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Penn State Football: Coaching Staff Added Offseason Running Game Wrinkles To Spice Up Attack

by on October 17, 2019 2:02 PM

The one downside to running the ball a lot, or at least having many different running backs, is finding ways to use them as it pertains to a diverse running game.

What do you do when everyone knows you’re going to run the ball? When the opponent knows you’re going to run, the fans know, everyone knows what’s coming next.

You diversify.

“We were pretty much an inside zone team,” James Franklin said earlier this week. “That's what we were. We had variations of the inside zone, and it really wasn't last year, it's really been the last two years.. I just felt like we needed more diversity in our running game. We had the inside zone and then we had the tackle wrap schemes that we did.”

So over the offseason the Nittany Lion coaching staff scouted and schemed a few answers to this problem of largely one-dimensional running. What ways could they go about running the ball without doing the same sorts of things over and over again?

The answer is small wrinkles and changes, but important ones for spicing up the flavors in the running game.

“I think some of the stuff that we're doing now, some of the counter we're doing with the guard, pulling in the tight end, pulling, as well, and wrapping and leading through, a lot of that stuff showed up in our four-minute offense at the end of the game,” Franklin added.

“So now not only do we have a little bit more diversity in normal downs throughout the entire game, but also when you get into some of those situations where you want to be able to run it, at times where everybody in the stadium knows you're going to run it, and have the ability to do that. I think that's the first time we've done that against that type of opponent in my six years since I've been here. I think that is a critical, critical moment in our six years on the offensive side of the football.”

Heading into a pivotal weekend against Michigan it will be a marquee test for the newly upgraded running playbook, the Wolverines are 39th in the nation allowing just 122 yards on the ground per game. This goes with an overall defense allowing just 15 points a contest.

The good news for Penn State, a quartet of running backs along with quarterback Sean Clifford have been gaining yards on the ground at a decent clip. Penn State averages 4.76 yards a carry, 50th best in the nation at a mark of 191 yards overall on the ground, 43rd in the country.

It’s not an elite figure, but an offense could do worse than getting nearly five yards a carry. The challenge on Saturday a simple one to say, a harder one to execute: Get Penn State’s backs into the best positions to gain those 4.76 yards a carry.

Because nobody, especially offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne, wants to face another late-game 4th-and-5.

“Ricky did a really good job of having answers,” Franklin concluded. “We're able to look at [Iowa’s] front, we're able to make a call, depending on what pressure they're bringing or what front they're showing. We got what we consider our best call into that look.”

Now the Nittany Lions just have to do that for a few more week.


Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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