The Blue-White game featured some breakout performances from some unexpected stars, some great individual efforts, and a final score that most everyone anticipated. The Blue team defeated the White team 37-0 in front of 72,000 fans.
Here’s what we learned about the Nittany Lions during the scrimmage:
The lack of depth at offensive line is a BIG problem.
The offensive line, already wearing special jerseys to allow the unit to play on both teams, showed that the lack of depth could be a serious problem as the summer goes on. The group, which saw Wendy Laurent leave the game early with an injury, allowed a total of nine sacks, and didn’t give any of the quarterbacks much time. With Miles Dieffenbach out for the year with a torn ACL, and guard Anthony Alosi “suspended from the team indefnitely” following an assault charge according to coach James Franklin, the rest of the players will have to improve greatly over the summer, and stay healthy, for Penn State to have success.
“I think this [the lack of depth]is probably unique,” Franklin said. “I’ve been places that, when we first showed up, we had some challenges in terms of depth. I’m not sure that I’ve been in a situation where we don’t have a scholarship two-deep [depth chart]. But once again, it is what it is. We’re going to find a way to make it work.”
Look out for Cole Chiappialle this year.
The competition at running back may have become more interesting, as walk-on Cole Chiappialle had a breakout game. The sophomore had 63 rushing yards on just nine carries and scored two touchdowns. While he may not compete for the starting job right away this year, he should definitely see time on the field at some point in his career, and he may take some carries away from Akeel Lynch in the third-string role as well as possibly see some direct-snaps (Wildcat formation). Franklin said he will play on special teams as well this season.
“He’s had a great spring,” said Franklin. “I think we have four backs that have shown flashes of some really good things. He’s got great vision, toughness, and balance. I think there’s a role for him in this football program. He’s going to be a huge contributor on special teams. I’m proud of him.”
Michael O’Connor should be the second-string quarterback heading into fall practice.
The odds were stacked against D.J. Crook and Austin Whipple from the start — the two were on the White team, throwing to second string receivers — but O’Connor looked every bit as good as advertised in his game action. The early enrollee was 11-for-16 for 81 yards, and looked comfortable in the pocket and under pressure.
“I think, for a freshman, he’s doing some really nice things,” Franklin said. “There’s a lot of areas from a fundamental standpoint that we have to work on. But something that you’re looking at in a young quarterback is: Do they panic or not? He’s not a guy that panics. He’s very, very comfortable. I think the improvement you’re going to see from him between now and the first game is going to be dramatic.”
Look out for new wrinkles, including the Wildcat, in an always-evolving offense.
It looks like the Wildcat will be an important part of the offense this season. At least three different players took direct snaps, and there were almost 10 different Wildcat plays. This is certainly different from the traditional offense of the past few years, and something that Penn State hasn’t implemented consistently since the Ohio State game in 2011. There was also a trick play ran in the second half that saw wide receiver Eugene Lewis, a quarterback in high school, get the ball off a reverse and launch a pass to a wide open Matt Zanellato for a touchdown.
“We’ll limit how much we run Hackenberg, obviously, so the way you get that package of your offense is by running the Wildcat,” Franklin said. “You’re able to play true 11-on-11, offense vs. defense. Every other offense you run, the defense has an advantage of plus-one on you, so I think it makes sense.”