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
8 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE
5 plays: 0 RB, 4 WR, 1 TE
1 play: 1 RB, 0 WR, 4 TE

They played well this game, and some of the 2/3-tight end sets came at the end of the game as they were running the clock out, so this was pretty good. Donovan used more wide receivers and they did well. Wide receivers and running backs were the best part of Penn State's offense, and tight ends and offensive linemen were the weak parts. When you used more of the former and less of the latter, things went well. Unfortunately, Penn State's coaching staff associated this with Indiana's weak defense and not the fact that it played to its own strengths. Oh well.

Ohio State (55 snaps)

28 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
17 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
6 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
1 play: 0 RB, 5 WR, 0 TE
3 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE

Alright, so Kyle Carter did not play in this game. Rather than adjust and focus more of the offense on other positions (positions with more productive, talented players), Donovan ran primarily 2-tight end sets and even kept the 3-tight end sets coming by bringing injured Adam Breneman into the rotation for the first time. This was borderline malpractice.

Maryland (61 snaps)

28 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
19 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
6 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
4 plays: 0 RB, 4 WR, 1 TE
3 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE
1 play: 2 RB, 3 WR, 0 TE

Like the Indiana game, Penn State accidentally got comfortable with the offense they should have been running the whole time, only because the opponent happened to have a pass defense they felt they could exploit.

Illinois (73 snaps)

31 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
31 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
7 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE
4 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE

This seems like the most balanced game in terms of trying to get your best skill position players in the field while still getting a healthy mixture of tight ends into the game because you cannot help yourself. I have a tough time getting too upset about it.

Northwestern (73 snaps)

35 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
31 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
4 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE
3 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE

I don't want to talk about this game.

Michigan (60 snaps)

34 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
15 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
4 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE
3 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
2 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE (6 OL)
1 play: 1 RB, 2 WR, 0 TE (7 OL)
1 play: 1 RB, 0 WR, 2 TE (7 OL)

I don't think Joe Moorhead would out-think himself like this, in terms of using way too many blockers on a number of plays. I understand wanting to throw off someone like Jim Harbaugh. I do not understand doing it by putting your most vulnerable players into the game.

Michigan State (75 snaps)

20 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE
36 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
11 plays: 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE
1 play: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
3 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 0 TE (6 OL)
2 plays: 1 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE (6 OL)
1 play: 1 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE (6 OL)
1 play: 1 RB, 0 WR, 3 TE (6 OL)

Actually a lot of plays with limited tight end usage! However, this did not to me seem to be because Donovan had learned from his previous mistakes and was turning a corner before his firing. Rather, it was because Mike Gesicki was injured and did not play. Look at all those extra offensive linemen! I don't know if you know this, but offensive line was not a position of strength for the Nittany Lions in 2015 either. Throwing more backups into the mix was not the best use of resources if you ask me. I would wager that Joe Moorhead will not want to do this.

Georgia (72 snaps)

8 plays: 1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE
39 plays: 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE
21 plays: 1 RB,  2 WR, 2 TE
1 play: 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE
2 plays: 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE
1 play: 0 RB, 3 WR, 2 TE

They're no longer using six and seven offensive linemen here in the bowl game, because John Donovan was fired after the Michigan State game.

Welcome, Joe Moorhead.