NITTANY NOTES: Get Back

Get another exclusive preseason report out of practice, this time on the offensive backfield. See who is standing (or running) out in this edition of our Nittany Notes.

With the "Spread HD" demystified and broken down earlier this week on FightOnState.com, we now turn to the personnel manning the backfield in the scheme. As we noted in that report:

"The scheme is pretty basic," one observer said. "[The coaches] typically run it from a split back formation. The quarterback is often in the shotgun, but sometimes under center."


Evan Royster reads defenses.

As another observer explained, "Often they will use motion, shift a guy into the slot or out wide. The receivers are usually spread wide. The scheme really is not that different than what has been run [in recent years]."

The offensive coaches have been working a variety of combinations with Stephfon Green, Evan Royster, Brent Carter, Brandon Beachum, Joe Suhey, Dan Lawlor and Michael Zordich. The combinations will also see situations where wideouts Derrick Williams or Chaz Powell motion into the backfield.

Here are some updates on each of the major running backs seeing action:

Royster: Said to be "incredibly consistent," observers continue to rave about Royster's ability to "eye-up" the defense before the ball is even snapped. As one observer said, "He's not the fastest back out there by any stretch, but as I have said before, he has the ability to read cracks and pound on them — he's been a workhorse [this preseason]."


Green adds another dimension.

Green: Green has show his speed. "He goes top gear, but needs to learn to downshift when the corner or lane gets clogged up and use his lateral movements to open things up," and observer said. "He has had some fumbles, but adds another dimension to the backfield. The defense definitely keeps a close eye on him when he's lined up."

Carter: Carter's size (6-foot-2, 211) makes him "a challenge to pull down," but he tends to "run high" at times, which makes him a "big target for defenders to knock over — he's got pull in his stance."

Beachum: A guy who is "tough to bring down," according to one observer, Beachum has shown a hard-nosed approach to carrying the ball and is focused on reading the zone shifts to "anticipate lanes" and improving his blocking.


Beachum turning heads early.

Suhey: Has good acceleration through a hole, though not nearly as fast as Green or Royster. He is quick with his lateral movements, which allows him to to evade tacklers and can be tough to bring down in traffic. Also has great hands. One observer reported, "He may be the best we have on screen passes."

Lawlor: Described as a "small truck" with his blocks, he's been aggressive, but sometimes overly so. "Dan squares up well, but sometimes rushes to his assignment early — he gets anxious — and doesn't always let the play develop." All-in-all, though, observers feel Lawlor is an impressive blocker.

Zordich: The true freshman has "transitioned very well" to fullback. Although as one observer explained, "It's not as if he's playing a position foreign to him. He's adjusted to the speed of the game well." Zordich played fullback and linebacker in high school. While picking up the playbook, he is also working to refine his blocking and has shown "consistent pull-in [receiving] skills."


Lawlor opens up lanes.

In terms of the backfield combinations, the coaches will run variations like:

Speed Set (2 of following): Green, Royster, Williams (shifted WR), Powell (shifted WR)

Power Set (2 of following): Lawlor, Beachum, Suhey, Carter, Zordich

Hybrid Set (2 of following): Green, Royster, Williams (shifted WR), Powell (shifted WR), Lawlor, Beachum, Suhey, Carter, Zordich

Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for the Penn State football coverage other media outlets depend on.

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