Most Pleasant Surprise of the Blue White Game Brennan: The biggest surprise of the weekend is that you actually showed up to do a little work, even if both of your assignments involved free meals and rubbing elbows with former players. On the field, I knew QB Anthony Morelli looked good throughout preseason practice. But I didn't know he looked that good. He showed a strong arm, touch and a good feel for things in the pocket, all requisite skills for success in the regular season.
Harrington: Come on, the biggest surprise was that you chose to be all warm and dry in the press box while some of us sat on the cold, damp bleachers to take in the scrimmage. In terms of the team, I don't think it was a surprise that the receivers are good, but the unit up and down showed few issues pulling in Morelli's bullet passes. That bodes very well for the offense to build off of this summer.
Brennan Responds: If those of us who manned the FOS booth outside the stadium prior to and during the game were pathetic wimps impacted by such trivial things as cold and damp conditions, we'd say you had some nerve playing the weather card. But we're tough, so we won't. Besides, it was great getting to meet so many good folks who stopped by to say hello. What were we talking about here? Oh yeah, pleasant surprises. Along the lines of what you said, I thought Jordan Norwood looked terrific on the other end of many of those Morelli passes.
Harrington Final Word: While we are piling on accolades to the passing game, I would add Derrick Williams to the mix. Many fans were concerned that he may not bounce back to old form after the injury that sidelined him for the latter half of 2005, however he showed he is as versatile as ever — making plays when he touched the ball, whether he was catching, running or throwing it.
Most Promising Aspect of the Game from PSU's perspective for the 2006 Season Harrington: Though you never quite know just how good or bad a unit is in the Blue-White Game, the fact that the offensive line created a consistent pocket and gave Morelli time to deliver the ball is promising for this team. Basically, despite their inexperience, the new faces did what they were expected to do and moved well together as a unit. As a whole, they got off the line quickly and held their blocks to maintain the integrity of the pocket long enough for Morelli to run through his progressions and get rid of the ball. It could have been a lot worse, so fans should see this as a positive heading into the summer months.
Brennan: The efficiency of the passing game with Morelli under center was important. The attack was versatile enough to do damage in the short, medium and deep passing zones, something that can help mitigate the inexperience on the offensive live. And Saturday's success was with Morelli working almost exclusively to the wideouts (his only pass to a none-WR was a swing to RB Rodney Kinlaw). This passing game should be fun to watch when the backs and tight ends are included.
Harrington Responds: The other things I liked about Morelli were his intangibles. He seems to command the huddle and has fit in nicely to the starting role. He also appears to have the respect of his teammates, particularly the other leaders like Paul Posluszny. Did you catch their big chest bump before the game kicked off? As one observer said, "It started when Paul was working with Morelli this off-season on how to read the tendencies of the 'backers. From there they just started hanging out." That alone speaks volumes.
Brennan Final Word: We would be remiss if we didn't end this Morelli gush-fest by saying this was a great STEP in his progression as a quarterback. Those looking to sculpt his NFL Hall of Fame bust might want to tone it down just a tad.
Least Promising Aspect of the Game for from PSU's Perspective for the 2006 Season Brennan: I'm not sure how the staff can be comfortable with the current situation behind Morelli. Maybe things have been much different in the closed practices, but second-teamer Paul Cianciolo was not at all consistent in the Coaches Clinic Scrimmage or Blue-White Game. It was, however, nice to see him put together what may have been a confidence-building scoring drive in the third quarter of Saturday's game.
Harrington: Though the Blue-White Game can be tough to read, I see some concern with the pressure from the defensive ends. Jimmy Shaw and Josh Gaines led the Blue with nine total tackles and two sacks (Gaines: 5 tackles, 0.5 sacks, Shaw: 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks) between them, but I still think the way Tom Bradley builds a defense relies on outside pressure to collapse the pocket and force decisions. That pressure needs to be more consistent and aggressive from both sides.
Brennan Responds: A strong pass rush is indeed essential. I'm just not sure how you can judge where the team stands in that area based on a game where the top defensive lineman (Jay Alford) and top offensive lineman (Levi Brown) both watched from the sideline in street clothes. Shaw should be fine at one end spot. I'll bet Gaines is one of the players to whom Joe Paterno was referring when he said he'd like to see more consistency from a handful of guys.
Harrington Final Word: I hear you, but to play devil's advocate, I would have expected the starting defensive ends to get more pressure on the second-team offensive line. As I said, the Blue-White Game can be tough to get true assessments from. We shall see.
Player You Would Have Liked to See More Of Harrington: I would have liked to have seen Tony Hunt and Derrick Williams get more than the few snaps they saw out of the backfield (Hunt: four runs, Williams: one run). Both players could prove to be part of an amazing backfield set, but the limited action they saw carrying the ball didn't paint enough of a story. Obviously, I would have loved to have seen Paul Posluszny out there as well. His presence alone could open things up for the defense to play a swarming style of coverage.
Brennan: You're right on the money here. I don't know what the staff was thinking limiting that trio. Sure all three have proven themselves. And sure all three are coming off injuries. But for God's sake, there were 18,000 cold, damp fans in the stadium clamoring to see them. Seriously, even if Hunt, Williams and Posluszny played more, do you really believe you would have seen anything you have not already seen?
I wish we could have seen a couple of live punt returns, to learn how the new faces at the position —especially Lydell Sargeant — looked under serious pressure. Given the situation at quarterback, I would have liked to have seen redshirt freshman Daryll Clark in action. But the NCAA Clearinghouse issue that forced to miss spring ball prevented him from playing.
Harrington Responds: I don't think we would have seen more in terms of the scheme, but in terms of how the players around them played. I think they all have the ability to raise the level of play for their respective units. Plus, it would have just been fun to see them all make one or two more big plays.
Brennan Final Word: Come on, the Blue-White Game is the perfect opportunity for players — hard-working walk-ons, never-before-seen underclassmen — who otherwise would not get recognition to have their day in the sun (or, in this case, the rain). We don't need the stars hogging the spotlight because people are slobbering at the mouth to see another big play out of them.
Unexpected Player Who Stepped Up Brennan: The temptation here is to go with a guy like linebacker Tyrell Sales, who had nine tackles. But was that really all that unexpected given that he played well in a reserve role last season? So I'll go with receiver Brendan Perretta (four catches for 32 yards) with punter Jeremy Boone (two boots, 45-yard average) running a close second.
Harrington: I was actually more impressed than I thought I would be with quarterback Kevin Suhey's release and delivery. Sure, he is not the biggest quarterback, but he threw some nice balls, completing 64 percent of his passes for 103 yards. He also showed he has the ability to toss balls beyond 20 yards without them growing wings and turning into ducks. He may not end up as Morelli's backup, but he showed promise I did not expect.
Brennan Responds: Good call on Suhey. I thought he had a nice game, too. But with six quarterbacks slated to be on the roster in the fall — five of them with three or more years of eligibility remaining — one can't help but wonder if that wasn't the last time he'll be seen at QB for the Lions. I know this much: Barring a transfer, someone in the quarterback logjam will have to move to another position.
Harrington Final Word: Yeah, the coaches will have some decisions to make regarding the plethora of quarterbacks in blue and white. The opportunity for the backup role is still up for grabs, so it is surprising no one has made a major move to claim it through the spring.
Expected Player Who Didn't Step Up Harrington: Cue Brennan to start naming all the obscure players over the ages who have turned heads in the Blue-White Game. I guess I have to go with Kinlaw. With six carries he had nine yards, or an average of 1.5 yards per carry. He did have a nice swing grab from Morelli.
Brennan: You want to mock the Blue-White Game Gods, go right ahead. You'll get another six years of cold, damp weather. Me, I give honor to the likes of Corey Jett, Boris Oden, Ambrose Fletcher, Joe Gummo, Aric Heffelfinger and — gulp do a dare say the name? — all-time Blue-White Game master Bobby Samuels. With all of that said, do we ever really expect anyone of note to step up in this thing? Deon Butler had a quiet day on an afternoon when 51 passes were sprayed around the stadium, but nobody should be too concerned about that.
Harrington Responds: There they are folks, Brennan's All Blue-
White Team. I agree that fans were probably expecting more from Butler, but he was covered by Justin King for several of his reps Saturday, that may be one explanation.
Brennan Final Word: That's only a small portion of the pantheon of Blue-White Game heroes of yore. Who can forget return man Donnie Bunch, running back Terrence Williams, receiver Rod Perry and, uh, quarterback Doug Ostrosky, the future tight end who completed 4 of 8 passes in 1995?