ShareThis Page

Penn St. uses versatility to alleviate depth woes

| Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, 9:15 p.m.

Some might suggest the depth issues Penn State faces are so daunting the only remedy is magic.

Nittany Lions coaches have their own way of creating an illusion — of extra players on the roster.

“Sometimes,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said, “when the perception is you might lack some depth, you've got to spread it out and make 14 guys appear like they're 22 guys.”

Your game-ready offensive linemen number just seven or eight? Lacking enough linebackers to create a two-deep at each spot?

Having several players capable at different positions alleviates the issue.

“Versatility and flexibility,” Shoop said, “show up in a lot of different ways.”

Shoop joined John Donovan (offensive) and Charles Huff (special teams) as coordinators Monday who expressed the importance of having players with a high degree of adaptability.

Shoop discussed how his ends and safeties can play outside linebacker, his cornerbacks are able to play nickel and dime and his safeties can play corner.

“Interchangeable parts,” Shoop said.

Donovan said the offensive staff takes pride in preparing tight ends to play both the “Y” (more traditional, short-route-running and blocking tight end) and the “F” (the increasingly-popular hybrid receiver).

Donovan also provided insight on how the Lions will deal with a thin and inexperienced line that coach James Franklin alluded to last week: Among the “starting five” (and top six, seven, etc.), many will be adept at playing multiple positions along the line.

“We've been cross-training guys,” Donovan said. “So if you have your five starting offensive linemen, and your sixth-best lineman is one of your backup tackles, but one of your guards gets a little nicked up or dinged up, then who you'll be able to put in that spot is the next-best guy. That's preferred to do than to have the next guard.”

Huff's versatility is one of sheer numbers. He said PSU has prepared more than the minimum number of players (or even double as many) to handle duties such as kick or punt coverage, or kick or punt return.

“We'd love to have as many guys as we can,” said Huff, who also is the Lions' running backs coach. “During the season, injuries and bumps and bruises occur, and guys get tired. We have enough guys so that way if something does happen, we're not locked in with, ‘These 11 guys play punt, these 11 guys are on kickoff, (and) these 11 guys are on kickoff return.'

“We did a very good job this summer and this camp at repping multiple guys on multiple positions.”

Notes: During his weekly radio show, Franklin named safety Marcus Allen, receivers Saeed Blacknall and Chris Godwin, linebackers Jason Cabinda and Troy Reeder, tight end Mike Gesicki and cornerback Grant Haley as true freshmen whom the Lions plan on playing against Central Florida in the opener Saturday. “That's pretty much it (barring injury),” Franklin said on his show. ... Huff said a starting punter has not been chosen from among freshman walk-ons Chris Gulla, Robby Liebel and Australian Daniel Pasquariello. “Right now, it's a dead heat,” Huff said. ... Donovan referred to running backs Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak as “1 and 1a,” said sophomore Akeel Lynch “prepared as if he was the starter” and also mentioned Blackhawk alum Cole Chiappialle at the position's depth chart. That would indicate freshmen Johnathan Thomas, Nick Scott and Mark Allen likely will redshirt.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.