PSU's new spread is on menu
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Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno dubbed the team's new style of offense "Spread HD" earlier this year. He joked that HD could stand for high definition or highly diverse as long as it's not a huge dud.
The Nittany Lions' version of the spread offense is not pass-happy.
"It's really a glorified wishbone offense," Paterno said.
He said the team's goal is to both run and pass for 200 yards each game. The Nittany Lions hope to accomplish that by using shorter pass patterns and a variety of formations to take advantage of the team's speedy receivers and running backs.
"It's a different system than people have seen the last couple years," Paterno said. "The whole idea of it is to give us the best chance to win. We want to get to the point where we have an established running game, and, if we need to, we can throw the ball to win games in the fourth quarter."
Center A.Q. Shipley said the new offense is eerily similar to the one Penn State used in 2005, when it was 11-1, beat Florida State in the Orange Bowl and finished third in both polls at the end of the season.
"In terms of receivers, running backs and the whole scheme of things, it's going to be a lot like '05," Shipley said.
There will be some distinct differences in personnel.
Penn State finished 14th nationally in rushing three years ago. Tailback Tony Hunt rushed for more than 1,000 yards and quarterback Michael Robinson was the conference's offensive player of the year. The Lions' top two tailbacks this season -- starter Evan Royster and backup Stephfon Green -- are quicker than Hunt. Green brings a new element to the offense -- he is a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball.
And receivers Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, all of whom caught 20 or more passes as freshmen in 2005, are wiser and aiming for big senior seasons.
"I'm thinking people will notice the difference in our offense," Williams said. "We have so much talent. What coach Paterno and the offensive staff are trying to do is get everybody to touch the ball and give you an opportunity to make a play. We have so many weapons and so many ways to get the ball into the end zone. It's exciting. There's definitely a lot more opportunities than before."
Williams believes starting quarterback Daryll Clark, who has attempted 36 passes in his career, and backup Pat Devlin are equipped to handle the offense.
"Both of them are athletic," Williams said. "Daryll can do a lot of things. He reminds me a lot of Michael Robinson. Daryll has a good arm and great running ability. Both quarterbacks can pass and run, and that will allow us to do so much more."
The NCAA is shifting to a 40-second play clock, a move that should benefit all spread offenses. The ball now will be spotted immediately after the conclusion of the previous play. Offenses will be able to snap the ball much quicker, putting more pressure on defenses.
"It should make for some pretty exciting offensive games," Williams said.
Eight of the 11 teams in the Big Ten will use some variation of the spread offense this year, quite a deviation from the conference's long-standing "3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" image.
"You have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football on that offensive line," Shipley said. "We feel like we can do just about anything. If you want to run the spread, we can do that."
First Published August 7, 2008 12:00 am