UNIVERSITY PARK, PA (WTAJ) — Three weeks into Penn State’s season an a trend has emerged, Penn State is commited to running into a team’s teeth, and it isn’t scared.
“I think the strength of our tight end room plays a factor in that as well,” coach Franklin said Tuesday. “I don’t think you do this if you don’t have the depth and the strength of a tight end room like we do.”
Penn State’s running attack starts with it’s reliance on tight ends and “12” personnel, that’s two tight end sets. Penn State is leaning on its ends as lead blockers and edge-sealers. Coach Franklin believes senior tight end Brenton Strange is as good as any in the country.
“I think Brenton is playing really well-rounded tight end play right now,” he said. “I think the real true football people understand that. I think that’s going to help us throughout this year offensively.”
But it’s not just 12 personnel that’s springing the run, it’s 13 personnel and six offensive linemen sets. In Nick Singleton’s second touchdown run against Ohio, nine Nittany Lions were lined up along the line. Penn State has used a QB sneak in each of its first three games and Sean Clifford is operating more under center than in recent years. It’s a schematic change that has coach Franklin’s fingerprint on it.
“Depending on who you hire to be the offensive and defensive coordinator, it’s not always an exact fit,” he said. “Obviously, you can have some influence in adjusting some of the things that people do scheme-wise on offense, defense, and special teams. But, you also hire people for a reason, to play to their strengths and things like that. It’s a fine line between those things and how much you influence it as the head coach. But if you look all the way back to our time at Vanderbilt, this is really who we’ve been.”
Penn State’s rushing attack has already sprung seven plays of 20-or-more yards, just one fewer than it did in 2021. Freshman Nick Singleton has five of those. On those plays, two come with the quarterback under center, three come with multiple tight ends on the field.
As the Nittany Lions seem more committed to this attack, the run has taken off. In the past two games Penn State has run for an average of 240-yards-per-game at 6.6 yards-per-carry. Nick Singleton, who leads the country in yards-per-carry has been awarded as the Big Ten’s top freshman in consecutive weeks.