New Era Begins
Tailgating, warm weather and the Penn State marching band playing could only mean one thing: football is back at Beaver Stadium.
Students and alumni – 72,000 of them – gathered in Happy Valley on April 12 to watch the blue squad beat the white team 37-0 in the annual Blue/White game. The game, which is essentially a publicized practice, marks the end of spring practices as players and coaches move toward the long summer.
The Blue/White game is a great opportunity for the coaches to evaluate players, unknowns a stage to display their talents and also fans to catch a glimpse of how the team is going to operate under new head coach James Franklin.
Offensive Line Depth a Big Problem:
Going into the game it has become very apparent the Nittany Lions have a serious problem on the offensive line. The group allowed a total of nine sacks in a game that featured shorter quarters and an accelerated clock. As it stands, the o-line is currently seven players deep. Five players need to be out on the field, which leaves only two players to back up.
“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.”
Cole Chiappialle, a walk-on from a season ago, displayed that he has real staying power on this year’s Nittany Lion squad. Chiappialle, who played mostly special teams last season, had a break out game, rushing for 63 yards on just nine carries and scored two touchdowns. This makes the running back situation even more interesting as the group already has Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch.
“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.”
It should be interesting to see how much playing time the former standout at Blackhawk High School gets this upcoming season.
With the Blue/White game in the books, the team will turn their attention to summer workouts and practices. It is important to note that with the arrival of James Franklin, also comes the arrival of new schemes both offensively and defensively. Former head coach Bill O’Brien strongly despised the “Wildcat” offense. The “Wildcat” essentially means that the ball is not snapped directly to the quarterback, rather to a running back or receiver. The “Wildcat” has its pros and cons but on a team with a lack of offensive line depth, Penn State will need to be very creative about how they move the ball.
The 2014 Season will begin on the other side of the Atlantic in Ireland against UCF on August 30. Some other notable games for this upcoming season: Michigan in Ann Arbor on October 11, Ohio State in Happy Valley on October 25 and Michigan State also in Happy Valley on November 29.
Coach Franklin currently has the #1 ranked recruiting class for the 2015 season so he is certainly making his mark on the program. James Franklin said he wants to dominate the state; it appears he’s begun that process.
Lion’s Eye Writer, VAP5077@psu.edu