Friday, October 12, 2012

My Penn State Mid-Season Report Card

   Wow, so we are already midway through the college football season! Seems like yesterday all of us were impatiently waiting for the official kickoff to happen! Recently(actually just before the season started) I wrote a blog predicting the Penn State games for this year, their outcomes, and final results So I predicted Penn State to start out 6-0 heading into their bye week and after an 0-2 start it looked like I was going to be off by quite a bit, but by how much, I didn't know. I would have thought 2-4 at best to be honest after their opening game loss to Ohio after being up 14-3 and heartbreaking loss to Virginia where PK Sam Ficken's poor performance ultimately cost PSU the game(Sorry Sam). Penn State however still had somethings going for them. Matt McGloin was noticeably more productive and comfortable in the pocket. The running game was actually exceeding expectations after losing starter Silas Redd, and Penn State has found a great receiver in Alan Robinson. Perhaps what was most noticeable was the implication of Bill O'Briens use of Tight Ends that he brought over from the New England Patriots system. Despite the 0-2 start, Penn State came roaring back, winning the next 4, and each game they looked more impressive than the last.  So lets take a look at the coaching and players and from there we will be able to grade their performances.

      Matt McGloin- To begin, I thought McGloin was going to be the starting QB regardless if Rob Bolden stayed. Nevertheless, McGloin has greatly impressed many and bodes well with Bill O'Brien's offensive system. In just 6 games, he's already amassed 1,499 passing yards (72 shy of his career best) and has thrown for 12 TD's and has only been picked off 2 times. That's a 6 to 1 ratio! I could go on and on with how impressed I am by Matt McGloin and the improvement of his game that it would almost be as long as war & peace. But I want to end it on a note that McGloin has stepped up even when things were looking down. He is the leader for the team.

Mid-Season Grade- Matt McGloin    A+

Penn State Backfield- Lets face it, losing Silas Redd was probably the biggest blow Penn State suffered this off-season due to the sanctions. It was going to be pretty hard to find a replacement back(s) that would be able to gain 1,500+ yds. on the ground. Having said that, Penn State is using every bit of the teams depth chart to utilize their running game, and boy is it doing wonders. After injuries(minor) to Bill Belton and Derek Day, running game was in serious jeopardy as the experience on the depth chart at tailback was very green, Penn State was able to step up and still deliver an impressive running attack in backs Michael Zordich and Zach Zwinak. As a matter of fact, has had back to back 100+ yd rushing games, and a game prior to that he put up 94 rushing yds. Penn State now has plenty of options in their run game thanks to these injuries that ended up being blessings in disguise.

  Mid-Season Grade- A

 Penn State Receiving- Even before heading into the season, Penn State had no legitimate receiving game even without the sanctions. No one knew though that the Nittany Lions would have an emerging wide out in Alan Robinson. Robinson has become McGloin's favorite target as evident of his stats, 7 TD's and over 500 receiving yards. As mentioned in the opening of this blog, the use of the Tight End system that has been brought over from Bill O'Brien that he had used during his days with the New England Patriots, has proven effective! Penn State rotates; Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman, Jesse James, & Garry Gilliam, and do so in more ways than one. Not only are the Tight Ends effective in the receiving, they also are able to create mismatches and provide great blocking for both the running and passing game.

 Mid-Season Grade- A

  Penn State Offensive Line- Sometimes it's hard to rate Offensive Lineman because they don't really get don't have statistics like other Offensive players and Defensive players as well, though they(Offensive Lineman) have a stat called "Pancakes". Nevertheless, Penn State's O-Line has done a rather respectable job. They are able to open up holes for the running game and do provide good protection for McGloin but do have a tendency to allow the pocket collapse which results in McGloin getting sacked or the ball carrier being tackled from behind the line of scrimmage. All in all, I think Penn State's Offensive Line has done better than expected.

Mid-Season Grade- B

 Penn State Defense- As usual Penn State's Defense is its best component. Led by Seniors Jordan Hill & Mike Mauti, the Nittany Lions have registered 15 sacks, 4 of which has come from Freshman Deion Barnes, who ranks ranks 4th in the entire Big Ten Conference in sacks! Mike Mauti has been Big Ten Defensive Player of the week twice, one of those coming from his performance against Illinois in which he had a interception return for 99 yards(unfortunately he was tackled one yard short from the endzone) The secondary has also impressed with the likes of Stephen Morris, Adrian Amos, and Malcolm Willis, despite concern for lack of depth in those positions prior to the season. This isn't the best defense that Penn State has ever had, but by no means that this defensive unit is incapable of holding its own!

Mid-Season Grade A-

Special Teams- This needs no explanation. Penn State's special teams, more particularly their PK Sam Fickens. As mentioned in the beginning Fickens missed four field goals and an extra point in just one game alone, which essentially cost us that game.(Sorry again Sam) If Fickens doesn't improve, Penn State will continue to have problems until it either fixes Fickens problems or finds a new kicker altogether.

Mid-Season Grade- F

Bill O'Brien and the Coaching Staff- We didn't know what to expect with all of the shakeup that happened in the the coaching staff due to the the outfall with the Jerry Sandusky situation.Whatever expectations Bill O'Brien may or may have not had, He is definitely excelling and leading this young inexperienced, yet talented group of players into a positive direction and has also dealt a great relationship with the players. Add that to the rest of the coaching staff that has allowed Penn State to maintain a winning team despite the adversity they faced, you have a great system all around.

Mid-Season Grade- A

    Keep in mind I am graded on a scale pertaining to Penn State's own performance, and not necessarily to other teams or saying they would have the same results against powerhouse teams like USC, Florida, Alabama, etc. A 4-2 start is great, and I have Penn State finishing 8-4. Hopefully they can surpass that mark as they continue to move forward.

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