Every Sunday around this time, we’ll recap five lessons from the week that was Penn State football.
And away we go:
1. The first-year starting cornerbacks still have a lot of learning to do. Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas did not have good games. That much is obvious. Defensive coordinator John Butler was forced to bench Williams and slide Adrian Amos over to cornerback at one point. And Lucas committed a huge pass-interference penalty on a third-and-9 play that prevented a PSU comeback. UCF's Blake Bortles completed nearly 75 percent of his passes, and PSU's corners led the team in tackles. Those aren't numbers you want to see. Those two will see other tough passing attacks, and there's no telling if Amos will be able to stay at safety as a result. This now seems to be the biggest issue on the team.
2. Zach Zwinak's fumble concerns are still not behind him. He's big, he's strong, and he wears defenses down. But -- and this is a big 'but' -- he still has problems holding onto the pigskin. That was the main knock on the 240-pound back last season, and it would appear he's still not over those issues. Zwinak committed a costly fumble in the fourth quarter that also killed PSU's comeback hopes. He fumbled five times last season and still hasn't lived down that reputation.
3. The sanctions are catching up with Penn State. Butler conceded as much, and he's right. The defensive coordinator explained that PSU has been forced to limit tackling in practice out of the fear of injuries. And, if you limit tackling, missed tackles are going to happen. It's a product of that depth. Fewer scholarships mean fewer options on defense. The bad news for Penn State? Injuries tend to progress along with the season -- so it's only going to get worse.
4. Mike Hull is not at 100 percent. He just didn't seem like the same linebacker against Central Florida, and his participation was limited. Bill O'Brien was asked about where Hull was, injury-wise, after the game and the head coach responded, "He's a tough kid, and I think he is giving us everything he's got." He didn't elaborate but said he'd watch the tape and offer more information Tuesday. Safety-turned-linebacker Stephen Obeng-Agyapong replaced Hull when he couldn't go, and linebacker is obviously a huge concern for PSU moving forward. Hull is important to this defense, and it greatly impacts this defense when he's not 100 percent. And he clearly was not 100 percent.
5. True freshmen are really stepping up. It's not just the obvious here in Christian Hackenberg, who has exceeded very lofty expectations already. It's a lot of other true freshmen. Tight end Adam Breneman finished second in catches Saturday with four (for 22 yards), and Richy Anderson finished third in catches with two (for 21 yards). Anderson seems to have supplanted redshirt junior Alex Kenney as the slot receiver. And run-on Von Walker has also seen a lot of time as a returner and on other special teams. This is a special class and should offer fans hope for the future.