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Penn State Football: If Nothing Else The Nittany Lions Seem Destined To Be Entertaining In 2016

by on March 24, 2016 1:00 PM

Trace McSorley tucked the ball away and ran between the tackles for a short gain. When the whistle blew he and the entire offense ran to the line, a few seconds later the ball was snapped and this time McSorley handed it off for a short gain up the right side of the field.

Both plays successful, and both executed quickly. 

In total it took just 32.5 seconds to go from the first snap to the end of the second play. That included getting a call signaled in, reading the defense and executing the play. All in just a few more seconds than a basketball shot clock.

If there was anything to take from Penn State first open practice session of 2016 spring ball, it's that new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead wasn't kidding when he said things are going to be fast. Practice speed is one thing, but if the Nittany Lions are bringing back the ghost of Bill O'Brien's "NASCAR" offense then if nothing else it's going to be fun to watch.

"I knew it was fast, but I didn't know it was this fast," receiver DaeSean Hamilton said. "They always make practice harder than the games end up being, but getting adjusted to the speed, I guess, is the thing that surprised me the most."

“We’re doing tempo the other day, and you guys see we very rarely run after practice,” said head coach James Franklin. “And because of our tempo, we’re getting unbelievable conditioning. And the other day in the middle of a series, (defensive tackle) Robert Windsor threw up all over the place. I saw all the offensive guys’ eyes light up like, ‘Exactly. We got you now.’ ”

Of course there are pitfalls to speed. As Chip Kelly found out in Philadelphia speed can simply mean going three-and-out even quicker.

In fact Penn State faced 72 plays measuring at 2nd-and-10 last season, that's at least 5.5 downs a game off schedule. That doesn't include multiple first-and-10+ and second downs coming after 2-3 yard gains. With a third down conversion rate of just 28-percent, nothing was coming easy for Penn State's offense in 2015.

So you can speed things up, but that doesn't mean you're moving the ball.

"You don’t want to go three-and-out whether you’re running a traditional offense or an uptempo offense," Franklin said after practice. "Three-and-outs are always one of the most disgusting things ever."

"It's magnified. When you do it in less time and you put your defense right back out there on the field. So it really just comes down to being efficient...if you are struggling in those ways, which will not, you have to be willing to make adjustments. You can't just keep putting your defense out there on the field in quick three-and-out situations."

But if Franklin has an ace up his sleeve to fix a stagnant offense it might just be a new-look offense. Receivers spread across the field, a mobile quarterback ready to run at a moment's notice. Defenses won't be able to load the box and win the numbers game anymore, Penn State can start to do what it wants to do. In its own way it's making things simple for the offense while making things harder on the defense.

Funny how that works.

Why it took this long for those things to happen is a conversation for another day, but it's needless to say changes are coming, for better or for worse.

And if nothing else, if the Nittany Lions are still going to be on the losing side of things in 2016, it doesn't look like it'll be boring to watch. 

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