It is no secret that Penn State wants to play fast under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
Let wide receiver Chris Godwin explain it.
“During our team periods last year,” he said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday, “we would have, like, a 14-play script for a 10-minute team period. We would barely get done with the plays in that 10-minute period, whereas now we’re getting done with all 14 plays and still having four, four and a half minutes left in the period.”
That’s fast, and potentially productive.
“I definitely like it,” Godwin said. “It presents a different challenge to us, as well as it presents a different challenge to the defense.”
He noted that it is helping to improve the conditioning of the Nittany Lions on both sides of the ball during spring practice, which is ongoing and concludes with the Blue-White Game on April 16.
Long term, the obvious hope is that it will wear down opponents. But the immediate concern is learning the finer points of the attack Moorhead brought with him from his previous job, as the head coach at Fordham.
“There’s definitely a lot of complex aspects to the offense,” Godwin said. “There’s a lot of things, a lot of little details that you have to pay attention to, as a receiver. … The tempo that we go at forces you to think pretty fast, so you have to not only know what your conversions are, but you have to do it at a pretty fast pace.”
“There’s definitely a lot of complex aspects to the offense. There’s a lot of things, a lot of little details that you have to pay attention to, as a receiver. … The tempo that we go at forces you to think pretty fast, so you have to not only know what your conversions are, but you have to do it at a pretty fast pace.”
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Godwin, who will be a junior this fall, looms as an integral part of the attack, after catching 69 passes for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns last season. An All-Big Ten second teamer, he finished fifth in the conference in catches and second in receiving yardage. His reception total was also the fourth-best single-season haul in school history, while his yardage was second-best.
“There’s actually a lot of things I want to improve on,” he said.
He would like to become a better leader, for one thing. And there are always things he can work on from a technical standpoint — footwork, running better routes, improving in the “hand-to-hand combat with defensive backs,” as he put it.
“I don’t really feel like (last season) changed my outlook or expectations for myself in the future,” he said. “I try to approach things with a day-by-day mentality. I try not to really focus on stats or anything like that. I base my days on if I feel like I got better or not, or if I’m helping the team — like, what was my performance that day? I’m very critical of myself. I’m not really going to sugarcoat anything with myself. If I don’t feel like I helped my team, then I’m going to do something to fix it the next day — just come out with a better mentality and try to improve the next day, so we can be the best team we can be.”
He sees little to choose between Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens, the top candidates to replace the departed Christian Hackenberg at quarterback. McSorley might be a little more vocal, Godwin said, and Stevens is bigger. But both are “great competitors” who have “really live arms,” according to the veteran wideout.
“It definitely takes time to build that chemistry between the receivers and the quarterbacks,” Godwin said, “so that we’re all on the same page and know what everybody’s thinking. But at the same time this isn’t our first time working with Tommy and Trace, as far as a significant amount of snaps.”
That’s because they have both been in the program for a while. Not so Moorhead, who was hired in December to replace John Donovan, after the latter was fired.
“In our offseason study, you hear about how fast the offense is,” Godwin said. “You don’t really know until you experience it first-hand. That was the first thing I really realized. But as spring ball has gone on, I’ve noticed more and more that Coach Moorhead knows what he’s doing. He knows the right plays to call. … We’re turning into a more explosive offense as the days go."