Central | Stadium Bag Advisory | Spring Practice Coverage
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Bill O'Brien and the Nittany Lion football squad will wrap up spring drills on Saturday afternoon (Noon on BTN) at the annual Blue-White Game inside Beaver Stadium, marking the culmination of a productive spring practice season.
The Nittany Lions made good progress on both sides of the ball and on special teams during spring drills. Saturday marks one final opportunity for the coaching staff to evaluate the team before the start of training camp in August.
The 2013 Blue-White Game will have again have a unique look with an intriguing scoring system that rewards a variety of plays on both sides of the ball. Coach O'Brien will be calling the offensive plays, while new defensive coordinator John Butler will call the shots for the defense.
Football is back in the stadium. Welcome to Blue-White Gameday.
What to Watch For:
Fans will again see the unique scoring system used in 2012 to determine a winner at the Blue-White Game. As has been the case throughout spring practice, the defense will wear blue jerseys, the offense will wear white and the quarterbacks will be in red. Red jerseys designate no contact during the game.
While standard scoring for touchdowns, field goals and PATs will remain the same, each unit will accumulate points for certain things. Here is a breakdown of the scoring.
Touchdown = 6 pts
Field Goal = 3 pts
Big play (15+ yard play) = 2 pts
Two Consecutive First Downs = 2 pts
PAT = 1 pt
Touchdown = 7 pts
Turnover (Unless TD) = 6 pts
Sack = 4 pts
Tackle for loss = 2 pts
Three-and-Out = 1 pt
A Look at the Offense
Penn State fans will get their first look at the 2013 version of the Nittany Lion offense on Saturday afternoon. Coach O'Brien will handle all of the playcalling duties during the Blue-White Game for the white squad. As has been the case throughout spring practice, sophomores Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson will split reps at the quarterback position. Both players have progressed throughout the spring, and both have exhibited the ability to make plays for the offense.
Leading the corps of running backs is junior Zach Zwinak, who finished with 1,00 yards in 2012. Bill Belton (toe) has missed some time this spring, but has put together a superb offseason. Newcomer Akeel Lynch, who redshirted last season is poised to play a significant role in the running game.
Big Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson headlines a talented group of wide outs. Robinson has practiced at a very high level this spring. Junior Alex Kenney and sophomore Matt Zanellato, along with talented freshman Eugene Lewis, are receivers to keep an eye on at the Blue-White Game.
The pool of talent at the tight end position will make it one of Penn State's strongest units in 2013. All-Big Ten honoree Kyle Carter (limited to no contact during spring drills), senior Matt Lehman, sophomore Jesse James, redshirt freshman Brent Wilkerson and newcomer Adam Breneman will all play a central role in Penn State's offense.
In the trenches, All-Big Ten guard John Urschel will anchor the first unit. Senior Ty Howle has been superb at the center position during the spring. Junior Miles Dieffenbach returns at left guard, while senior Adam Gress, sophomore Donovan Smith and senior Eric Shrive are among the rotation at the tackle positions. Sophomore Angelo Mangiro will likely see time at guard, along with snaps at center.
Overall, Coach O'Brien indicated earlier this week that the play calling will be relatively simple at the Blue-White Game. Do not expect a full glimpse of the expanded playbook, but Penn State will be looking to have some fun on offense, and Coach O'Brien wants to see the group play with good tempo.
A Look at the Defense
Defensive coordinator John Butler wants his defensive unit to play with aggressiveness. Spring practice has featured blitzing from a wide variety of places on defense. The players love the aggressive approach to the defensive scheme. Additionally, the Nittany Lions will again show multiple looks pre-snap before moving into the defensive call for each play.
Anticipate seeing a wide range of talent line up along the defensive line on Saturday. DaQuan Jones is the most experienced interior defensive lineman. Jones has been limited this spring (back), but will play a central role in the Nittany Lion defense in the fall. Newcomer Austin Johnson has impressed the coaching staff during spring drills at the other tackle position. Additionally, junior Kyle Baublitz, senior Nate Cadogan and redshirt freshman Brian Gaia are players to keep an eye on in the middle. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes headlines the returning players at defensive end. Junior C.J. Olaniyan has taken a big step forward during spring practice at the other defensive end spot. Also, look for junior Brad Bars and Anthony Zettel line up in the rotation.
At linebacker, senior Glenn Carson is the leader of the starting trio. Junior Mike Hull has played at a high level throughout spring practice. Hull is poised for a strong fall season for the Nittany Lions. Redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman is the third linebacker in the starting rotation for the defense. Wartman has improved each time he has stepped onto the field.
In the secondary, Penn State has been able to experiment with more things due to increased depth this spring. Key returnees include Adrian Amos, Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. Junior Ryan Keiser has put together a very strong spring at safety. Sophomores Da'Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas, along with Trevor Williams, who moved from receiver to cornerback prior to spring drills, have all played well at corner this spring. Penn State's depth at all four spots in the defensive backfield will enable the Lions to play with nickel and dime coverage packages in the fall. Keep an eye on that for Saturday.
With the scoring system in place, the Blue team will be looking to get into the backfield often on Saturday. Sacks and tackles for a loss will be rewarded for four points and two points, respectively. Aggressive play on defense often leads to turnover opportunities, as well. On Saturday, fumbles and interceptions will be six points for the defense. Keep that in mind.
Numbers to Watch For
Below is a list of players who are either new to significant playing time or veterans who have really stood out during the spring practice season.
Read our New Faces to Watch Feature at the Blue-White Game Here
#4 Adrian Amos - Amos got stronger and faster during the offseason. A versatile player, the junior can play all four positions in the secondary and will be one of Penn State's top defensive players.
#8 Allen Robinson - The Big Ten Receiver of the Year took a significant step forward in the offseason, and he has been outstanding during spring practice. Robinson worked to improve his route running in the offseason.
#18 Deion Barnes - Barnes set out to become a better run stopper during the offseason. The long, athletic defensive end has made plays for the defense throughout spring practice.
#21 Trevor Williams - After playing receiver in 2012, Williams appears to have found a home at cornerback this spring. Williams has improved each day, and he has become a consistent player for the Nittany Lion defense.
#23 Ryan Keiser - Among the most improved players during spring practice, Keiser has given the secondary a big boost during spring practice.
#43 Mike Hull - Simply put, Hull has been one of Penn State's top players during spring practice. Always around the football, the junior looks poised for a breakout season at linebacker.
#60 Ty Howle - Howle has waited for the opportunity to anchor the Nittany Lion offensive line, and he will do so with John Urschel in 2013. The senior is a physical player with a high football IQ.
#80 Matt Zanellato - Zanellato took big steps in becoming a more consistent player during the offseason, and he has provided crisp route running and a reliable pair of hands throughout spring practice.
#86 C.J. Olaniyan - Like Keiser and Zanellato, Olaniyan is among the most improved players for the Nittany Lions. A physical player with good quickness, the junior has been a consistent player on the defensive line this spring.
#97 Sam Ficken - After making his last 10 field goal attempts to end 2012, Ficken got stronger and changed his step procedure (2 1/2 to 2) during the offseason. It has led to a consistent spring for the junior kicker.
It has been competitive all spring long between the offense and the defense. Saturday's game will pit the two units against one another, and it will be very fun to watch. The scoring system will again make things very interesting to track and follow.
The game will start at noon with a few reps for the special teams units before the offense and defense take the field. The carnival and entertainment stage will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, as well.
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