With a new coaching staff brings new schemes, and that seems to be the case at Penn State with James Franklin succeeding Bill O’Brien. O’Brien brought a pro-style offense with him from the New England Patriots and while quarterback Christian Hackenberg has said that Franklin’s offense is “pretty similar” to O’Brien’s, Franklin is not afraid to change things up a bit.
Per Penn Live, Franklin said at a speaking engagement in Lancaster, Pa., that he is excited to utilize the wildcat formation in his first season in Happy Valley.
Franklin brought up sophomore wide receiver Geno Lewis and senior running back Bill Belton as two guys who could make an impact running the wildcat. Both Lewis and Belton were high school quarterbacks, so they have experience receiving a snap from center and also pose a threat to pass.
If the wildcat quarterback does not pose a threat to pass, Franklin says it becomes predictable.
In Penn State’s Blue and White Spring Game, Lewis took a pitch on a double reverse and threw a long touchdown pass to Matt Zanellato. Additionally, as a true freshman, Belton had an impact running the wildcat in PSU’s win over Ohio State in 2011, so Franklin knows the versatility of those two can be a boon for his offense.
Aside from Lewis, Penn State does not have much returning experience at wideout, so the wildcat may be a creative way for Franklin to take some of the heat off Hackenberg and get the Nittany Lions’ mostly-inexperienced offensive line blocking downhill.
After the spring game in April, offensive coordinator John Donovan, who came from Vanderbilt with Franklin, said that they had good success with the wildcat at Vandy and said that what was shown with the formation in the spring game was just a taste of how it can be implemented.
With that said, it’d be surprising to see the wildcat be a significant part of Penn State’s offense when a stud pocket passer like Hackenberg, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is running the offense. Even if it’s only ran a handful of times per game, it’s still another threat the defense needs to be prepared for.
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