19 August 2008

Triple Entendre: Penn State Centerfold

It sounds like a sex toy from the future, but the Spread HD arrives in less than two weeks, and it's anything but voyeuristic.

Penn State's new affair hooks up with 2005 when the Nittany Lions came off back-to-back losing seasons to win a Big 10 Conference Title and a triple-overtime BCS Orange Bowl. That squad rode on the shoulders of Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Michael Robinson who single-handedly contributed 2,350 passing and 806 rushing yards to a No. 3 final AP ranking.

So what is the "Spread HD" and why does it have better resolution than Discovery Theater?

Don't ask Joe Paterno. The old fart refuses to fan the flames. As The Morning Call reports, he insists there's no such thing as new when it comes to college football. Joe points to a spread he ran as quarterback at Brooklyn Prep in 1944 to cement the point. But Joe High School didn't have the runs like he does today. And his son Jay is somewhat more opportunistic: "We want to go beyond the spread offense," he says, "...a running offense...throwing the ball with an NFL passing attack" (emphasis added).

If you live in Big 10 country it's hard not to be slightly intrigued at the mention of a fusion between the spread offense that's a la mode in CFB and the NFL pro-form. After all, about all we have left to brag about in the North is the number of athletes we send to the next level each year. [Actually -- let me help you out on this one before you make an ass out of yourself with your fishing buddy from Jacksonville -- the SEC led all conferences on the 2007 NFL opening day roster with 263 players in the league. The ACC placed second with 238 representatives followed by the Big 10 (234), Pac 10 (183), and Big 12 (176).] But the fact remains, we send a lot of guys to the NFL, and it's important they play what's relevant.

"It sounds like a sex toy from the future, but the Spread HD...(is) anything but voyeuristic."

As Jay Paterno describes, the "Spread HD" includes: 1. Multiple receiver sets, 2. zone reads, 3. option options, 4. rollouts, and 5. more passing than ever before.

Who will bring the cablebox antics to life? Let's start with the receivers. Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood are the big three -- with support from Brett Brackett, Derek Moye, and Graham Zug. Add on slot capabilities from true freshman back Stephfon Green and you've got an lineup that's steep and deep.

Williams, symbolically, is the critical link to the 2005 squad -- after playing just seven games that season he was nominated to The Sporting News' Freshman All Big Ten Team. After beginning 2007 a modest 6 catches for 45 yards he lit up a 78 yard punt return touchdown against Notre Dame and finished with 55 receptions for 529 yards and three endzones. His performance in 2008 may well determine the success of the aerial variance the Lions hope to sustain.

Presumptive quarterback nominee Daryll Clark had a modest 2007 behind Anthony Morelli. That doesn't stop the speculation that he's one of the top dual-threats to watch in 2008. What's clear is that Clark is not another winged-tipped Robinson. His bruiser reputation behind center overcompensates for a lack of raw turbo, all but ensuring Penn State will have the opportunity to capitalize off soft-line coverage. His Alamo Bowl performance showcased his range, but that's not to take away from the competition. Sophomore Pat Devlin is a more than capable alternative, and the trifecta is rounded off by Senior Paul Cianciolo.

While it's not clear who will start, the finish is somewhat more determined. Watch for precision rollouts to simultaneously temper and tantalize opposing lineups. And oh yeah, there's the run too.

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