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Penn State Football: O'Brien in Search of Offense's Identity

by on August 16, 2012 1:00 PM

Penn State opens its season in two weeks against Ohio at Beaver Stadium.

Anybody want to guess what the Nittany Lions offense will look like?

“I think we’re working on the identity of what the offense will be,” first-year coach Bill O’Brien said Thursday on a mid-training camp conference call. “Hopefully we’ll have a better grasp on that over the next week.”

His starters seem set. Matt McGloin is the quarterback. Bill Belton quickly cemented himself as the No. 1 tailback once Silas Redd transferred to Southern Cal. Allen Robinson has stood out in training camp among a wide receiver rotation that could include as many as seven players.

The offensive line is dealing with a minor setback thanks to Donovan Smith’s nagging hamstring pull. O’Brien is hopeful his big left tackle will return to practice within the next day or so.

O’Brien’s plan was to set his pawns on the chess board as early as possible to maximize reps with his starters and deliver Penn State fans from a repeat of a dreadful offensive show like last season, when the Nits averaged 19.3 points per game, 110th out of 120 Bowl Subdivision teams.

Halfway through camp, 16 days from the season opener, O’Brien is still looking for the strength of the offense.

“Any good offensive team has to be able to run the football when it absolutely has to gain yards,” O’Brien said. “We gotta be really good in situational terms, third down, red area, two minute, we’ve done a lot of work on that. “Halfway through camp here, it’s been pretty decent.  It hasn’t all been pretty.”


O’Brien said he will sit down with the freshman class in the next week or so and discuss the prospect of redshirting. A final decision, per usual, likely won't be made until the third or fourth game, however.

Several true freshmen have made an early impression on O’Brien, including defensive backs Da’Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas, tight end Brent Wilkerson and running back Akeel Lynch.

“If you’re going to play a freshman, you need to really play them,” O’Brien said, “so you don’t come out at the end of the year with a freshman only playing 10 plays and burning his redshirt year.”

Competition at Punter

Anthony Fera’s departure to Texas left two special teams positions open entering training camp.

Sam Ficken seems to have the placekicking job on lockdown, with O’Brien saying he has decent range on kickoffs and field goals.

Punting, on the other hand, looks to be a two-horse race between Alex Butterworth and Matt Marcincin heading into September.

“Alex shows flashes, Marcincin shows flashes and then the next punt is not very good,” O’Brien said. “They really have to be a lot more consistent. That’s an ongoing battle there.”

Other notes:

O’Brien said sophomore Adrian Amos, one of the team’s best young players, continues to see work at cornerback and safety.

No position changes have been made to help alleviate depth concerns in the secondary.

O’Brien outlined his practice schedule, which follows:

Sunday — off day

Monday — implement game plan

Tuesday-Wednesday — tougher practice

Thursday – lighter practice

Friday — walk-through and head to hotel for overnight stay.

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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