Penn State debuts the Bill O'Brien era on Saturday in State College as the Nittany Lions hold their annual spring game at 2 p.m. ET at Beaver Stadium.
The game will be streamed on BTN2Go and the Big Ten Digital Network, with the Big Ten Network re-broadcasting the game on tape delay at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.
O'Brien wants his players on both sides of the ball to play fast, especially those on offense. Just think Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and that's the up-tempo pace he wants his offense to carry out throughout each contest. More than anything, increasing the tempo has been at the heart of Penn State's spring practice season. Expect a lot of mistakes in Saturday's Blue-White scrimmage, but the former Patriots offensive coordinator could live with them as long as the Nittany Lions play fast, which the players have responded to after an initial major adjustment period.
The quarterback derby
Incumbent Matt McGloin will try to hold off Rob Bolden and Paul Jones for the starting QB gig in Happy Valley.
Who will be running the team's up-tempo and sometimes no-huddle scheme? Incumbent fifth-year senior Matt McGloin will try to once again hold off junior Rob Bolden and redshirt sophomore Paul Jones for the starting job. O'Brien's hiring will eventually pay dividends for the Penn State offense, which is a great thing considering how subpar the unit has been the last few seasons. But how much can the offense really improve this season after uneven play from McGloin and Bolden throughout their careers? They may have playing experience from the past two seasons, but the results haven't been great. With a new system in place, all of the QBs have been on a level playing field. That's why the 6-3, 245-pound Jones could be an intriguing option, especially with a new staff in town. Jones arguably has the most talent, but he needs to stay out of academic trouble to have a legit shot at the job — and that's something that he has struggled with since arriving in State College. But in terms of passing ability, Jones possesses a greater ability to move the football than his competition. O'Brien is looking for as many playmakers as possible to execute in space, and senior receiver Justin Brown has impressed as he looks to make a name for himself with Derek Moye no longer in State College.
A healthy dose of Redd
Junior Silas Redd, who ran for more than 1,200 yards last season, will receive a large dose of carries throughout the fall as PSU works through its issues on offense. Quarterback development will be crucial with the new scheme no matter who is the starter, so Redd's workload could increase with the team looking for any way to move the football. With the exception of maybe Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead, he could be the most important running back in the Big Ten. And he should excel in this new zone-blocking scheme, which will allow him to be more creative with the football. When Redd needs a breather, former top Class of 2010 fullback recruit Zach Zwinak could get reps at tailback. The redshirt sophomore has impressed while expected backup Curtis Dukes has sat out the spring to concentrate on academics.
Big Ten defensive player of the year Devon Still is gone, so Jordan Hill will be asked to step up and assume a greater role on this unit, as I mentioned on Thursday at the NFP. The secondary is a concern because it's thinner than it's been in a long time, so new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who arrives after a rough patch at Auburn, will be looking for difference-makers to step up in the defensive backfield. Overall, keep an eye on how all of the Nittany Lion defenders play in Roof's system.
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