Questions for Bill O’Brien to Ponder
In a few hours, Bill O’Brien will have his Tuesday press conference and field questions from reporters in the Beaver Stadium media room.
That’s no different than any other week, but this time, the coach has some positive things to think about following his first victory in a game that saw many young players see their first live action and make real contributions. Here are a few questions O’Brien will likely be pondering as he receives his weekly dose from others:
- How many times will Michel Zordich carry the ball? The senior fullback received almost as many carries against Navy as he had all last season. Zordich is constantly reminding his coach that he can run the ball. When all running backs are healthy, he won’t lead the team in rushing yards and tie for the team high in carries, but his performance definitely earned some consideration for more touches.
- Will Akeel Lynch see the field? Last week, O’Brien mentioned that ideally he would like to redshirt the true freshman running back but left open the option of playing him. As the weeks go on, it seems a redshirt is more likely. Curtis Dukes is back in the picture. If Bill Belton and Derek Day return from injury soon, the Nittany Lions will have a lot of bodies to use.
- What’s a good number of snaps for Paul Jones to receive? The redshirt sophomore receiver played in a live game for the first time since his 2009 days as a high school senior. He caught one pass for seven yards, and his role as an F tight end should increase. The question is how much and how quickly does it happen?
- Speaking of tight ends, how can all of them be utilized effectively? Last season, Penn State tight ends Kevin Haplea and Andrew Szczerba combined for 15 receptions, 122 yards, and 1 touchdown over an entire season. Kyle Carter, Garry Gilliam, Jesse James, Matt Lehman, and now Jones have combined to surpass those numbers in just three games. It was expected that the position would have a bigger role in an O’Brien run offense. The challenge now becomes finding playing time for all of them.
- Allen Robinson is really good. What other receivers will step up behind him? Much has been written about Robinson so far. He’s blowing the rest of the Big Ten away, leading the conference in receptions and yards, and tied for the lead with four touchdowns. The rest of the active receivers have seven combined receptions compared to Robinson’s twenty four. Someone will need to take on a bigger role if he starts seeing more double coverage.
- Does Pete Massaro ever get his starting spot back at defensive end? Massaro missed last Saturday’s contest with a knee injury and has already been ruled out for the Temple game. In his place, redshirt freshman Deion Barnes has seized the opportunity, and his efforts on Saturday even led to him winning Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week. Barnes has at least one sack in all three games. This starting job is likely his even when Massaro is healthy.
Several players who will be expected to contribute throughout the season got their first taste of college football action last Saturday, giving O’Brien and his coaching staff some added options and more decisions to make going forward. He will answer some questions about Temple in a few hours. These six questions will be answered on Saturdays in the coming weeks.