Analysis: Take Your Marks

Fight On State staffers Mark Harrington and Mark Brennan shoot down the hype and give props where they are due.

Welcome to Take Your Marks, the occasional series where Fight On State staffers Mark Harrington and Mark Brennan discuss and debate hot topics in the world of Penn State athletics. In this segment, they tackle their “Don't Believe The Hype” and “Walking The Walk” awards.

1). Now that we are three games into the 2005 football campaign, what crazy rumors that were floated in the off-season turned out to be just that? And the Don't Believe The Hype Trophy goes to…

MARK HARRINGTON: The H-back! Back in March, stories began surfacing about how the H-back was going to “revolutionize” the Penn State offense with Tim Shaw (a linebacker) leading the charge. While we have seen some innovative additions to the offense thus far, the H-back - like the “Superback” a few years ago - has been conspicuously absent in the offense.

MARK BRENNAN: Yeah, the H-back thing never made sense to me, either. As early as February, it was evident that Penn State was going to revamp the offense to implement more three- and four-receiver sets. With so many new faces, it would have been overkill to spend the time needed to effectively use H-backs. My other favorite busted myths were the alleged battle for the kicking job between scholarship rookie Kevin Kelly and walk-on Matt Waldron, the alleged use of Justin King as a nickel back (he never even practiced there), and (my favorite - and this year's Hype Trophy winner in my eyes) those crazy reports that Joel Holler was in tremendous physical shape.

2). Conversely, which surprising reports from the off-season turned out to be accurate? And the Walking The Walk Trophy goes to…

MARK BRENNAN: I'll give you a little credit here, Harrington, but only because I can harass you while doing it. Back in March, you predicted redshirt freshman Deon Butler would be an impact walk-on because he had — in your words — “turbo under the hood.” I've never seen a statement that at once was so utterly silly yet completely accurate. I still have no idea what “turbo under the hood” means, but there is no question Butler has emerged as an impact player. His speed (turbo?) and precise routes have allowed PSU to stretch the field vertically for the first time in years, taking pressure off the offensive line, quarterback Michael Robinson, and true freshman receivers Derrick Williams and King. Speaking of Williams, I also seem to remember a certain FOS staffer saying we would see him at receiver, running back and quarterback this fall. Of course, this same soothsayer said Williams would score in each capacity, and he has yet to find the end zone. One last note here: I'd like to congratulate myself for one accurate prediction — before Scott Neal began working on our new Take Your Marks logo, I knew we would come out of it looking like a couple of lunkheads. Looks like I hit that one dead on. (Is that turbo under your hood?)

MARK HARRINGTON: As I recall, at the same time I mentioned Butler, you brought up Tommy Schnell as a potential walk-on impact player. But I have to give you credit for naming A.Q. Shipley as the player you would move from defense to offense. Shipley has seen time at center and now is making an impact at guard. Many doubted the move to the offensive line would take hold because Shipley, who was recruited as a defensive tackle, was not thrilled when he was tested on the O-line while redshirting in 2004. But after spending the entire off-season and preseason as an offensive lineman, he became more comfortable, and now seems to have found a home. With his aggressive attitude, Shipley is a prototype of the athletes Penn State needs on the offensive line.

HARRINGTON'S FINAL WORD: There is nothing like a little off-season hype to build up expectations and disappointments for the Nittany Nation, be it zone blocking, H-backs, Z-backs or baby-backs. Some tend to come true, like the four-wide spread sets and the emergence of a few unknown impact players like Butler and Shipley. On the other hand, there are always situations where the hype machine works overtime and has fans wondering if the Superback is really a position that fits into PSU's scheme — cape, tights and all. It can be tough to distinguish the difference, so scrutiny serves as a valuable weapon for fans online.

BRENNAN'S FINAL WORD: A couple of other items that have jumped out at me: First, King and Williams have been every bit as good as advertised. It says something about both young athletes that they have lived up to the hype this early in their careers; Second, I really expected Austin Scott to have a greater impact early in the season, even after missing spring ball with a broken ankle. I thought a trimmed-down Scott would show the explosion that's been missing from the running game since Larry Johnson graduated, but I've just not seen it. Tony Hunt is clearly the better all-around back at this point.


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