Penn State Football Mailbag: Kicking, Sacks And Return TDs
With only a few days before Penn State finishes up spring practice with the annual Blue White game, here is one last look into the mailbag to answer some questions you had about this upcoming season.
Who will be the team's second leading rusher?
Functionally it stands to reason that Trace McSorley will actually be the second leading rusher behind Saquon Barkley, but taking out quarterbacks (McSorley and Stevens were No. 2 and No. 3 in rushing last season) and focusing on running backs I'll say Andre Robinson. Miles Sanders is probably the more talented back as it pertains to being the most like Barkley, but I think Robinson's physicality and more traditional style lends him to a more diverse set of uses. It might be close by the season's end, especially if Sanders rips off a few big runs, but Robinson seems poised to be a more frequent fixture in the offense.
Who will lead the team in sacks?
Torrence Brown has the nod here if only because of his place on the field. Penn State is going to have some very good DTs this season and Brown stands to benefit from teams focusing on interior blocking while he's out at defensive end. This particular stat seems kind of wide open but Brown ticks off a lot of the right boxes for a safe prediction.
Kickoff/Punt return TD this year?
You might have to go all the way back to 2010 to find a Penn State team that was an actual threat for returning scores but Miles Sanders (assuming he continues to return kickoffs) has been *this* close to breaking open a few. Penn State's punt return unit hasn't been a weakness but it also has been a threat either. That could change with more talent to field punts this season, but until the improvement actually shows on the field it's hard to say it will result in scoring.
There might be a kickoff TD, but I'm going to say no on a punt return score for now, even if that's probably the easier of the two to pull off.
How does being a second half team impact the game plan?
For a long time James Franklin largely chalked up Penn State's second half surge as a matter of getting a younger team calmed down in front of the coaches and reset during halftime. In short, it's harder to make adjustments with a young team during the game and easier to do it at the half. That's probably mostly true, although Penn State had looked lost on occasion last season in the first half. That happens, but I don't think it was entirely youth that contributed to first half struggles.
That being said, it's probably safe to expect Penn State to have much more balanced outputs during this season. That's not to say Penn State's offense is going to look like that second half team for both halves, but the offense will probably score more points in the first half than it did during 2016. But much like kick returns, seeing is believing. If Penn State is a second half team again in 2017 it will be interesting to see if the Nittany Lions can pull it off two years in a row.
Who is the other safety opposite Marcus Allen?
Nick Scott seems to be the obvious choice here with a host of other players in the wings if need be. Penn State has rotated so many players in and out during the past two years that though Scott might be the primary safety option. I'd expect to see a few guys in that role during any given game.
Why are field goals worth three points?
This was asked sarcastically, but I didn't know and now we all do:
In the early days of football, kicking was highly emphasized. In 1883, the scoring system was devised, with field goals counting for 5 points, and touchdowns and conversions worth 4 apiece. In 1897, the touchdown was raised to 5 points while the conversion was lowered to 1 point. Field goals were devalued to 4 points in 1904, and then to the modern 3 points in 1909. The touchdown was changed to 6 points in 1912 in American football; the Canadian game followed suit in 1956.