Penn State's Drew Allar says he's comfortable with new offense, coordinator

Apr. 3—It's only been three weeks since Penn State began on-field work with a new offensive scheme, but quarterback Drew Allar already likes what he sees from new coordinator Andy Kotelnicki.

"I feel really comfortable," Allar said Wednesday. "We're getting to the same plays all spring but through different formations, shifts and motions."

Nittany Lions coach James Franklin hired Kotelnicki, the former Kansas offensive coordinator, one month after firing Mike Yurcich the day after a 24-15 loss to eventual national champion Michigan.

Kotelnicki had success with the Jayhawks and before that with Buffalo and built a reputation for being innovative through the different looks his offenses presented.

Franklin hired him to help make Penn State more explosive than it was last year when the Lions ranked just 64th nationally with 5.6 yards per play. Kansas, on the other hand, was sixth with 7.16 yards per play.

"The biggest thing we talk about is creating stress and applying pressure to the defense, whether that be pre-snap or post-snap," Allar said. "We have a lot of shifts and motions, which really makes it hard on the defense because they have to communicate everything.

"It might be a simple shift or motion for us, but then they have to communicate. It puts a lot of stress on the defense."

Last year, in his first season as Penn State's starter, Allar completed 59.9% of his passes for 2,631 yards and 25 touchdowns with just two interceptions. But he completed less than half of his passes in the Lions' three losses against Ohio State, Michigan and Ole Miss.

The wide receivers struggled miserably. KeAndre Lambert-Smith led Penn State with 53 receptions for 673 yards and four touchdowns, but he had just two catches in the last four games. He was the only wide receiver to catch more than 22 passes.

"Obviously he has a lot of talent," Allar said. "The more ways we can get the ball to him on the perimeter and allow him to showcase his skills, the better it will be for our offense. He'll make things happen out of nothing.

"He's just been very consistent all spring. His leadership has definitely stepped up. He's being more of a vocal leader and a lead-by-example guy to the younger receivers."

Franklin brought in former Southern Columbia star Julian Fleming, who transferred from Ohio State, to provide skill and leadership among the wide receivers.

Fleming endured several injuries in four seasons with the Buckeyes, but he recorded 60 catches for 803 yards and six touchdowns the last two years.

"He's just going to go out and be consistent," Allar said, "do his job, do whatever the coaches ask him to do no matter if it involves him in the pass game or he's blocking on the perimeter for screens or the running backs.

"He brings a toughness to that room that I think is really good. Julian is a very pro-like guy."

Fleming was available for interviews for the first time Tuesday night after practice. He also likes working with Kotelnicki and what he sees from Penn State's offense.

"It's been awesome," Fleming said. "He's a great guy. He's a great coach. He expects a lot from us. The offense has obviously changed a little bit, but I think we're growing and learning. I think it's going to be really great for us this season."

Fleming and Allar already have formed a bond, picking each other's brain and getting in extra work after practice.

"I love being around him," Allar said. "He's a great guy."

Allar is in better physical shape after changing his eating habits and losing several pounds.

"That's really helped me movement-wise," he said. "I've been doing a bunch of mobility work with our trainers and extra work in the training room. That's helped me a lot just being more fluid in my movement."

According to Franklin and others, the offense has given the defense trouble in spring practice leading up to the Blue-White Game set for April 13 at Beaver Stadium.

"I like the offense," safety Zakee Wheatley said. "I've seen a lot of explosive plays. I love Coach K's energy. I love the receivers' energy. Everyone is looking good right now.

"Disguises and motions are keeping the defense on our toes. Having people moving can always mess up a defense. I can't wait to see what they do against a real opponent because I think they're going to be explosive."