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Penn State Football: 'Saving Things' As Season Goes Along

by on October 18, 2019 3:25 PM

Wrinkles, something you haven't seen before that can make the difference in the game. Sometimes it's a formation, sometimes it's a play and sometimes it's just who is on the field during a certain situation.

For Penn State, it finds play calling diversity not so much in the formations that it's using but what it is doing out of those formations.

In an early example Penn State ran three-wide receivers against Idaho with its starters and when the tight end was essentially in the backfield Penn State ran the ball all six times. When the tight end was close to the line of scrimmage it was a 50/50 split between run and pass.

Similarly, when Penn State ran a formation that featured a receiver close to the offensive line as the only receiver on that side of the field, Penn State passed it all three times and each time to that single receiver.

In a single set to the left side of the quarterback Penn State threw the ball nine times while running it all five times when the tight end was essentially in the backfield to block.

As the season has gone along those tendencies have changed. Penn State has also added two tight-end sets among other looks, but by in large the changes have not been what Penn State's offense looks like but rather what it's running out of those formations. That is diversifying more than the initial setup.

In short, Week 1 doesn't look like Week 7.

"For us, lot of people are multiple personnel, multiple formations. We're not," James Franklin said after practice on Wednesday. "Part of that is so we can go fast, but the other part of that is that it allows you to be very comfortable in knowing what to call and how they're going to play defensively because you're in base formations all the time and you get a really good feel for how they're going to play that."

"Where motions a lot of times affects how we're going to block, if the offensive line thinks they're going to double-teaming a linebacker and then you go in motion and they bump their linebackers it changes the picture. Same thing in protections. There is good and bad that comes with motion and multiple formations. For us we try and keep it base looks and base formations."

So what will Penn State add to the mix against Michigan? That remains to be seen, but Franklin is quick to note that something has been saved up the Nittany Lions' sleeve this offseason. You don't show everything the first six weeks, even if the basic packages look largely the same.

You might recall Penn State's second play from scrimmage against Michigan two years ago, a wrinkle as Saquon Barkley took the snap 69-yards to the end zone.

Not every wrinkle is that impactful, but sometimes one wrinkle can be the difference between a first down and a punt, and sometimes a first down can be the difference between a win and a loss.

"What we try and do throughout the year we take some time in the offseason and say okay we're going to use this for this game, or use this for this game. Very similar to a few years back we hadn't shown the running back wildcat formation when we shifted at the last second, things like that. We try and sprinkle in a few things like that each week," Franklin added.

Only 30 some hours before the next wrinkle shows up.

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