Has Penn State been giving its play calls away this season? One expert believes so.
Former NFL linebacker, Super Bowl champion and current ESPN college football analyst Jonathan Vilma, who co-hosted the Russillo Show with Adnan Virk on Friday, said he noticed that the Nittany Lions were giving away plays, but kept quiet out of respect to the team. He went back and watched tape on the team and had this to say:
“So I said “okay this must have been something that Northwestern was seeing in previous games.” So I’m watching it and I’ll go very generic,” Vilma said. “You knew whether it was run or pass based on one of the offensive tackles. One of the offensive tackles was very very lazy in his stance.
“So when it was a pass, he was very upright and you could tell that he needed to kick back and get back for a pass. When it was a run, he was leaning in, he was locked in to make sure he goes and gets his guy. It was particularly noticeable when he started getting tired. As all linemen do, they get tired. He would then start to really lean in on his runs, sit back on his passes. And I said ‘wow, I could call run-pass this whole game. Run-pass, run-pass.’ I was right.”
Vilma said he also noticed an obvious pattern based on Heisman frontrunner Saquon Barkley’s alignment at running back:
“So then, I said ‘okay let me see now on the run plays, where does Saquon line up and how do they run their run plays when Saquon lines up to one side or to the other side?’ It’s not a left or right thing,” Vilma said. “It’s when you have a 3-technique, I’m getting a little technical, but when you have a defensive tackle that’s a 3-technique, as opposed to a defensive tackle that’s a 1-technique. So a 1-technique is a defensive tackle that’s lined up usually shaded right over the center. And then you have the defensive tackle that’s over the guard. To make it easier for people to understand.
“So now, when he was on the side of the defensive tackle that’s lined up over the guard, more times than not he was getting the ball and it was hitting in a certain area – the A-gap or cutting back. Kind of designed that way. When he was on the other side, it was truly a zone read and it was a mix of him getting the ball or they would run some of their counter plays and things of that nature.”
Penn State is coming off consecutive losses to Ohio State and Michigan State the last two weeks. The Nittany Lions blew a 15-point advantage by allowing the Buckeyes to rally in late in the second half and earn a 39-38 victory.
Penn State lost at Michigan State the following week, 27-24, as Barkley was held to 63 yards on 14 rushing attempts and kept out of the end zone for only the second time all season.
The Nittany Lions have suffered two consecutive losses during the past two weeks and look to bounce back against Rutgers at home on Saturday night. They should probably start by not telegraphing their plays with certain alignments and tell their linemen not to be lazy or even substitute them when they’re tired.