The Nittany Lion defense gets an all new up-the-gut for this 2018 model year. Penn State lost three defensive tackles, two inside linebackers, and the best run-stuffing safety Blue and White fans have watched for at least the last decade. We should all expect the PSU run defense will be different.
How different? And does different mean better or worse? We don’t yet know, though there are valid reasons for optimism (and concern).
But here’s the news that’s equal parts exciting and frightening: we won’t have to wait much longer to find out how the new guts of the PSU defense shape up. Appalachian State, last season’s Sun-Belt co-champ, comes to Beaver Stadium on September 1st to kick off the season, and brother let me tell you what - these boys like to run the dang ball.
Kill The Lights
Thanks to the miracle of the inertwebs, we travel back in time to December 23rd, 2017, and thru space to Ladd-Peebles Stadium in winsome Mobile, Alabama, for the Dollar General Bowl. App State entered as a touchdown underdog to MAC Champ Toledo. They traded a pair of punts to start the game, and then things got downright ugly.
By the end of the contest, the Mountaineers boasted an impressive 458 - 146 net yards advantage, proving the 34-0 final score was no fluke. Nosir, they stomped the crap out of Toledo. And offensively, they did it on the ground, rushing an astounding 53 times for 327 yards.
Fifty-three rushes. That’s a lot of rushes. It wasn’t a one-game aberration, either. For the season, App State averaged a 60:40 run:pass split - a titanic amount of rushes given the current state of college foosball.
When you run that often, you tend to be diverse in your rush scheme (assuming you’re not a triple option squad). That played out as expected watching just a handful of offensive series in this Flint Michigan Megabowl of a ballgame.
If you remember seeing the formation below (ignore the shotgun aspect), then you’re at least 30 years of age, and probably closer to 40. App State lines up in old-timey, 1983 Washington Redskins “Ace” set, with burly blocking tight ends capping both ends of the line, and a single tailback set 8-yards deep. Believe it or not, this is actually 2nd down and long. Despite that fact, App State fires off the line for some inside gap action, and picks up a first.
From inside gap, to the old outside zone play - also from a single back formation.
You ain’t true old-timey if you don’t run ISO BOB Lead with an authentic fullback. App State does, so they’re legit old-timey.
The App State coaching staff remained intact this off-season, which is a minor miracle for a successful G5 school. It’s a blessing, too, as the guy calling the plays watched the ISO BOB above work so well that he merely flipped the alignment, and called the same thing again. Eat another fullback, Mr. Weakside linebacker. (And the Toledo backer chose not to partake of the feast, and submarined himself instead. This play scored 6 after App State RB Jalin Moore made the Toldeo safety whiff).
But we’re not done changing schemes just yet. Below we get a modern interpretation of Darrell Royal’s 1968 wishbone. The Mountaineers make the edge easily, as they did practically all game long.
This is an end-zone shot of the option play above. App State leaves the DE unblocked to pin the WLB inside. The optioned-DE apparently is unaccustomed to old-timey option.
Hit The Lights
We’ve debated the defensive changes through eight months of grueling off-season. It’s gotten heated at times. But we won’t be waiting much longer to learn how the 2018 PSU run defense stacks up, because the boys from Boone, NC are coming to town, and it appears they’re not huge fans of the forward pass.