Nittany Lion O Dialed In During JoMo's Second Spring

This is year No. 2 of Joe Moorhead's offense for Penn State QB Trace McSorley and company. The improvement from last spring — and even the early part of the 2016 regular season — has been obvious.

The most noticeable improvement for Penn State during spring practice 2017 from spring practice 2016 is the crisp execution of the offense. That makes perfect sense, given that the Nittany Lions are now in year two of coordinator Joe Moorhead's system and are operating under second-year starting QB Trace McSorley.

In fact, there is a tremendous difference even from the start of the 2016 regular season. Though PSU’s ’16 offense ended up ranking among the best in school history, people tend to forget that through four weeks, it was still a work in progress and at times very painful to watch.

McSorley was struggling with the RPO aspect of the offense — he had been thrown for 96 yards in losses and fumbled eight times. He had five TD passes to three interceptions. This allowed opponents to focus on RB Saquon Barkley, who was averaging 4.8 yards per carry and had been thrown for 32 yards in losses. As a team, PSU had been dropped for 166 lost yards — or more than 40 per game.

That offense became a well-oiled machine by the end of the 2016 season, averaging nearly 46 points over the final seven games. The negative rushing yards were reduced by about 10 per game in the final 10 outings.

And this spring, it has been an extremely well-oiled machine. McSorley and backup Tommy Stevens are both dialed in on the RPOs, which has allowed each to break multiple long runs. They both look quicker. The offense on the whole is operating very smoothly.

“This offense, we (now) know what to expect from Coach Moorhead,” McSorley said. “We know what he expects out of us and demands out of us, and that’s the best part for us.

“It’s definitely been a lot sharper this second spring,” he added. “Guys are clicking. It’s not getting a feel for it anymore. We know how it’s supposed to work. We know the timing. We understand the timing of all the routes in our offense from the passing perspective.”

In the spring of 2016, Moorhead was forced to be much more vocal in his criticism of the offense during practice, as everyone was learning the ins and outs. He was also making sure the Lions treated each play with a certain level of intensity. 

That’s no longer an issue for Moorhead.

“Now it’s really coming from the players,” McSorley said. “Guys like Saquon, DaeSean (Hamilton), Ryan Bates, (Connor) McGovern, myself. We’re doing it now as opposed to Coach Moorhead. I think that’s awesome for our team, because now it’s more player led — the players understand the standard that we need to be working to.”

HINTS OF CHANGE

During a post-practice media availability last week, McSorley was asked directly about what sort of new wrinkles people might see from the offense this season. Naturally, he sidestepped the question like a blitzing linebacker.

“You’d have to go back to Coach (James) Franklin for that one,” he said with a smile, and then went on to deftly discuss the matter further without really saying anything.

Interestingly enough, less than a minute earlier, McSorley actually gave some pretty strong insight into new wrinkles for the offense. You just had to be dialed into what he was saying, because it was kind of technical.

“Now we’re comfortable with all the RPOs,” he explained. “We’re kind of messing around this spring with some of the things we can do in the RPO game — how can we block something differently and maybe read another guy just to create the same numbers and angles we’ve got, just maybe in a different fashion. Just a little bit different window dressing.”

In plain English, the key players are now so comfortable with the snap decisions required of the RPOs that the coaching staff created even more options. 

And that can’t be a good thing for the defenses that struggled to stop the Nittany Lions last season.


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The most noticeable improvement for Penn State during spring practice 2017 from spring practice 2016 is the crisp execution of the offense. That makes perfect sense, given that the Nittany Lions are now in year two of coordinator Joe Moorhead's system and are operating under second-year starting QB Trace McSorley.

In fact, there is a tremendous difference even from the start of the 2016 regular season. Though PSU’s ’16 offense ended up ranking among the best in school history, people tend to forget that through four weeks, it was still a work in progress and at times very painful to watch.

McSorley was struggling with the RPO aspect of the offense — he had been thrown for 96 yards in losses and fumbled eight times. He had five TD passes to three interceptions. This allowed opponents to focus on RB Saquon Barkley, who was averaging 4.8 yards per carry and had been thrown for 32 yards in losses. As a team, PSU had been dropped for 166 lost yards — or more than 40 per game.

That offense became a well-oiled machine by the end of the 2016 season, averaging nearly 46 points over the final seven games. The negative rushing yards were reduced by about 10 per game in the final 10 outings.

And this spring, it has been an extremely well-oiled machine. McSorley and backup Tommy Stevens are both dialed in on the RPOs, which has allowed each to break multiple long runs. They both look quicker. The offense on the whole is operating very smoothly.

“This offense, we (now) know what to expect from Coach Moorhead,” McSorley said. “We know what he expects out of us and demands out of us, and that’s the best part for us.

“It’s definitely been a lot sharper this second spring,” he added. “Guys are clicking. It’s not getting a feel for it anymore. We know how it’s supposed to work. We know the timing. We understand the timing of all the routes in our offense from the passing perspective.”

In the spring of 2016, Moorhead was forced to be much more vocal in his criticism of the offense during practice, as everyone was learning the ins and outs. He was also making sure the Lions treated each play with a certain level of intensity.

That’s no longer an issue for Moorhead.

“Now it’s really coming from the players,” McSorley said. “Guys like Saquon, DaeSean (Hamilton), Ryan Bates, (Connor) McGovern, myself. We’re doing it now as opposed to Coach Moorhead. I think that’s awesome for our team, because now it’s more player led — the players understand the standard that we need to be working to.”

HINTS OF CHANGE

During a post-practice media availability last week, McSorley was asked directly about what sort of new wrinkles people might see from the offense this season. Naturally, he sidestepped the question like a blitzing linebacker.

“You’d have to go back to Coach (James) Franklin for that one,” he said with a smile, and then went on to deftly discuss the matter further without really saying anything.

Interestingly enough, less than a minute earlier, McSorley actually gave some pretty strong insight into new wrinkles for the offense. You just had to be dialed into what he was saying, because it was kind of technical.

“Now we’re comfortable with all the RPOs,” he explained. “We’re kind of messing around this spring with some of the things we can do in the RPO game — how can we block something differently and maybe read another guy just to create the same numbers and angles we’ve got, just maybe in a different fashion. Just a little bit different window dressing.”

In plain English, the key players are now so comfortable with the snap decisions required of the RPOs that the coaching staff created even more options.

And that can’t be a good thing for the defenses that struggled to stop the Nittany Lions last season.

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