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The 50-Yard Lion



Football news, rumors and commentary written by Penn State fans



Last Build Date: Sat, 24 Sep 2016 16:21:46 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2016
 



Chat Penn State-Nebraska football at 8 p.m. with PSU bloggers and fans

Thu, 08 Nov 2012 20:00:23 UTC

2012-11-08T20:07:28Z

The 50-Yard Lion bloggers are talking Penn State-Nebraska tonight at 8 p.m. Join Tim Johnson and your fellow Nittany Nation members then to get your football fix.

(image) Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin leaves the field during the 2011 contest against Nebraska. JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-News, 2011

The 50-Yard Lion bloggers are talking Penn State-Nebraska tonight at 8 p.m. Join Tim Johnson, Zach Fegely and your fellow Nittany Nation members then to get your football fix.

What awaits the Nittany Lions in Lincoln? Can Penn State's defense contain Taylor Martinez? Is Matt McGloin the Big Ten's best passer? Is this the most exciting PSU team in recent memory?

We'll have answers about these topics and more at 8 p.m.

Come back in time for the chat or send an email reminder using the option below.

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Does Penn State stand a chance against heavy favorite Michigan?: 50-Yard Lion Roundtable

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 17:00:58 UTC

2016-09-24T16:21:46Z

Although plenty of bad breaks went against Penn State, the Nittany Lions did manage to defeat a clearly inferior Temple side at Beaver Stadium last weekend. It wasn't without cost, however—the injury count, particularly on defense, seems to be at an all-time high; depth has been tested at virtually every position aside from kicker, punter and quarterback. The makeshift... Although plenty of bad breaks went against Penn State, the Nittany Lions did manage to defeat a clearly inferior Temple side at Beaver Stadium last weekend. It wasn't without cost, however--the injury count, particularly on defense, seems to be at an all-time high; depth has been tested at virtually every position aside from kicker, punter and quarterback. The makeshift defensive unit has performed well since yielding a flurry of first-half points to Pitt, but now a different type of test looms; Penn State must gather itself and travel to Ann Arbor for its B1G opener against fourth-ranked Michigan. The Wolverines looked modestly vulnerable in falling a couple scores behind Colorado last weekend, but rebounded nicely and have outscored their three opponents 159-45 this year. This Michigan team is light years beyond Kent State, Pitt and Temple in terms of skill, and the atmosphere at the Big House will be the most hostile Penn State has seen in some time.  Does Penn State stand a chance against the Wolverines this weekend? What are your predictions? Bill Engel: Of course the Lions have a chance just like North Dakota State had a chance last week against Iowa. This is College Football--anything can happen and we have Saquon Barkley. Our offense should be able to score 24 points while our defense is likely to give up 42 (mostly on jet sweeps).  So what can swing a 18 point advantage the Lion's direction? How about a special teams TD to get us to 31 points and then a pick 6 after a long Michigan drive that results in a 14 point swing?  That makes it 38-35 good guys. Hey, it could happen....but probably not this year.  The injuries, turnovers and special team mistakes will make it a little worse than the 19-point line.  I will go 44-21 bad guys.  Lauren Shipper: There's always a chance (just ask North Dakota State). We have the potential to come out on top if everything clicks for us and Michigan has a bad day, but I'm really not expecting Penn State to win this one as much as I would like to see that happen. I'm predicting that we'll get a couple shots in here and there with some big plays and maybe give the Wolverines a scare, but ultimately it won't be a close game as the clock winds down in the fourth quarter. Please, PSU, prove me wrong! Carole Kirkpatrick: In a word, NO.  Penn State will be in a hostile environment at the Big House against a team with arguably one of the best defenses in the country. LB and do-it-all return man Jabrill Peppers is just too much to handle. The defense has returned two interceptions for TDs.  Special teams players have scored two TDs off of punts and have blocked or disrupted kicks. Michigan got off to slow start against a quality opponent in their game against Colorado. To stay in this game, Penn State will have to score often and quickly. Trace McSorley will have to be perfect-no interceptions or fumbles. I hope he and Brian Gaia have worked on their exchange. The young QB has lots of weapons and I think our talent on offense can be more explosive than Michigan's.   Penn State will need Saquon Barkley to have a BIG GAME at the BIG HOUSE.  If he can run, the Michigan defense will have to account for him and McSorley.  That would open up the passing game which has been fun to watch with Godwin, Gesicki, Thompkins and Hamilton all hauling in some great catches. Penn State has found a return game in Sanders, Scott and Polk--it would be a great time for one of them to break one open.  Penn State will need all of its firepower to over[...]


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Would you rather have James Franklin or Jim Harbaugh as Penn State's head coach?: 50-Yard Lion roundtable

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 17:00:13 UTC

2016-09-22T22:51:57Z

In just his second season at the helm Jim Harbaugh has Michigan's program flying high at #4 in the country, while James Franklin's third year at Penn State has the look of another small step in the Nittany Lions' drawn-out rebuild. Admittedly, the two situations are quite different as Harbaugh inherited plenty of talent to work with while Franklin... In just his second season at the helm Jim Harbaugh has Michigan's program flying high at #4 in the country, while James Franklin's third year at Penn State has the look of another small step in the Nittany Lions' drawn-out rebuild. Admittedly, the two situations are quite different as Harbaugh inherited plenty of talent to work with while Franklin continues to build from scratch. Harbaugh's success and diligence on the recruiting trail have been undeniable, and there are few that would regard Franklin as a better overall football coach than Harbaugh at this exact moment in time. Still, having Harbaugh at the helm comes with a grain of salt. He often uses extreme and arguably creepy measures to attract recruits (inviting himself to sleep over with an already-committed kicking recruit would be one such example). Further, his personality could be politely described as "abrasive," and he's already made plenty of enemies in his short time in Ann Arbor--after leaving plenty of burning bridges behind him in the Bay Area and beyond. By comparison, Franklin's professionalism on the recruiting trail and publicly friendly persona make him look like a model citizen. Who would you rather have as head coach at Penn State--Jim Harbaugh or James Franklin? Why? Carole Kirkpatrick: I am sticking with King James.  Franklin has proven to be a steady leader, great recruiter, and a likable face for the Nittany Lions. He appears to genuinely love State College and is supportive of the greater university. He gets along well with AD Sandy Barbour which is huge.  At a time when Penn State football is still working in the shadow of the scandal that almost cost the university its football program, it can ill afford any public relations missteps.   One surprise about Franklin for me was his willingness to do whatever it takes to be successful. He was willing to fire his friend and offensive coordinator John Donovan, and that takes leadership.  I also like what I am seeing from newly installed replacement Joe Moorhead. Jim Harbaugh sounds off about anything and everything. This week it was over the 1% milk that they serve at the Ohio State training table. So what! I say long live King James. Lauren Shipper: Considering James Franklin is a "Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart" and Jim Harbaugh is a Michigan grad, I'm inclined to say right off the bat that they're both suited for the schools they're currently at. Also, as the question suggests, comparing Harbaugh and Franklin is apples to oranges because both PSU and Michigan were in different situations and facing different challenges when the new coaches took over. It's true that Harbaugh likely would be regarded as the better coach at this point in time, but this is the first year Penn State has had the full number of scholarships. We're still recovering from the sanctions and the scandal, and I think that'll be the case for several more years. I have been impressed with Franklin's recruiting efforts, however, and I think he's setting us up to be more of a contender as time goes on. With all of this in mind, I wouldn't trade coaches if I had the chance -- there are too many unknowns and it's not a fair comparison. Bill Engel: I would take James Franklin over just about any coach out there. Why? Because he is building a program from the ground up and doing it in a way that should make us proud to be Penn Staters again. He is bringing in quality players who are also high character guys who will graduate with Penn State degrees. Anyone who is discounting the situation he w[...]


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What do you need to see from Penn State against Temple?: 50-Yard Lion roundtable

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 17:00:02 UTC

2016-09-17T11:25:24Z

After what was shaping up to be a disastrous Pitt game, Penn State was able to put enough things together in the second half to generate some optimism. Everyone showed tremendous effort for the full 60 minutes, but in the end the team was still a big play—or playmaker—short. Which players impressed you the most last weekend against Pitt,... After what was shaping up to be a disastrous Pitt game, Penn State was able to put enough things together in the second half to generate some optimism. Everyone showed tremendous effort for the full 60 minutes, but in the end the team was still a big play--or playmaker--short. Which players impressed you the most last weekend against Pitt, and who do you want to see more from against Temple? What are your predictions for Saturday? Bob Smith: First, I disagree that Penn state was a player short.  Penn State was a mistake short.  There were just too many mistakes.  Turnovers are disastrous in games against quality opponents and Penn State simply turned it over too many times.  I still can't believe they had a chance to win a game where they lost 3 fumbles.  Penn State had the playmakers. McSorley impressed me.  He stood there in the pocket, unflustered, and kept leading his team back.  Great leadership on display. I want to see Barkley get the ball in space more often.  Swing him out the back field and give him a chance to maneuver with the ball and big things will happen as evidenced by his receiving touchdown. I believe that Penn State will handle Temple.  I expect a cleaner game with fewer turnovers and a lot of points scored by the Lion offense. Mike Canzoneri: This team has something.  For a team to come back from a 3 TD deficit, on the road, is impressive.  Penn State just has to find a way to start fast, be consistent and find some Sitckum for McSorley's hands.  This team will improve every week in ways that even the most casual fan will see.  By the time we hit the meat of our schedule, we could be dangerous. Lauren Shipper: I can't answer this question without mentioning DeAndre Thompkins' one-armed catch while tangled up with a Piit defender. Other receivers on the team hauled in more total passes, but this one play was a big morale booster and just plain fun to watch. I would like to see more from our passing game in general against Temple--our receivers have shown that they have talent, but it doesn't matter how good they are if Trace McSorley can't get the ball in their hands. The blame doesn't fall entirely on Trace, but I was concerned that his accuracy wasn't great against Pitt. We need to develop more offensive weapons other than just Saquon Barkley to have a chance in the upcoming games. Speaking of Barkley, I would like to see more from him, but that's just because I'm greedy. If he can get into the end zone five times again against Temple, I think we'll be in good shape! I predict that we will still struggle to get started early but eventually hit our stride and coast by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, with a final score of 31-10. Tim Johnson: I think McSorley is going to be just fine and I love the leadership he's showing, but the biggest improvement over last year has come from a less heralded position. You never realize how important a punter is until you don't have one, so shoutout to Blake Gillikin for keeping our opponents on the back foot. Your talent is very much appreciated. Defensively, our inexperienced line needs to show some discipline up front--against both of our opponents thus far, we've been easily done in by misdirection and plays run against the grain. They did improve throughout both contests but it would be nice to get it right from the outset with tougher opponents looming. I'd like to see Shareef Miller get more time in the rotation. He seems to be much more disruptive than anyone else we run out there, albeit probably the mos[...]


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How did last Saturday's Penn State-Pitt game affect your perception of the rivalry, Nittany Lions?: 50-Yard Lion roundtable

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 14:40:42 UTC

2016-09-15T15:26:31Z

As we entered 2016, much was made about resuscitating the dormant Penn State-Pitt rivalry, which had been reduced to a mere simmer after boiling over for decades. Until Saturday, the new rivalry talk was all sizzle and no steak, but the intensity of the game changed that in a hurry. Early on, run-heavy Pitt jumped on a tentative Penn... As we entered 2016, much was made about resuscitating the dormant Penn State-Pitt rivalry, which had been reduced to a mere simmer after boiling over for decades. Until Saturday, the new rivalry talk was all sizzle and no steak, but the intensity of the game changed that in a hurry. Early on, run-heavy Pitt jumped on a tentative Penn State defense with its healthy diet of jet sweeps, while the Lions repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with turnovers and negative plays. On the backs of Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley, the visiting team dug in its heels and started to punch the Panthers back--only to come up one punch short at the end. Now that we've had a few days to reflect, how did Saturday's loss affect your perception of the Penn State-Pitt rivalry? Do you think the game was just a flash in the pan, or can we expect more of the same for years to come? More generally, how did the game affect your perception of this Penn State team? Bob Smith: For me the rivalry was dead.  I was not interested.  Over the weeks leading up to the season Pitt fans began to irritate me more and more to the point where I wanted to beat them just to shut them up.  In fact, if Penn State had completed that final drive it would have been so sweet to rip the victory right from their hands.  They have actually been pretty quiet since the game so at least there is that.  I am looking forward to next year's game more than I thought I would.  I still would rather beat Ohio State or Michigan but maybe this could be a little fun too.  I think that over the next few years there will be some juice in the game but it will last only as long as Pitt can stay at a higher level.  I only expect Penn State to get better over time as they rebuild from the sanctions.  They key question will be; is this the best Pitt can offer?  This was a senior laden Pitt team.  Can they maintain this level? I have great hope for this Penn State team based upon this game.  This team clearly has no quit.  They displayed such great character in that football game.  I believe that a game like this can only pull them close together as a team.  There is still much they can achieve and I only expect them to get better as the year goes on.  I really like their chances to beat someone that on paper they should not. Mike Canzoneri: If Narduzzi doesn't bolt for UM's sweaty sister, Michigan State, after this season, we may have something really fun here.  In short, I want to see more stability from their coaching staff.  They've had six (6) coaches in six (6) years. Lauren Shipper: I'm not old enough to remember the original Penn State-Pitt era, so I can't compare this game to the height of the rivalry. However, I think the proximity of the schools is a big factor. This same reason, although to a lesser degree, is why we have a Penn State-Temple "rivalry," despite PSU winning nearly every single matchup between the two. Penn State's second-half surge will also fuel the fire in next year's game. Somehow we managed to avoid a blowout despite looking lost throughout majority of the first half, and next year we'll be looking to finish the job and avenge that frustrating three-point gap. This game didn't change my perception of Penn State much one way or the other, since I was already feeling some trepidation after we struggled to get going against Kent State and had the same issue against Pitt. I'm impressed that we managed to recover from a pretty disheartening deficit and keep the game interesting, but we h[...]


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Penn State-Pitt rivalry has lost its juice for younger generations, but that could change tomorrow: 50-Yard Lion

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 16:00:15 UTC

2016-09-09T16:07:36Z

At some point between when I learned how to walk and learned not to go through other people's belongings without permission—1992, maybe—I found a "Shitt on Pitt" button in the drawers of my mom's bedroom dresser. The words were written in the script of Pitt's 1970s-era logo. I brought it to her and asked what it meant. No doubt... At some point between when I learned how to walk and learned not to go through other people's belongings without permission--1992, maybe--I found a "Shitt on Pitt" button in the drawers of my mom's bedroom dresser. The words were written in the script of Pitt's 1970s-era logo. I brought it to her and asked what it meant. No doubt choosing her words carefully, my mother explained that the two teams were "rivals." Back in the day, they didn't like each other. There was more to it than that, but my four or five-year-old mind could only handle so much. I asked if, as a Penn State fan, I shouldn't like Pitt either. She said I shouldn't. As I grew up, I learned a bit more of the backstory. Pitt and Penn State had been playing since 1893. In my parents' college era of the late '70s and early '80s, the two schools were at the peaks of their football power and played annually in the final game of the season, often with a lot on the line--championships, Heismans, the whole deal. Maintaining superiority not only within Pennsylvania, but also among the Eastern Independents was key--the Lambert trophy actually meant something back then. Those in State College didn't think highly of the school and its dirty city to the west; Pittsburgh's feeling for the collection of cow pastures back east was earnestly reciprocated. Buttons were made. The rivalry intensified. Or something like that. As I grew up and I started to form my own opinions about college football, I had a hard time reconciling the hatred. For one, we had separated into our own conferences and the annual contests had lessened in both frequency and importance. I viewed my visit to Pitt Stadium in 1998 for Penn State's 20-13 win as little more than a sideshow. "So THIS was the team that my parents always talked about...I can't wait to play Michigan."  My perspective was also becoming a bit more robust. Both of my parents went to Pitt for grad school and lived there for a number of years. Some of our family's best friends grew up as Pitt diehards. The Steel City was experiencing a renaissance--in time, my own friends would go to school there and I'd fall in love just the same, even as I pursued my own interests at Penn State. There wasn't a whole lot to dislike about Pitt. Over the last decade or so, nostalgia from my parents' generation started to drive interest in reigniting the rivalry. Administrative fingers angrily pointed from one side at the other, as the program squabbled about resuscitating the series. For my generation, it seemed like much ado about nothing. After all, the last tangible football memory burned in my mind about the rivalry was a 12-0 barnburner played in a less-than-intimate Heinz Field. The excitement generated by battles with top-flight Big Ten programs like Ohio State--not to mention a steady diet of competitive non-conference foes like Miami, Nebraska and Notre Dame--did more than enough to quench our hunger. Lately, though, my attitude has started to soften a bit. The college football landscape is changing--conferences are growing larger, non-division opponents are rotating on and off the schedule, and playbooks full of interchangeable parts have made it harder to connect with individual players. Meanwhile, the fan experience isn't what it used to be. Despite college funneling millions of dollars into shiny new stadium accoutrements and buzzword-laden marketing campaigns, the excitement is wearing off while attendance continues to sag. Fans, especially younger ones like myself with a multitude of interest[...]


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Four keys for Penn State: The Lions plan to vanquish heavy underdog Kent State on Saturday

Wed, 31 Aug 2016 15:00:00 UTC

2016-09-01T12:24:08Z

Lions QB Trace McSorley is set to make his starting debut and PSU's O-line must keep the pocket clean. Watch video

Suspense? Check back n Week 2 when Penn State visits Pittsburgh.

But there shouldn't be any doubt about Saturday's outcome at Beaver Stadium. The Lions are facing a Kent State team short on offensive firepower.

But the KSU defense is legit and could prove to be an interesting test for James Franklin's new offense.

Here are my keys to the game.

1. Finish in the red zone. Penn State is going to move the ball. Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin are two of the top offensive threats in the Big Ten. And there will be some big plays. The Lions must become a more efficient team in the red zone (inside the opponents' 20) this season.

2. Change field position in the kicking game. I'll be watching true freshman punter Blake Gillikin. He was very good in high school and the Lions struggled in net punting the last two seasons. Can Gillikin pin Kent State deep?

3. Get pressure with the front four. Stalwarts Carl Nassib, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel are gone and there are some questions about the pass rush in 2016. Focus on Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan outside and young Kevin Givens coming up the middle.

4. Protect the new QB. Penn State is breaking in a new quarterback (Trace McSorley) and a new left tackle (Brendan Mahon). Kent State's pass rush is better than you think. The Lions' O-line must keep McSorley comfortable.

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Looking back at happier times for Penn State against Michigan: A 50-Yard Lion film study

Tue, 24 Nov 2015 22:36:56 UTC

2015-11-24T22:37:11Z

As we move away from another "White Out" against Michigan and toward the season finale at Michigan State, I wanted to take a look back at a key play from the last time Michigan came to Penn State. As we move away from another "White Out" against Michigan and toward the season finale at Michigan State, I wanted to take a look back at a key play from the last time Michigan came to Penn State, an aggressive play call that many Nittany Lions faithful were hoping to see last Saturday. The play takes place early in the second quarter with Michigan up 10-7 with Penn State taking possession after and interception by Anthony Zettel. I always like it when a coach goes for a big play immediately after the turnover. It is more likely to succeed as the defense rushes onto the field and is often less prepared to play. Christian Hackenberg is going to go to the end zone to his tight end Jesse James to help the Lions retake the lead. THE SNAP James (blue circle) is lined up to the left side of the formation. The Lions are going to send out two wide receivers and two tight ends. Michigan will rush four and use its linebacker (blue arrow) to jam James at the line. Kyle Carter (yellow circle) is lined up to the wide left of the formation. The cornerback on him (yellow arrow) will be key on this play. Zack Zwinak (red circle) is the lone running back. He will also go out for a pass putting five targets on the field for Hackenberg (green circle). Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  AT THE SNAP The Michigan linebacker is jamming James (blue circle) at the line. Carter (yellow circle) is breaking off the line and the Michigan cornerback (yellow arrow) is watching him. Hackenberg (green circle) has started his drop and Zwinak has started forward towards Hackenberg. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  DROP COMPLETE Hackenberg (green circle) has completed his drop. James (blue circle) has been released by the linebacker that jammed him. Carter (yellow circle) is still running his route, and the Michigan cornerback (yellow arrow) is still watching Carter and has not reacted. The Michigan linebacker (red arrow) is focused (red triangle) on Zwinak (red circle) as he passes Hackenberg (green circle). Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  JAMES RELEASED James (blue circle) is now running free of the linebacker that jammed him. Carter is breaking off his route and this is drawing the cornerback (yellow arrow) forward towards him. The Michigan linebacker (red arrow) is still watching (red triangle) Zwinak (red circle). The fact that the Michigan cornerback (yellow arrow) and linebacker (red arrow) are not reacting to James (blue circle) means he will be able to split the two defenders and get to the end zone. Hackenberg (green circle) is looking at both Carter and James to decide where to go with the ball. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  THE PROTECTION Let's just take a quick look at the protection. The offensive line has created a wall of protection (red lines) for Hackenberg. No Michigan defenders are close to reaching Hackenberg. He will have plenty of time and space to make the throw. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  THE SPLIT Carter (yellow circle) has stopped and is waiting on Hackenberg (green circle) to throw the ball. The Michigan cornerback is moving toward Carter as James (blue circle) prepares to run past him. The linebacker (blue arrow) that jammed James (blue circle) is out of the play. The linebacker (red arrow) is still concentrating (red triangle) on Zwinak (red circle) as James (blue circle) prepares to run by him. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  CORNERBACK FALLS Zwinak (red circle) is wide open as the linebacker (red arrow) that was following him has noticed James (blue circle) running past him. Carter (yellow circle) is still open as the cornerback (yellow [...]


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Penn State-Northwestern TV coverage: Attention shifts to Christian Hackenberg and the NFL draft

Mon, 09 Nov 2015 17:17:17 UTC

2015-11-09T17:19:46Z

A look at how pregame and postgame shows broke down the Penn State-Northwestern matchup over the weekend.

I really thought this would be the game where the team and the coaching staff turned the corner, that they shook off the inconsistency and found their way as a coaching staff. For the "Fire Donovan" bandwagon, it was another banner day.

Outside of top-10 teams, the media doesn't talk about losers. That is, until they're losing a lot and the talk of a coaching change begins to surface. That isn't the case here, but you wouldn't think that if you read the message boards.

There are more NFL scouts and analysts who are predicting Christian Hackenberg to be a second-round pick or a "project." If Hack does stay, it could be a huge opportunity for John Donovan and Ricky Rahne to silence their critics and develop Hack into the first-round pick he was projected to be coming out of high school.

College Gameday

  • Everyone on the Gameday crew picked against Penn State. They cited the Northwestern's bye week, an early start and Penn State playing 10 straight weeks for their choices. Makes you wonder who was the scheduling genius that made that decision.

College Football Final

  • About a 20-second blurb with game highlights, nothing else.

BTN Pregame

  • The BTN crew was high on Penn State's defense. Gerry DiNardo had a great point about the perimeter of Penn State's defense. He alluded to the fact that if Northwestern could get to our edge, they would have the edge in the game. That is what killed Penn State on two scoring drives in the second quarter.
  • Howard Griffith did a segment on the Penn State wide receivers. He highlighted route running, "high point" or "50/50 balls", where receivers have a 50/50 shot at catching the ball, and yards after catch (YAC). This receiving corps, coupled with Barkley, may be the best in the conference in the coming years, maybe even next year. The potential of Penn State's receivers and Barkley fuel the weekly in-game commentary for Hackenberg to stay another year.
  • Every week the BTN guys play this picking game where they pick seven teams and assign a score of 1-7 for each pick. For instance, if you pick Penn State to win for one, it means if Penn State wins, you receive one point. Everyone was picking Penn State, but they weren't very confident. Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith had Penn State for one and Stanley Jackson had Penn State for two. In other words, the experts thought the game could go either way.

In-game commentary

  • The "Hack should come back" conversation came up again. If Penn State drops the next two games, the argument for this camp gets stronger and stronger.

BTN Final Drive

  • The BTN crew spent time talking about how Northwestern is bouncing back after two tough losses.

Final thought

  • Unless Penn State can beat Michigan coming out of its bye week, the rest of the season's media coverage will be next to nothing. If the Nittany Lions can knock off the Wolverines, the season may go down as one of the oddest in history. More on that in another blog.

Canz would love to hear from you regarding how wrong he is. He can be reached at the very juvenile email address, CanztheMoose@yahoo.com. Or you can harass him on Twitter, @CanztheMoose!


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Penn State's Christian Hackenberg looks like a different quarterback: A 50-Yard Lion film study

Wed, 04 Nov 2015 16:02:11 UTC

2015-11-04T16:02:50Z

Hackenberg deserved recognition for his great play connecting with DeAndre Thompkins in the first quarter against Illinois. I sat in the stands for the Illinois game and thought I was watching a different quarterback than the last time I saw Christian Hackenberg in person. He was playing with confidence, avoiding the rush by sliding in the pocket, and best of all, delivering the ball to open receivers on time and where it was easy to catch. The progression he has made in the last few weeks is great to see. I thought about mixing up my film review this week and doing Koa Farmer's great kick return or the sweep that Saquon Barkley was running so well, or even another defensive play. But when it came right down to it, Hackenberg deserved recognition for his great play connecting with DeAndre Thompkins in the first quarter. Just two weeks ago I was pointing out that he should have stayed put in the pocket against Ohio State. This time stepping up was the right choice. THE SET-UP Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton (blue circles) are in at wide receiver. Godwin is going to run off his cornerback and hopefully take the safeties (blue arrows) with him in order create space on the right side of the formation for DeAndre Thompkins (green arrow). Barkley is hiding behind Hackenberg (black arrow) and will become involved in blocking. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  MOTION Thompkins (green arrow) has gone in motion, and the Illinois linebacker (red arrow) has turned him loose while signaling to the rest of the defense to pick him up. I'll ruin the suspense and let you know his teammates will not pick up Thompkins. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  AT THE SNAP - A FAKE Thompkins (green arrow) is passing in front of Hackenberg (black arrow) to execute the fake handoff. The Illini linebacker (red arrow) has clearly let Thompkins go. The Illini safeties, who will be key to this play, have not moved. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  FOCUS ON THE BACKFIELD The two safeties (blue arrows) are reacting to Godwin (blue circle) by going into their back pedals. Thompkins (green arrow) has cleared the fake and is headed out into his route. The Illini linebacker (red arrow) responsible for the area Thompkins is headed towards is focused on Hackenberg (black arrow) in the backfield (see his vision via the red triangle). Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  THE RUSH Illinois has decided to rush four (pink arrows). The key blocks are the responsibility of Brendan Mahon (yellow circle) and Brent Wilkerson (pink circle). Barkley (green circle) will provide enough assistance to Wilkerson to get the job done. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  LINE PLAY DEVELOPS Hackenberg (black arrow) has reached the end of his drop and the pocket is not establishing. Mahon (yellow circle) is losing his leverage on his man and Wilkerson (pink circle) is being driven back, as well. Barkley (green circle) is moving to assist Wilkerson. Paris Palmer (blue circle) has his man blocked. Angelo Mangiro (red circle) seems to be losing his block. Godwin (blue arrow) has his man running with him. The Illini linebacker (red arrow) is still looking into the backfield (red triangle) and has not seen Thompkins (green arrow) break out into the flat. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  HACKENBERG STEPS UP The pocket is a mess and Hackenberg (black arrow) has decided to step up. Wilkerson (pink vircle) is behind his defender and Barkley is now responsible for the block. Mahon is still engaged with his defender but he is losing him. Mangiro (red circle) has not given up on his block and is pushing his man to the outside even as he comes upfield. Palmer (blue circle) has his man blocked. Thompkins (green arrow) is alone in the flat and is headed downfield. The Illini line[...]


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Penn State-Illinois TV coverage: Kirk Herbstreit praises Christian Hackenberg's consistency

Wed, 04 Nov 2015 15:19:19 UTC

2015-11-04T15:19:21Z

In media coverage news, Penn State is starting to get noticed and not for losing to Temple and Ohio State. Just stop and think about this: last week's win over Illinois guaranteed Penn State will not have a losing season throughout the scandal, a stretch thought to be most impacted by NCAA sanctions. For a school that seemed to be left for dead in 2011, this is nothing short of a miracle. In media coverage news, Penn State is starting to get noticed and not for losing to Temple and Ohio State. Analysts are starting to like what Christian Hackenberg, Saquon Barkley and Carl Nassib are putting together. The coverage was very favorable over the weekend, especially after shutting out Illinois. If you were one of the people upset that Penn State was still playing up until the very last second of the Illinois game, please remember the following: the Illinois staff under former coach Tim Beckman was outside players' dorms and apartments when the sanctions came down in 2011. Shutting them out and running up the score was a little payback. Plus, it was a perfect opportunity to see second and third-string guys get game reps. College Gameday Matt Rhule, Temple's head coach and former Nittany Lion, was great on Gameday. He came across as genuine and enthusiastic. Look for him to be a name that gets tossed around for some big job openings. Kirk Herbstreit is starting to like Christian Hackenberg's consistency and thinks Barkley may be one of the best freshman running backs in the country. In-game commentary Hack's pocket awareness was great against Illinois. He moved around and was able to make throws he couldn't at the beginning of the season. Couple Hack's improved mechanics and the receivers making plays, and this team looks different, in a good way. The announcing crew discussed how much returning talent Penn State will have next year and how it could make the idea attractive to Hack. I, for one, wouldn't be upset if he left for the NFL. Not because Franklin needs a scrambling quarterback, but because he stuck with the school. He suffered through one of the worst offensive lines in Penn State history and still came out positive every week. Penn State fans should be thankful. BTN Pregame Gerry DiNardo talked about how good the Illinois front is on defense and how it would be a problem for Penn State. It wasn't. Maybe we should the beleaguered offensive line and the coaching staff deserve some credit? Glen Mason made the point that he is trying to figure this Penn State team out. Valid point! The Temple loss made people reassess their pre-season predictions. I think that is what prompted Kirk Herbstreit's comments. This team may be hitting its stride at the right time. Although it wasn't Penn State-focused, BTN did a recap of Mike Hall's experiment as a referee during last spring's Blue White game. BTN Postgame Mason owned up to calling Penn State lucky last week. It was a rare and refreshing admission. DiNardo agreed with Franklin's BTN postgame interview comments that this may be Penn State's most complete game so far under him. Re-watching the game, it was satisfying to see things come together. Hack's receiving TD was named the BTN crew's "Touch of the Game." BTN Final Drive The term dominate was used several times, and rightly so. The crew seemed very upbeat about the final three games. Granted, Northwestern's QB is mobile, which has been Penn State's kryptonite of late, but the Nittany Lions still have a good shot at winning next week. The Michigan game could be an amazing "Whiteout" atmosphere, but PSU needs to get through Northwestern first. Hack's catch was the "Delivery of the Day" and it was good to see that some media-types remember that he is an athlete, not some lead-[...]


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Penn State passing success could carry over to Illinois and beyond: A 50-Yard Lion film study

Sat, 31 Oct 2015 14:16:31 UTC

2015-10-31T14:17:13Z

Penn State's game-winning score against Maryland was a great example of what the receivers were able to accomplish, how Maryland defended the Lions and Hackenberg's pre-snap reads. What an exciting game with Maryland this past week. Back in the '80s it seemed like every time Penn State played Maryland it came down to being a real nail biter. All of these are Penn State wins except 1989: 1982 39-31 1984 25-24 1985 20-18 1986 17-15 1987 21-16 1988 17-10 1989 13-13 If the last two years are any indication, we may be headed back in time to the '80s. There were so many great plays in this game that it was hard to select just one to break down. In the end I thought we should look at the game-winning score. It was a great example of what the receivers were able to accomplish, how Maryland defended the Lions and Hackenberg's pre-snap reads. Pre-snap setup There are going to be two key defenders on this play that Hackenberg will need to read: the outside linebacker (green arrow) and the safety (red arrow). The linebacker is going to move first as he gets into an attack position at the line of scrimmage. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  First pre-snap read The Maryland linebacker (green arrow) has moved up to the end of the defensive line. Hackenberg (black circle) notices and adjusts the protection. There are two people who could pick up the linebacker, the running back Saquon Barkley (green circle) or the tight end Mike Gesicki (red circle). The decision is for Barkley to pick him up as he blitzes. This enables Penn State to send two receivers out on the right side. By moving up to the line of scrimmage, the linebacker has indicated that he will likely not be covering Gesicki (red circle) if Gesicki goes out for a pass, so the Maryland safety (red arrow) will be forced to decide between helping the corner (blue arrow) cover Geno Lewis (blue circle) or cover Gesicki (red circle). Hackenberg's read now switches to the safety. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  Second pre-snap read The Maryland safety (red arrow) now reveals his intentions. By moving toward the line of scrimmage pre-snap, there is no way he can assist the Maryland cornerback (blue arrow) on any deep pass to Lewis (blue circle). The safety can support the run and cover the tight end but he has given up any chance of assisting on a deep throw. Hackenberg has the one-on-one coverage he wants. All he needs is a little protection. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  The snap As the ball is snapped, Hackenberg (black circle) sets up. His eyes are fixed on his one-on-one matchup with Lewis (blue circle) and the Maryland cornerback (blue arrow). The Maryland outside linebacker (green arrow) is blitzing and Barkley (green circle) moves to block him. Gesicki (red circle) has released and the Maryland safety (red arrow) is moving to cover him. The Maryland middle linebacker (yellow arrow) is also blitzing. All Maryland linebackers are attacking as Maryland tries to overload the offensive line and get to Hackenberg before he can throw the ball. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  All about the end rushers Hackenberg (black circle) is set in the pocket. The Maryland safety (red arrow) has picked up Gesicki (red circle) and there is clearly one-on-one coverage for Lewis (blue circle). The whole play now comes down to whether Barkley (green circle) and Paris Palmer (pink circle) can keep their blitzing linebackers off Hackenberg. The Maryland middle linebacker will not have enough time to get through the bodies in front of him to reach Hackenberg. Bob Smith, 50-Yard Lion blog  The pocket holds Barkley (green circle) and Palmer (pink circle) have provided enough space for Hackenberg to step into[...]


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Penn State-Maryland TV coverage: Al Golden got more air time than Christian Hackenberg

Mon, 26 Oct 2015 13:55:09 UTC

2015-10-26T17:54:36Z

Given that two top-10 teams getting upset this weekend and No. 2 Baylor's quarterback suffering a potential season-ending neck injury, there was more Penn State television coverage than expected, but not in the way you think. Given that two top-10 teams getting upset this weekend and No. 2 Baylor's quarterback suffering a potential season-ending neck injury, there was more Penn State television coverage than expected, but not in the way you think. Talk was mostly focused on Miami's now ex-head coach Al Golden, the Penn State alumnus whose name is always lurking for the PSU coaching job. Golden suffered a horrendous, 58-0 loss to Clemson, which put an exclamation point on a rocky two-year stretch in which the Hurricanes have a 10-10 record. Almost none of the coverage mentioned Christian Hackenberg's big day against Maryland, which included some school passing records. College Gameday Penn State was all over Gameday as the show highlighted Ohio State's offensive dominance and the emergence of J.T. Barrett as a starter. It was a painful three hours for any Penn Stater who tuned in. Kirk Herbstreit recalled how he found out about the end of last week's Michigan-Michigan State game and how he was watching the replay with James Franklin on the field before the Ohio State game. Otherwise, it was the same old, same old with Desmond Howard stating that Penn State needs to keep Christian Hackenberg upright. Brilliant analysis! College Football Final Penn State got about 20 seconds focusing on Geno Lewis' touchdown catch, which was great. ESPN's Joe Tessitore had a great rant directed at Miami fans, alumni and ex-players regarding Al Golden. He basically called them out for living too much in the past. He trounced them for a half-full stadium and wanting their "swag" back. BTN Pregame BTN made something of a big deal of the handshake last year, as did "Gameday." Get ready for the "rivalry" talk next year, because Maryland's 3-36 record against Penn State warrants it. BTN is continuing to focus on Barkley. On Friday's BTN Live program, the cast was in agreement that Barkley is the second-best running back in the Big Ten behind Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott. There was a big emphasis on containing Maryland quarterback and Pittsburgh native Perry Hills. The BTN crew was right, Hills ran all over Penn State. More on that later. BTN showed clips of last year's Penn State/Rutgers game, while discussing the Rutgers/Ohio State game. The crew mostly discussed how Rutgers is tough at home, which turned out to be a sham. However, BTN was nice enough to include Penn State in its discussion of the traditional Power Houses of the B1G. Unfortunately, BTN also did a piece on Ohio State's Joey Bosa and how/why he is effective as a defensive linemen. Howard Griffith used last week's Penn State game in several instances. It demonstrated how bad Penn State's blocking was on offense. BTN Final Drive The BTN team was torn between how lucky Penn State was against Maryland and how great the wide receivers played. You get the feeling they are being somewhat nice to Penn State when reviewing our play at times - especially considering how sloppy the Nittany Lions were on Saturday. In-game commentary Football does involve tackling, right? It seems Penn State's defense has taken a step backwards since last year, but it also came up with five turnovers against Maryland, which played a big part in the win. The same thing goes for the offensive line. Penn State couldn't run the ball with Barkley, but Hackenberg still passed for 300-plus yards. There is a saying in Brooklyn that goes something like, "Crying with two loaves of bread under your arm." Fan[...]


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What do you expect out of Penn State football for the rest of the season?: 50-Yard Lion roundtable

Fri, 23 Oct 2015 15:27:30 UTC

2015-10-23T15:29:23Z

The Ohio State loss is moving further into the rearview, and a date with that team who wouldn't shake our hands last year awaits tomorrow in Charm City. Penn State sits at 5-2 and it feels like the season is at a crossroads; this makes it the perfect opportunity for our 50-Yard Lion bloggers to share how they see the rest... The Ohio State loss is moving further into the rearview, and a date with that team who wouldn't shake our hands last year awaits tomorrow in Charm City. Penn State sits at 5-2 and it feels like the season is at a crossroads; this makes it the perfect opportunity for our 50-Yard Lion bloggers to share how they see the rest of the year playing out. As always, feedback from the larger PSU community is welcomed in our comments section. Penn State fought tooth and nail against Ohio State, but ultimately was no match for the crafty J.T. Barrett or dominant Buckeye offensive and defensive lines.  Still, the young Lions will almost certainly benefit from the punch in the mouth received Saturday night in Columbus; the team can now apply every hard lesson learned against OSU in its remaining five B1G games and, in all likelihood, a bowl game. What do you expect to see from Penn State for the remainder of the season?  Will Christian Hackenberg finally start to mesh with John Donovan's offensive system? Will breakout stars like Carl Nassib and Saquon Barkley keep up their torrid statistical pace?  Will Michigan and Michigan State consider the Lions a threat come November? Carole Kirkpatrick: With five games left to play, I expect for Penn State to win at least two and become bowl eligible on Saturday.  Saturday's game is interesting because it is Mike Locksley's first game as head coach.  Can he be the answer for the Terps?  The Ilinini are always dangerous for the Lions even at home.  That leaves the Wildcats on the road in an up year for the program. What offensive system?  It is not always apparent what the system is. Both David Jones and Bob Flounders addressed that directly in their post-game write-ups.  At home against Indiana, it finally looked like the offense was meshing.  The play calling improved and Hack looked more comfortable in and out of the pocket tacking two rushing touchdowns on top of a more competitive air attack.  I cannot stress enough that a quarterback is only as good as the people around him.  He has got to have consistent protection in the pass and his receivers and tight ends have to catch the ball every time, period.  The offensive playmakers have to decide to be the playmakers even with a struggling O Line. There is no reason to believe that either Barkley or Nassib will take their foot off the gas.  Both have found their sweet spots.  Nassib has an unstoppable motor and benefits from tremendous play from the players around him.  It just makes me happy to see a guy who walked-on, worked hard, and made it happen.  Saquon Barkley is a major league running back.  If he can rush and hurdle for almost two hundred yards against Joey Bosa and company at the Shoe, what reason do we have to believe that he won't keep doing the same over the next 5 games?  Both are making the games fun to watch. Whether or not the Nittany Lions are a true threat come November, both Sparty and the Wolverines need to consider everyone a threat in November to keep any postseason dreams alive.  The Lions are capable of doing more than they have shown so far. Michigan comes into a White-Out atmosphere on November 21st.  I don't think Harbaugh is looking past that date [...]


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Why Penn State's Christian Hackenberg deserves blame for 4th-and-2 sack at Ohio State: A 50-Yard Lion film study

Wed, 21 Oct 2015 16:58:41 UTC

2015-10-21T16:58:14Z

In the Ohio State game on Saturday there wasn't a single moment that determined the outcome, but a few kept the score from being closer. There are moments in every game that can make the difference between victory and defeat. In the Ohio State game on Saturday there wasn't a single moment that determined the outcome, but a few kept the score from being closer. And who knows what might have happened had the Lions hung with the Buckeyes a little longer? I thought I would work up one of those plays. We all know Christian Hackenberg was sacked five times. I have wondered how many of those can be blamed on the offensive line. The play I'm going to breakdown is the sack on 4th-and-2 early in the fourth quarter. Saquon Barkley had just broken off a huge run and the Lions were set up deep in Buckeye territory down 14 points. A touchdown would pull them within a score. Penn State made the right call to go for it on fourth down but why did the play fail? SETTING UP THE PLAY The Lions are going to send five players out into patterns and leave five in for protection. The receivers are Saquon Barkley (green circle), Adam Breneman (pink circle), Brent Wilkerson (black circle), Mike Gesicki (yellow circle), and Chris Godwin (blue circle). Big Ten Network screen grab  THE SNAP Gesicki (yellow circle) is in motion at the snap and heads out to the flat. Hackenberg's (red circle) first read (red triangle) is to the left to Godwin (blue circle) and Gesicki. Barkley (Green Circle) is going to swing out to the flat and no one from OSU is going to follow him. Big Ten Network screen grab  FIRST READ NOT OPEN Hackenberg (red circle) is still looking to his left to Godwin (blue circle) and Gesicki (yellow circle), who have started their breaks but are covered. To the right of the formation, Wilkerson (black circle) has gone past the first down line (essential to get PAST the first down) and cut in. Breneman (pink circle) is headed down the field. Barkley (green circle) continues his way to the flat with no coverage from OSU. Big Ten Network screen grab  PROTECTION AT THIS POINT The offensive line has established a pocket for Hackenberg. Andrew Nelson (green circle), Wendy Laurent (yellow circle) and Paris Palmer (pink circle) all have their players blocked. Angelo Mangiro (red circle) has no one to block and notices (red triangle) that Derek Dowrey (black circle) is going to need help and moves to do so. The OSU defender (pink arrow) blocked by Palmer (pink circle) will eventually get the sack. Big Ten Network screen grab  HACKENBERG LOOKS RIGHT Hackenberg (red circle) has shifted from his left to his second reads on the right (red triangle). Unfortunately, Godwin (blue circle) is now open (blue arrow). Gesicki is also probably open with position on his defender but Hackenberg is no longer looking. At this point, I have to say I am going to judge whether or not someone is open more critically than at other times. It is fourth down. If you don't convert, Ohio State gets the ball. The difference between and interception and an incompletion is negligible. Hackenberg has to try and make something happen. Wilkerson (black circle) has gotten past the first down and has what I like to call "basketball position" on his defender. You can throw the ball to his left and his defender cannot get to it without interfering with the pass. Therefore, he is open. Breneman (pink circle) has just put his move on his defender and is about to come open. Further to the right, Barkley (green circle), the most dynamic player on the team, is wide open waiving his arm trying to get Hackenberg's (r[...]


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Penn State-Ohio State TV coverage: Kirk Herbstreit fair, professional and spot-on: 50-Yard Lion

Mon, 19 Oct 2015 13:47:06 UTC

2015-10-19T13:47:44Z

In the media's eyes, Penn State-Ohio State was like a Nicolas Cage movie: you knew it was going to be bad, but you were still going to watch it because it's on. I predicted in last week's post that Saquon Barkley would make people take notice. He ran for 194 yards against the best team in the country and behind an offensive line that continues to struggle. His future is really bright. In the media's eyes this game was like a Nicolas Cage movie: you knew it was going to be bad, but you were still going to watch it because it's on. Most of us were sure Penn State wasn't going to win, but fans held out hope, anyway. The Nittany Lions were playing the No. 1 team in the country, with one of the best coaches in recent history. The 38-10 outcome could have been much closer, but that's for another post. Here's how television coverage of Penn State-Ohio State looked over the weekend: College Gameday Gameday talked about the game for, roughly, 90 seconds. It was the most coverage Penn State received all year. Herbstreit was spot on, as usual, and put the focus on Penn State, specifically the offensive line and Christian Hackenberg. Desmond Howard wants Penn State to use the Wildcat and posed the question of "How to defend Nassib?" Wildcat? No, but Nassib is a serious threat and the nation now knows it. Gameday has added Marty Smith, the Southern version of Tom Rinaldi, but he has a quarter zip sweater and an overdone accent. It's a good thing, because ESPN is lacking in human interest pieces. Selection Saturday: Did I miss something, or did they just not pick anything for PSU-Ohio State? College Football Final I hate when ESPN hosts make social statements, but Joe Tessitore, the host of College Football Final, hit the nail on the head with something he said regarding the Michigan punter and the death threats he received on social media. We have to remember these are 18 to 22-year-old kids. After every loss, angry fans take to their platform of choice and provide their "expert" opinion regarding how their team should be run. I can't tell you how many Twitter, Facebook and message board posts were calling for Christian Hackenberg's head. Of course, the sky was falling. BTN Pregame BTN showed some clips of last year's Ohio State/Penn State game and the blown calls. Gerry DiNardo did a great piece on Christian Hackenberg's mechanics. It was short, but done in a way that anyone could understand why Hack's accuracy is off. Apparently, DiNardo spent time with John Donovan to put together this piece, which begs the question: why hasn't Donovan spent time with Ricky Rahne to handle this? BTN Final Drive The comments were focused on how Ohio State found its quarterback with J.T. Barrett. Stanley Jackson, the Ohio State quarterback, recognized how one could build a program around Saquon Barkley. Final Thoughts The sky isn't falling. The next three games are winnable. Michigan and Michigan State will close out Penn State's season with likely losses, but the Nittany Lions should get to a bowl game. Barkley is going to be a Heisman candidate someday. Hackenberg might have to stay another year to up his draft stock. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State all have top-10 recruiting classes in 2016. Both Ohio State and Penn State have 10 ESPN 100 recruits in the incoming class, as of right now. Only LSU has more, with 13. As has been predicted, the Big Ten East is going to be as competitive as any division in the country. Canz would love to hear from you regarding how wrong he is. He can be reached at the very juvenile email address, C[...]


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