Expect A More Organized Offense Under O’Brien
Will this year’s offense be better than last year’s?
It is the question most Penn State fans want answered. Some remain blissfully optimistic, convincing themselves that it cannot get worse than the 2011 unit that registered more interceptions than passing touchdowns and averaged 19.3 points per game — the Nittany Lions lowest output since 2004.
Comparing the players may not quell many concerns.
Assuming a base offense consisting of a quarterback, running back, fullback, two wide receivers, a tight end, and an offensive line, this was Penn State’s starting offense heading into last season:
QB: Matt McGloin/Rob Bolden
RB: Silas Redd
FB: Joe Suhey OR Michael Zordich
WRs; Derek Moye/Justin Brown
TE: Andrew Szczerba
LT: Quinn Barham
LG: DeOn’tae Pannell
C: Matt Stankiewitch
RG: John Urschel OR Johnnie Troutman
RT: Chima Okoli
QB: Matt McGloin
RB: Bill Belton
FB: Michael Zordich
WR: Allen Robinson/Shawney Kersey
TE: Garry Gilliam
LT: Donovan Smith
LG: Miles Dieffenbach OR Mark Arcidiacono
C: Matt Stankiewitch
RG: John Urschel
RT: Adam Gress
It is hard to find a spot where Penn State improved while it is clear that they lost production at some key positions. There is no guarantee that the offense will be more productive in terms of points, but it should at least be better prepared.
The reason lies with the coaching staff. O’Brien and several players talked about the team benefiting from Craig Fitzgerald’s new strength and conditioning program, which focuses on free weights instead of the outdated high intensity training of which former strength coach John Thomas subscribed. Long-time defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. believes the offensive line looks much more prepared.
Last year, and for many seasons prior, Dick Anderson coached the guards and centers while Bill Kenney was responsible for the tackles. Under O’Brien’s regime, Mac McWhorter is responsible for the entire offensive line. One position coach should create much more cohesion and prove Johnson to be correct.
Other players seem happy with their new position coaches, especially McGloin who raved about Charlie Fisher. “You’re gonna see different quarterbacks out here mechanically,” said the senior signal caller at media day.
The most noticeable change will come during those three key hours on Saturdays. The play-calling system for several years was unconventional. Former offensive coordinator and running backs coach Galen Hall and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno sat in a booth.
While Hall had the title, both served as offensive playcallers with Hall responsible for running plays and Paterno calling passing plays. The final decision would get sent down to former receivers coach Mike McQueary, with Joe Paterno (who never wore a headset) usually standing by him. This system often resulted in a chaotic sideline that sometimes translated to clock management mistakes.
With O’Brien serving as his own offensive coordinator, everything on the offensive side of the ball will run through one person. In addition to a pro-style offense and more creative schemes, there will be much less confusion on the sidelines. Gone are the days of a slow tempo and snapping the ball with only a few seconds left on the play clock.
The focus now shifts to whether preparedness can compensate for inexperience when it comes to execution. Can a more organized unit make up for the transfers of Silas Redd and Justin Brown along with several other departures from last season?
That’s the question people should be asking.
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Sandy Barbour will make an average of $1,269,000 per year as part of the new deal, which runs through August 2023.
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