When Bill O’Brien brought his Pro Style offense to Penn State last season he brought with him an entirely new offensive staff. In fact the Nittany Lions only have three coaches on staff who have been with the team more than one year: defensive line coach Larry Johnson, linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, and safeties coach Anthony Midget. Penn State has long been known as “Linebacker U” so it would only make sense to retain these men on staff.
The most talked about addition to the team this season is once again on the offensive side of the ball. O’Brien and his new offensive staff were able to bring in highly praised freshman Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg has teamed up with wide out Allen Robinson this season to comprise one of the premier quarterback wide receiver duos in the Big Ten. Robinson is the top returning wide receiver in the conference this season and Hackenberg’s big arm allows the twosome a threat every time the Lions have the ball.
Both Penn State and Kent State are coming off of heartbreaking losses last week. The Lions dropped a tough battle with the University of Central Florida in Happy Valley and the Golden Flashes dropped last week’s battle to the LSU Tigers. These two teams are expected to battle very intensely as neither team can afford another loss on their records this early in the season.
The Golden Flashes have relied heavy on their running game and their star running back Dri Archer. Unfortunately for Kent State all reports are pointing to Archer missing this week’s matchup with a sprained ankle. Coach Paul Haynes will be forced to be creative with his offensive game planning without Archer in the lineup. The Lions are not the only team with an exciting freshman quarterback; the Flashes will be putting the ball in the hands of their freshman quarterback Colin Reardon. Reardon plays with enthusiasm and intensity and has yet to throw an interception in his career at Kent State. Reardon will be looking for his big play receiver Chris Humphrey, these two will have to hook up early and often to make up for Archer’s absence.
On the defensive side, the Flashes will try desperately to take away the ball from Robinson and Hackenburg. Keeping the Penn State offense off of the field will be necessary for the Flashes if they intend to compete in this game. The leader of the defense is Roosevelt Nix. Nix is a versatile lineman and will be charged with harassing the Lions’ young quarterback.
Penn State will be looking to move the ball quickly. They want to show the rest of the country how efficiently they can operate their offense. Expect to see hurry up, no huddle offense from Hackenberg and his offensive teammates. They have a talent and size advantage over the Flashes’ defense and should use their athletic ability to take an early lead. Finally, expect Coach O’Brien to not let off if his team gets ahead early in the game. He is well aware of what can happen if a team begins to let up; surely he saw what happened in Lincoln to the Huskers last week. Also O’Brien will want to give his offense as many opportunities to succeed in this their last game before entering Big Ten play.