O’Briens Lions can now focus on football
Pre-season practice is finally here, and Coach Bill O’Brien and the Nittany Lion football players can finally focus their attention on the field.
There will still be off field issues to confront, for sure, but at least the players can think mostly about learning the new offensive and defensive systems, competing for playing time, and upcoming opponents.
So, how will the defections of some key players impact the team?
It’s hard to say the loss of star running back Silas Redd won’t hurt. Bill Belton would have been a perfect change of pace guy while he learned the position–he was a high school QB and wide receiver last year. Now, he’s the guy at tailback.
That puts more pressure on the passing game, hit by the loss of top receiver Curtis Drake. Which means other guys have to step up, O’Brien’s tight end emphasis needs to pay off (the loss of Kevin Haplea hurts here), and Matt McGloin needs to be precise in the short passing game to move the sticks.
All of which are possible. If the offensive line is decent, an open question but also a good possibility, then the running game should be enough of a threat to help take some heat off McGloin. The New England Patriots under O’Brien’s offense were good at matriculating the ball down the field, to quote the late Hank Stram, and in my view, that’s never a bad offensive philosophy.
If you can grind out two or three long, time consuming touchdown drives, that keeps the ball out of the other guys hands. Penn State used to do that with the running game. Now, they’ll need to do it with the short, controlled passing game.
More on the defense and special teams (hurt by the loss of Anthony Fera) later.