Spring game: Five lessons learned
April, 22, 2013
By Josh Moyer | ESPN.com
Matthew Holst/Getty ImagesQuarterback Steven Bench was impressive in the first quarter of Penn State's spring game.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Welcome to Year 2 of the Bill O'Brien era.
Fans saw the first glimpse of what's in store for the Nittany Lions this season during Saturday's annual Blue-White Game. And while many starters saw limited time and others were held out for precautionary reasons, there were still a few encouraging developments.
1. Quarterbacks still trying to separate themselves
In the spring game, it's usually best to ignore the numbers because of the stripped-down version of the offense that's been implemented. Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson both finished 9-of-15 without any interceptions, but inconsistency plagued the signal callers. In a span of four plays, Ferguson followed up two great passes with a near-pick and then took a sack. Bench opened the first quarter by impressing on-lookers but then was outplayed in the second.
There's obviously potential here. But, at this point in the spring, that's all it is right now. Both have a long way to go before they can approach the efficiency of Matt McGloin's 26 touchdowns-to-five interceptions season. There was a lot of good -- but also quite a bit of bad on Saturday.
2. Changes in secondary
Adrian Amos again flashed his versatility by playing a lot of safety, and the cornerbacks played pretty well. WR-turned-CB Trevor Williams nearly came down with a pick at one point, and he's made a lot of progress in a short period of time. Jordan Lucas, who's practiced with the first team, was also pleased with his performance.
Defensive coordinator John Butler also said Amos will see more of a role at safety this upcoming season. Butler said a few months ago he wanted to keep offenses guessing by changing up a few things during games, and Amos' versatility should make him quite a weapon on the defense.
3. WR/TEs show great potential, depth
Eugene Lewis, the headliner of the 2012 class, didn't take long to make a statement. On Ferguson's first pass, Lewis reeled in a one-handed grab as the crowd took to oohing and aahing. Allen Robinson didn't see much time, and Brandon Moseby-Felder was held out -- in addition to quite a few of the tight ends -- but the backups showed they were more than competent.
Lewis was recruited as the WR of the future, and nothing he did showed otherwise. TE Jesse James, who's given the linebackers fits this spring, might have caught the most eyes with 77 receiving yards. And again, ignoring the stats, he still showed great hands and the ability to get open. At 6-foot-7, he should play a bigger role in the offense this year. These two positions are much different than past years; there's a lot to be excited about here.
4. Nyeem Wartman
His hard-hitting reputation is apparently well-earned. He quickly diagnosed a screen pass and popped the receiver but, ever the perfectionist, Wartman said he was disappointed in the hit. He said he "was licking my chops way too much," and he failed to wrap up the ball-carrier. Granted, the runner still crumpled to the turf -- but Wartman knew that wouldn't always be the case.
With the departure of Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, Wartman's play will be key this year. He's the likely starter, and he played well Saturday. Wartman was able to read the simplified offense well and wasn't really out of position, but opposing teams will definitely try to confuse him in the early-going.
5. Running attack could be interesting
This was basically Akeel Lynch's debut, and he showed he could get to the corner quickly. Teammates have said all spring that he's been a guy to watch out for, and Saturday's performance was pretty commonplace according to those same players.
Zach Zwinak should still be the workhorse this season, but an improved Bill Belton and an added ball-carrier in Lynch will make for an interesting three-headed attack. Belton and Lynch are more agile and can catch out of the backfield, while Zwinak can wear a defense down. And, while it was just a scrimmage, run-on Deron Thompson also flashed some speed -- and, on the surface, at least appears to be an upgrade over Derek Day.
The Early Offer: March 5
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35