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Friday, January 18, 2013
NittanyNation mailbag: Replacing McGloin

By Josh Moyer

Welcome to NittanyNation's bi-weekly mailbag! We asked you to tweet your questions this week, and we've selected three to answer in-depth -- starting with the question we received most.

Scott Reading (@7reading7) writes:
What will be the biggest challenge for O'Brien this upcoming season? I feel it'll be the secondary.

Josh Moyer: Well, the secondary certainly isn't a bad choice. But with both safeties returning and another year under Adrian Amos' belt, I think we can all agree they should be improved overall from last season. But it's definitely far from a strength.

Still, I'm going to have to go with quarterback here. I know some people still weren't sold on Matt McGloin, saying he was a product of Bill O'Brien's system. But he was smart, accurate and boasted a lot of intangibles. When McGloin trailed late against Northwestern, I remember Kyle Carter telling me how he smiled in the huddle and told the team he lived for that. He wasn't nervous; he thrived under the pressure. He had a 24-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Can fans really expect that same kind of production under Steven Bench or Tyler Ferguson?

Mike Grimm
2014 OT Mike Grimm hasn't been offered by PSU, but the standout still likes the Nittany Lions.
I don't think they could. O'Brien and Charlie Fisher are two of the best in the business, but I think preparing two inexperienced quarterbacks to fill the shoes of a guy who had one of the best seasons as a PSU quarterback will be the biggest challenge. Without McGloin, Penn State doesn't go 8-4 in 2012. I think Bench will be the starter, and Penn State's 2013 season will rest in great part with how well Fisher and O'Brien can coach him up. Teaching a teenager to take over for a confident fifth-year veteran isn't going to happen overnight.

Jim Murphy (@JimMurphy13) writes: I've noticed there's several future recruits who would love to play for PSU. But PSU hasn't offered them yet. Why not?

Josh Moyer: Yeah, there's definitely a couple guys high on PSU without offers. The biggest name is probably 2014 OT Mike Grimm, along with LB Tyler Burke and CB Omar Truitt. DT Connor Morehart is another player.

Because Penn State might be able to offer about a dozen scholarships next year, I think they have to be more selective of who they offer. If you look at Penn State's offer list for 2014, you'll see that 27 of the 32 players it offered are on the ESPN Watch List. That means ESPN thinks 27 of those players could end up being some of the best high school players in the nation. And some who didn't make the list -- such as Kyle Berger and De'Andre Thompkins -- are great athletes who wouldn't at all surprise me if they ended up being high-level four-star guys.

So, yeah, Penn State hasn't offered Grimm. But it has offered Quenton Nelson, who holds more than a dozen scholarship offers. It hasn't offered Truitt, but it has extended an offer to Troy Vincent Jr., who boasts double-digit scholarships. You get the idea here. Based on what Penn State's done and from speaking with recruits, I just get the feeling Penn State doesn't mind chasing elite recruits for now and filling out the roster with good or great players after they get a better idea of their odds with Plan-A guys.

Corey Hunter (@realhuntdog23) writes: What are the biggest changes PSU fans can look for this year with Butler compared to Roof last year?

Josh Moyer: That's a great question, especially because John Butler told the press in a conference call that he didn't plan to change much of anything. It seems like Butler is really trying to focus on fundamentals and keeping it simple, probably even more than Ted Roof.

Roof was forced to call more zone coverage because of the inexperience in the secondary, so I think you'll see Butler utilize more man coverage this year. Butler also said he wants to really mix up the personnel and show offenses multiple sets to keep them on their heels, so I think we might see a few extra packages akin to the "Road Runner" set, where we saw Mike Hull take over at middle linebacker and Amos slide to safety.

Another thing to keep in mind is recruiting. Roof really focused on the South, and that didn't pay huge dividends. (Don't get me wrong, those three guys are good -- but PSU snagged bigger-name prospects up north.) I wouldn't be surprised if we saw different priorities coming into focus there. But at this point, about a week into his tenure as defensive coordinator, it's a little too early to talk specifics.