Penn State's new offense energizes its linemen

(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
  • Penn State has a new offensive coordinator in Joe Moorhead.
  • His offense is expected to feature a faster tempo and fewer scheme responsibilities.
  • The new offense is drawing raves from PSU's offensive linemen during the spring.

James Franklin has called Penn State's new offense friendlier to its linemen, something those linemen have responded to this spring.

Joe Moorhead is installing a new offense at Penn State. The success of that offense will likely determine the success of the 2016 PSU season.

Midway through their April camp, the Lions appear comfortable with their offensive installation.

"I love this offense," right tackle Andrew Nelson told reporters after practice in State College on Wednesday. "… I think we've already had good success, and we don't even have the entire offense in yet. We're throwing things in that day and having success against our defense. It gives a lot of guys a lot of hope right now."

Penn State will debut its new offense — along with several new quarterbacks — at the Blue-White Game on April 16, and Nelson sounded eager to show off the new toys. Coordinator Joe Moorhead's offense brings a faster tempo and fewer scheme responsibilities for the linemen, who will run plenty of inside zone, according to Franklin.

The changes have energized the linemen, said Nelson, who is "playing at a different level" following a dedicated offseason approach to conditioning and nutrition.

"I think this offense is really good for us," Nelson said. "A lot of guys are making a lot of steps. We're definitely excited about where we are."

Franklin praised the progress of tackles Paris Palmer, Sterling Jenkins and Noah Beh, a redshirt sophomore whom the coach said "looks like a different guy." At center, Brian Gaia has made the conversion from guard smoothly, taking extra time to improve his snapping skills in Penn State's shotgun offense.

"Gaia has looked good at center," Franklin said. "You look at his skill-set, he's an undersized player but an experienced player, a smart guy, a leader and he's willing to make the calls and communicate. He's a guy who will take charge up front."

Quarterbacks keeping pace: Trace McSorley holds an advantage over redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens in the quarterbacks competition based primarily on his experience, Franklin said. However, the two have been relatively even on the field during drills.

"Trace and Tommy's numbers have been competitive in completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio," Franklin said. "Both have movement, which has helped and caused the defense headaches."

Franklin reiterated that a starter might not be decided until training camp.

Linebacker rotations: Franklin said that linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell are not practicing this spring but should be ready for the season. Wartman-White is returning from last season's knee injury; Bell's injury was undisclosed.

In their absences, linebackers Manny Bowen and Jake Cooper, both of whom played as true freshmen, have been quite active with the first-team defense this spring. Franklin called their extra reps "invaluable."

"If you want to look at is as blessing that Nyeem and Bell aren't here, you'd love to have them, but the fact that Cooper and Manny are getting twice the reps that they would, is going to help us in the long run," Franklin said.

Blue-White schedule: Penn State's annual Blue-White spring scrimmage will kick off at 2 p.m. April 16. Admission and parking are free.

Prior to the game, players will be available for autographs from 11:15 a.m-12:05 p.m. Players will be assigned to various gates around Beaver Stadium and will be allowed to sign one item per person.

Other events include a fan festival and family play area at Holuba Hall. Both will be held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

The Big Ten Network will air the Blue-White Game on a tape-delayed basis beginning at 7 p.m. April 16.