Off-season workouts are in full swing at Penn State, and the players will continue to gear up throughout the spring semester for the Blue-White Game in mid-April. While the players are doing their best to improve themselves, the coaching staff will also be looking into what they can do better.
In his first full season as offensive coordinator, Ricky Rahne had a mostly successful campaign. Overall, Penn State ranked 29th in rushing yards per game, 45th in total yards per game, and 32nd in points per game. Firmly in the top third of offenses in the country. If there was one spot that the Lions faltered, it was in the passing game, where they ranked 77th in the country in passing yards per game.
Of course, we all remember the drops that plagued the receivers. Assuming the receiving corps cleans up even half of the drops in 2019, the passing game - and offense as a whole - should improve.
Still, at times it seemed as if the playcalling was predictable, or as if Rahne was going back to the same few plays time and again, whether they’d been successful earlier in the game or not.
So MMQB asks - what changes do you want to see on offense in 2019?
I have three thoughts:
1. Use two tight end sets more frequently
The tight end depth chart in 2018 was okay, but when Danny Dalton got dinged up, and Jonathan Holland disappeared off the face of the Earth, it was basically down to just Pat Freiermuth and Nick Bowers.
2019 should feature Zack Kuntz as well, giving the team three extremely athletic tight ends. A few more two tight end sets would get athletic playmakers on the field - and would also be useful if the wide receivers continue to have the dropsies.
2. Use two running back sets more frequently
Overall, I had no real issues with the run game in 2018. The tackles for loss were way down, and Miles Sanders did an admirable job filling in for Saquon Barkley. Ricky Slade also showed some impressive speed - when he wasn’t in the doghouse.
Still, the running back room next year will feature a slew of former four-star running backs, including Slade, CJ Holmes, and incoming freshmen Noah Cain and Devyn Ford, not to mention speedster Journey Brown. It’s unlikely that both of the freshmen will redshirt, so the offensive staff will have to figure out a way to spread touches around. What better way than to occasionally throw two running backs out there at the same time?
3. Be just a tad more creative in playcalling - and have fun!
It often felt like the offense was pretty good for the first couple drives in a game, and then they’d settle into a lull for a quarter or two. Many coaches script their first drive, or the first 10 plays, based on film study. In these early goings, Rahne was pretty good. It seemed like situational playcalling eluded him at times - for instance, throwing the ball late against Michigan State, needing to run the clock down.
I’d say the biggest thing for Ricky to do this upcoming season is to just get a little bit more creative. Sure, a play may work once or twice, but don’t go back to it over and over again - sooner or later the defense will figure out what you’re up to.
Similarly, I’d love to see just a bit more fun out there as well - go with some trickeration every once in a while! Who doesn’t love a good hook and lateral, or a double reverse, or a halfback option?
These coaches are in the business of winning games, and it seems like they can take it too seriously at times. You can win and have fun at the same time, there are no rules against that. So reach into the bag of tricks and see what happens!
Here’s hoping 2019 will see some improvements on a solid-if-unspectacular 2018 season.