As we meet again for the first time since 1974, I thought I'd offer some of my opinions on this Penn State team.
Quarterback: We have senior Daryll Clark. Clark had a stellar season last year, but this year he has honestly been a bit disappointing. It became obvious during our loss to Iowa that Clark was pretty much an average to above-average college quarterback. He performed well last year because he had Rimington winner A.Q. Shipley, Gerald Cadogan, and Rich Ohrnberger.
Runningbacks: Evan Royster, like Clark, had a stellar season last year but fared worse this year. He still ran for 1104 yards, but the holes were much smaller and his excellent vision often mattered little. He is surprisingly powerful, and has good speed in the open field. Royster is also an excellent pass catcher. Sometimes though, I wish he would put his head down a little. Backup Stepfhon Green is maybe the quickest player on the team, but hasn't developed a real ability to run up the middle among the line. Our fullback is Joe Suhey (a third generation player whose grandpa was an All-American back in the 40s), who's a very good blocker and has been great out of the backfield this year.
Wide receivers & tight ends: Our wide receiving corps is deep, but question marks still remain. Junior Graham Zug is a possesion type who theoretically draws silly phrases from announcers who aren't used to white skill players. Derek Moye, all 6'6 of him, is our best receiver. He's "deceptively fast", he runs good routes, and he has made some spectacular catches. Freshman Curtis Drake has stepped up recently to fill the "jack-of-all trades" role of Derrick Williams. He usually runs short routes and end-arounds designed to get him around the edge, etc. This is a talented group that does well against zone coverage. Tight end Andrew Quarless has spent most of his career in JoePa's doghouse, but has been very good at times this year. It's important for your linebackers to be capable in man-to-man.
Summary: Beating Penn State's offense is so very incredibly simple this year: beat the offensive line and press the receivers. Our wide receivers were easily shut down by Iowa and Ohio State. Ohio State blitzed little, but ran tight press coverage. When Cameron Heyward wasn't all over Clark, Clark still had no one open. If you can get continual pressure on Clark, and shut down the receivers, you will more than likely win. But, if you don't do this, and Clark has time to throw, he is very effective.
Defensive line: Jared Odrick, Jared Odrick, Jared Odrick. You will have to double team him at some point. No one, not Ohio State nor Iowa, has run the ball effectively without double teaming Jared Odrick. Ollie Ogbu is Odrick's partner in crime. He holds up the other guard and allows the linebackers to do their job. The ends are young and talented, but inexperienced. They usually make some good plays, but you can often take advantage of said inexperience. A zone read often works. Our defensive line is also very deep, thanks to Larry Johnson SR's excellent recruiting.
Linebackers: In the interior, we have Josh Hull. He is not very quick and can be beaten by a tight end, but he is disciplined and does well against the run. He is also famous for having a moustache. Sean Lee is our strongside man. His knee injury has slown him down a little, but he is also very, very disciplined and is our best linebacker. He may have missed two or three tackles in total. Navorro Bowman is very athletic, but we've been disappointed with him. His conditioning has been questioned, as has his tackling, at times. Still though, this, like all Penn State linebacking corps in recent memory, is fast, smart, and disciplined. God bless Ron Vanderlinden is the best summary I can offer.
Secondary: Safeties are Nick Sukay and Drew Astorino. Astorino has been nursing a leg injury of some kind, but he is excellent against the run and ok against the pass when healthy. Nick Sukay has been solid this year. Nothing fancy, and he can be beaten, but he hasn't had too many blown coverages, so he's really all PSU asks for in a safety. Our cornerbacks have been exciting. A.J. Wallace and Knowledge Timmons are seniors, but they've been outshined by freshman Stephon Morris and sophomore D'Anton Lynn. Lynn and Morris have been shutdown corners at times this year. But they have also showed their age. Example: Ohio State's wide open touchdown pass in the third quarter. Overall this has been a group that (unlike last year's secondary) has had few blown coverages and has shut down talented receivers such as Rejus Benn and Eric Decker. I haven't seen enough of LSU to examine your receivers, but it should be an interesting matchup.
Summary: Penn State runs a somewhat basic scheme. In passing situations, we rely on our front four to get pressure. You need to keep Jordan Jefferson upright. Penn State often gives up the intermediate pass (to the bane of our fans), but it often matters little. It will be up to LSU to take lessons from what USC did to us.
Now, some questions for you.
- How would you rate your receivers?
- Is your secondary capable of playing press coverage?
- How good is your defensive line?
I look forward to a tough and exciting game.
Best regards, Merry Christmas, and see you in Florida!