Probably the biggest positive thing I’ve seen from Bill O’Brien so far in his Penn State coaching career is his willingness to not punt on fourth down. So far this season, Penn State has already gone for it on fourth down seven times and picked up the first down five times. O’Brien said in his Tuesday press conference that the fourth down success was due in part to proper planning.
“So once we get really close to the 50, I’m pretty much not going to punt it. I’m just going to tell you that. Like we’re going to go for it, unless it’s fourth and forever — probably punt it. But if it’s a manageable fourth down, we’re going to go for it and we have some third down/second down calls on fourth downs depending on the distances that we’re prepared for.”
This is good to hear, because it drives me crazy when a team throws the ball incomplete on 3rd-and-2 or 3rd-and-3 and then ends up going for it on fourth down. Why not just run the ball on third down to create an easier fourth down situation? O’Brien seems to have the right mindset for this style of play.
How is Donovan Smith feeling?
Penn State’s starting left tackle hasn’t finished a football game this season, so O’Brien was asked in the presser about Smith’s health.
“He’s a left tackle that’s athletic and big and tough, and you know he’s had some bumps and bruises over the last couple of games. He’s day to day right now. You know, hopefully he can play, and we’ll know better as the week goes on, but we want our best players out there for four quarters, and that’s important.”
It sounds like Smith is just a bit cramp prone or something and hopefully he’ll play a full game this week against Navy.
Is Paul Jones really going to play tight end?
Yes, O’Brien reiterated that Jones is going to work out at the tight end position. Apparently, the “F” position that O’Brien wants Jones to play is more of a hybrid between the tight end and wide receiver positions. It even involves some plays out of the backfield.
“He’s also still a quarterback. So we’re asking him to do a lot of different things. He’s got a package of plays at quarterback, so if we needed him, he can do that, too. So we’re just trying to get our best players on the field and he’s certainly a guy that we’ve got to play and that’s on me to get him into the game.”
It certainly sounds like O’Brien likes Jones as and athlete, but it also sounds like the coach has no idea what to do with him. It’s clear that whatever talents Jones possesses are being wasted at third string quarterback, so I don’t see any harm in this. The fact that O’Brien is letting Jones hold onto a “package” of quarterback plays shows how little depth the Lions have behind center.
Are we sure there are no better options at kicker than Sam Ficken?
The other kickers on the current roster are redshirt freshman Matt Marcincin and redshirt junior Kevin DiSanto. According to O’Brien, Ficken has been better than both of those guys week in and week out.
“To be honest with you, [the kicking position is] open every week. We chart it. It’s open every single week. We chart the kicks, we chart the accuracy, we chart the percentages of kicks made. We chart the operation time. It’s really open every week.
I guess that Ficken hasn’t missed every kick in practice then. O’Brien also noted that Ficken was much more effective at kickoffs than the other two guys.
Is Akeel Lynch going to play given all these injuries at halfback?
Both Bill Belton and Derek Day are day-to-day and O’Brien said he’s not sure if they’ll be ready to go on Saturday. It sounds like Curtis Dukes is going to get the start, with some Zach Zwinak and even some Michael Zordich mixed in. O’Brien likes Lynch, but he really wants to redshirt him this season.
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