Revamp ready: PSU about to unwrap its new offense
The new playbook Penn State tight end Garry Gilliam studied this summer could have doubled as a dumbbell.
After all, doing curls with the thick binder weighing five pounds would have been much easier than learning the plays themselves.
Finally, though, the Nittany Lions think they have a handle on coach Bill O'Brien's revamped offensive scheme, just in time for Saturday's long-awaited season opener against Ohio.
That playbook binder is a lot thicker, too.
''Every day, we install new routes and new schemes, now that we've gotten used to the speed and learning process,'' Gilliam said Wednesday. ''We know the language of what he wants us to do and how these schemes come together.''
The Nittany Lions last took the field Jan. 2, a 30-14 loss to Houston at the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas. So much has happened off the field since then that the anticipated changes with the on-field product can be overlooked.
There's no bigger makeover than on offense after O'Brien drew up a playbook around the scheme he ran at his previous job - offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.
O'Brien likes what he's seen out of starting quarterback Matt McGloin. And overall, he's happy with how the offense has grasped the new philosophy of playing fast and at a good tempo.
But don't expect Penn State to turn into New England West with McGloin doing his best impersonation of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
''As the game progresses, we've got to do what's necessary to win the football game,'' O'Brien said this week. ''So if we have to throw it 60 times, we're going to throw it 60 times. If we have to run it 60 times, we're going to run it 60 times. Whatever it takes to win the football game.
''And I think these guys understand that.''
Breaking in the new passing attack would have been easier if the Nittany Lions could rely on 1,200-yard rusher Silas Redd in the backfield. But Redd decided to transfer to Southern California in light of the strict NCAA sanctions on the program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Bill Belton, a converted receiver who was a run-pass threat as a quarterback in high school, is the new starting tailback. O'Brien likes Belton's balance and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. But Belton is still unproven, so McGloin may have to shoulder even more of the load.
Known for a flashing a bit of swagger, McGloin appears to have flourished under the tutelage of O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher. He is clearly aware of the challenge, yet remains eager. The quarterback seems to have more responsibilities compared to previous years, but still, that doesn't bother him.
''My confidence is definitely at an all-time high,'' McGloin said. ''Everybody is very comfortable with what they've been doing. Hopefully we can control our emotions on Saturday and play that (same way) the whole game.''
Cornerback Stephon Morris, who faces the offense every day in practice, said McGloin's decision-making has improved. The senior was known the last two seasons for his penchant of making risky throws deep if a play wasn't developing. But Morris said McGloin seems more satisfied with checking down if needed nowadays.
''The most exciting part of this offense is the quarterback has a lot of control out there,'' McGloin said. ''We don't want to waste plays.''
Especially in the red zone, where the Nittany Lions have had trouble the last few years. Gilliam didn't go into details, but said that Penn State may not be as conservative inside the 20 as in the past under former coach Joe Paterno.
''You're going to see,'' Gilliam said, ''a lot more shots at the end zone.''
NOTES: The Collegiate Licensing Company and NCAA Football announced Wednesday that Penn State won the inaugural College Colors Day Spirit Cup and $10,000 toward the school's general scholarship fund. Penn State had more than 44,800 votes in a web-based vote on ESPN.com from fans who ''pledged their allegiance to the university,'' CLC and NCAA Football said in a statement Wednesday. CLC, a division of sports and entertainment company IMG, describes itself as the oldest and largest collegiate trademark licensing agency in the country. NCAA Football USA, Inc., represents a coalition including the NCAA and the American Football Coaches Association to promote the sport. It is managed by IMG College. ''College Colors Day'' is Friday. ... Kickoff is set for noon on Saturday. Ohio is coming off a 10-4 season.