Penn State Bye Week Recap
A bye week in college football has several opportunities. For the players it is a time to improve the little (or big) things from the games already played and recover from the hard-hitting nature of the sport. The coaches get time to reflect on how the staff can improve and how to coach the team for the rest of the season. Fans are given a time to either cheer about the successes or worry about the losses. Penn State fans have been using this week to try to forget about the 4th and 5 call to end the game against Ohio State. Further, to find the good that can still come out of a relatively young season. Here is the Penn State bye week recap.
Penn State football from great to elite
In the press conference following the loss to Ohio State last Saturday James Franklin gave an emotional speech about how great the team played in the first half. He went on to state that the little things are what lost the game. Further along in his speech to the media Franklin argued that the 2018 Penn State football team is great, but not elite. The head coach focused on the timeline of the program over the last few seasons. He reminded people how far the program has come, stating, “The reality is that we’ve gone from an average football team to a good football team to a great football team and we’ve worked really hard to do those things. But we’re not an elite football team yet.”
The Nittany Lion head coach praised his players and the players before from taking the program “from average to good, from good to great.” He then expressed how hard it will be to make the leap from great to elite. He finished the speech by promising to make everyone feel “very uncomfortable” being great. From himself, to the rest of the coaching staff, to the players, everyone will feel uncomfortable “because you only grow in life when you’re uncomfortable.”
The key takeaway that everyone should get from this speech is that this football program has evolved since the sanctions and scholarship restrictions were imposed in 2012. The Penn State football program is far from where anyone outside of the program thought that it would be six years later. Franklin believes that the program will continue to grow “by doing the little things.”
The Little Things
Next stop in the Penn State bye week recap is to look at what Penn State football has done so far this week to go from great to elite. What exactly are some of the ‘little things’?
Taking ownership of your mistakes
According to Franklin’s midweek press conference, every player has tried to take ownership for the loss against Ohio State. This is one of the little things that I believe will take a program from great to elite. Players that always want to get better and are always striving to be the best will make the rest of the team and the coaches work harder as well. He stated on Wednesday that the players want to be better and the coaches want to be better.
This is a step in the right direction for any program. There was no finger pointing, or arguing that it was someone else’s fault. Even senior quarterback Trace McSorley wanted to take ownership for the loss. If you did not watch the game McSorley had 461 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. That is more than the entire Ohio State offense combined. The leaders of the Penn State team taking ownership and learning from mistakes to improve is one of the little things to go from great to elite.
Recruiting is the second piece to the elite program puzzle. James Franklin and his staff have put together impressive recruiting classes over the last few seasons. The 2017 recruiting class was ranked 3rd in the Big Ten and 15th nationally. KJ Hamler, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Tariq Castro-Fields were in that class and have already started to make an impact.
The 2019 Recruiting Class Is Shaping Up
Penn State hosted over 175 recruits at the White Out game last Saturday. Some of the recruits present were already committed to the Nittany Lions before the game. The big crowd helped persuade another though. Fans got a “We Are…better” tweet from James Franklin on Tuesday. Four star tight end, Brenton Strange committed to Penn State. Strange is the 17th commit for the 2019 class and the only tight end. Further, the West Virginia product had offers from Ohio State, Ole Miss, and Notre Dame, to name a few. According to wvmetronews.com, the senior has 29 catches for 537 yards. He also has four touchdown grabs this season. Strange is a good edition to a class that is highlighted by local corner back Keaton Ellis and North Allegheny product Joey Porter Jr.
Recruiting is part of the little things that the coaching staff must do to become elite. If the trend can continue upward for the Nittany Lions in this category they will be one step closer to the goal.
Other Bye Week News
Offense to defense: a position change
Next stop on our Penn State bye week recap is the news that offensive guard CJ Thorpe’s change to defensive tackle is for the rest of the 2018 season. The redshirt freshman made the switch to defense the week before the match up against Ohio State. That gave him one week to work with a new unit. In his weekly presser on Wednesday Franklin praised the poise of the young player. He stated, “It was pretty impressive on his part. We moved him on Sept. 23, and he was able to play in the game and he played pretty well. And his role will continue to grow.” Thorpe had one tackle in his first game at his new position.
Continued WR Struggles
It is no doubt that the Penn State wide receiver unit as a whole have been struggling with drops in the beginning half of the 2018 season. Veteran Juwan Johnson made one of the best catches of 2018 on Saturday, with a one handed grab down the sideline, but failed to haul in passes right to his hands. KJ Hamler has been the bright spot of the group. After he went out with a head injury McSorley utilized his legs to get yards.
To remedy this, Johnson and the other receivers have been seen staying after practice this week to run routes and hopefully improve on the struggles with catching the ball.
Many Penn State fans are concerned about the state of the program after the one-point loss to Ohio State, but they shouldn’t be. It is understandable that fans are used to winning at home and expect to win big games, but my mom always says, “there has to be a winner and there has to be a loser.” Penn State was on the losing side of this one and as long as everyone learns and grows from mistakes that were made the Nittany Lions will be okay heading into the second half of the season.