Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Five most improved players since Week 1
By Josh Moyer
Zach Zwinak was buried on Penn State's depth chart this summer, and now he's the Nittany Lions' best running back.
NittanyNation asked several players for their opinions and also looked at the tape to find Penn State's five most improved players since Week 1:
1. RB Zach Zwinak He entered Week 1 as a player vying to become the fourth option at tailback: Bill Belton, Derek Day and Michael Zordich were on pace to get more playing time. But as injuries piled up, Zwinak made the most of his limited opportunities and quickly became Penn State's top tailback. He's rushed for at least 90 yards in five of the last seven contests. And in the last two games, he topped 130 yards. He's almost never tackled in the backfield and he even flashed some surprising speed against the Cornhuskers. Zwinak didn't just rise to become the top tailback on this offense. He's one of the team's best players.
2. S Stephen Obeng-Agyapong In the preseason, all the talk was about another safety. Jake Fagnano was penciled in as the starter, but an injury allowed Obeng-Agyapong to see more time -- and he made the most of it. Bill O'Brien wasn't sure who would start in Game 1, but Obeng-Agyapong earned the job and never relinquished it. He's improved with each week, and nearly every Penn State player pointed to the redshirt junior as the most improved player on defense. Fagnano has been a bit of a liability in the secondary, and it's hard to believe he outplayed Obeng-Agyapong just a few months ago.
3. WR Brandon Moseby-Felder Even wide receivers coach Stan Hixon admitted Moseby-Felder was a little slow in the season's first month because of a lingering hamstring injury. But he's since overtaken Alex Kenney, in terms of times targeted, and now appears to be Matt McGloin's No. 3 option behind Allen Robinson and Kyle Carter. Moseby-Felder struggled against Nebraska, but overall he's provided McGloin with a deep threat and has helped add another dimension to the passing game. He didn't make his first catch until Week 3. In the first six games, he had 11 catches. In the last four, he has 15. He's the most experienced wideout in this offense, and his performance in the second half of the season has been critical to Penn State.
4. K Sam Ficken No kicker in the country started out colder than Ficken. He drew the wrath of fans when he missed four of his five attempts in a 17-16 loss to Virginia, and his status was questioned every week. Would Penn State plug in another kicker? Could O'Brien release him from scholarship? Would O'Brien continue to go for it on fourth down because of that kicking game? But Ficken has slowly progressed to the point in which he's now made six consecutive field goals. He still hasn't made a kick longer than 39 yards, but he's routinely sending kickoffs to the back of the end zone and he's no longer the least accurate kicker in college football. He's not a liability when Penn State finds itself on the opponent's 20-yard line, and he's come a long way.
5. OT Mike Farrell Players and coaches lauded Farrell for his hard work in the offseason, and that's continued into this regular season. He overtook Adam Gress for the starting job and experienced some growing pains early on, but he's since become a versatile tackle for Penn State. He turned in a solid game against Purdue and adds more depth to this line by rotating between the left and right sides. His improvement might not be as easy to spot as Zwinak's or Ficken's, but he definitely deserves recognition.