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Friday Musings: September Observations for Penn State Football

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What we’ve learned about the Nittany Lions through the first month of the season.

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State made it through the month of September unscathed. As the days grow shorter and the air turns crisp, the schedule will grow more difficult. We’ll learn much more about this Nittany Lions squad in the next two months, but here are a few things that stuck out from the first four games of the season:

This could be the all-around fastest Penn State defense ever
The defense is SO FAST. The way they fly to the ball and close holes in a split-second has been incredible. This has to be the all-around speediest defense I can remember. Not so long ago, we would think of a couple players as “the fast one.” Now it’s basically everyone on the field.

The defense is not only fast, but very deep
It’s not just the speed, but the overall depth has me giddy about what’s in store for this defense. Take last week for example- Micah Parsons, one of the very best linebackers in the nation, was ejected early in the game. Despite his absence, the defense played lights out. The depth is there across the board at all positions too. Not only does this mean they can weather the storm is a key player has to miss time, but the deep rotation will help keep them healthy and fresh, which will really pay off late in games as they wear down the offense.

Journey Brown Exceeds Expectations
Journey Brown has exceeded my wildest expectations. In all honestly, I expected him to get lost in the shuffle sitting behind Ricky Slade and eventually being bypassed by true freshmen Noah Cain and Devyn Ford. Then I heard James Franklin mention that Brown could be in store for a breakout year, and now I see why. We have known that Brown had blazing speed, but now he’s developed into a complete running back with a very broad and dangerous skill set. He’s displayed outstanding vision and balance, has become an asset out of the backfield and has proved a capable pass blocker. It’s obvious that Brown has put in plenty of work to get here, and it’s been wonderful to see it pay off in his development.

The special teams seems to be back in good hands
New hire Joe Lorig deserves some serious credit for turning around Penn State’s special teams units after a disastrous 2018 season. After four games, there’s very little to be concerned about. The cover units have been vastly improved and there have been no mental errors that plagued the team a season ago.

The addition of Jordan Stout has paid off in a big way
Of course, a big reason the cover units have fared so well is the addition of Jordan Stout, who rarely even gives the chance for a return. But even in the few times he has, the kick cover has been exceptional. Credit the coaching staff for landing Stout in the offseason. The constant touchbacks will help keep the kick team fresh and likely eliminate a couple would-be injuries. On top of all this, Stout has proven a wildly valuable asset with the ability to kick a 50-plus yard field goal when needed.

We still don’t know what we don’t know.
Many fans were disappointed with a close win against Pitt, but then the Panthers pulled off a huge upset against Central Florida the following week. Maryland jumped into the rankings after blasting #20 Syracuse 63-20 before losing to Temple. Buffalo looked like a decent MAC team after beating Temple by 16, but also lost to Miami (OH) and Liberty. You can make this case for about any team in the rankings right now, but we’ll learn about the real contenders and pretenders soon enough. We’ll see if this young and talented group of Nittany Lions is ready for prime time as well.