Q&A with Penn State beat writer Steve Petrella of The Daily Collegian

first_imgSyracuse opens its season against Penn State in East Rutherford, N.J., at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. To help break down the MetLife Stadium tilt, Steve Petrella, a beat writer for The Daily Collegian, offered his insight on the Nittany Lions.The Daily Orange: Who do you expect to start at quarterback for Penn State and what can Syracuse expect out of whoever it is?Steve Petrella: It’s tough to say. I’m going to guess (Christian) Hackenberg. He’s the guy that—they want him to be the guy. They want him to do well. They want him to succeed.(Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson) are pretty similar. (Bill) O’Brien runs a pro-style offense. He has a specific type of quarterback, more traditional, drop-back type of passer that makes quick decisions, careful with the football. I think they’ll make their share of mistakes this season, but if you see what O’Brien did with Matt McGloin, I think they’re going to be OK.The D.O.: A lot has been made about the Nittany Lions’ tight ends. Are those guys the biggest playmaking threats on offense?AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSP: They actually, surprisingly, have a lot of weapons, but tight ends I would say is the biggest because of just the mismatches.There’s just so many of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they lined up four tight ends in certain sets this season, maybe on Saturday. They’re all big, they’re all fast, they all create mismatches. It’s fun to watch.The D.O.: How tough is it for a freshman like Hackenberg to pick up O’Brien’s system?SP: It’s not complicated, but there’s a lot to process. This is a similar offense that Tom Brady was winning and he’s obviously the best and he’s been doing it forever, so for a kid who is 18 years old, had a terrible offensive line in high school to come in and just in two and a half months pick it up, it’s difficult. I’m sure he’s put in the work — we’re not allowed to talk to freshmen — but I’m sure he’s put in the work and I’m sure he’ll be ready.The D.O.: With fewer scholarships, how big of an issue is PSU’s depth?SP: That’s a big concern. Penn State had a pretty good season last year, but I think the sanctions are going to take a toll three years down the road when you’re playing with 65 scholarships and everyone else is playing with 85.They’ve put a really big emphasis on the walk-on program. Their biggest concern for depth is at linebacker, they only have six scholarship linebackers, but they have 19 on the roster. They brought in seven true-freshman walk-ons.Depth is definitely a big concern. I don’t think so much Saturday, but if they start losing some guys this season — and obviously guys are going to get hurt. It’s football — but I think throughout the season we’re not going to stop talking about it.The D.O.: The Nittany Lions have a reputation for great linebackers. Is that still the strength of the defense?SP: The starting three is very good. Behind that, we’ll see. Ben Kline, Gary Wooten, those are the two. We just don’t know about them yet. We haven’t seen much.The strength of the defense actually might be the secondary, which is interesting because last year it was like the biggest concern. I think they’re going to play a lot of nickel because of the depth at linebacker and they have two safeties, Adrian Amos and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, who are bigger safeties that added weight this offseason in order to play that nickel back/linebacker role on some third downs. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on August 29, 2013 at 1:18 am Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2last_img read more

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