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PSU-ISU pregame stretch / Steelers wrap...

September 2, 2011 - Ray Eckenrode
College FB hope springs eternal

One of the great things about college football is that there’s a legitimate chance for your team to improve dramatically from year to year, even if it’s comprised of the same players. That’s because college players are still young men, teenagers in some cases, who are growing physically, mentally and emotionally. So a fan never knows what nobody from last year is going to bloom into a contributor this year and what contributor might bloom into a star. Such scenarios are rare in the NFL where you’ve got 1,600 of the most elite athletes in the world vs. the larger pool of 10,000+ college players.

We mention this scenario because the emergence of an unexpected star (or 10) is what will be required for Penn State to be anything other than what they’ve been the past few years, a borderline Top 25 team, middle of the pack in the Big Ten and playing in a January 1 bowl only because of the fan base they bring along.

Too many playcallers spoil the offense

We’ve gone into many long dissertations here about the ins and outs of playcalling (mostly in regard to our buddy in Pittsburgh , He Whose Name is Not Spoken, but it rhymes with Moose Farians) so, of course, we had something to say when the story broke last week that Joe Paterno was going to get involved in Penn State’s already overly complicated system of calling plays.

Here’s what we tweeted:

@15MinutesBlog: Play calling = Art form, part intellectual, part instinctive, best practiced by 1 person. Adding play callers never makes it better.

Interestingly (to us, at least), at almost the same time but on a totally different football topic, former QB and current NFL analyst Trent Dilfer (@TDESPN officially, there are about five fake Trent Dilfers out there) tweeted this:

@TDESPN: Play calling is top 3 important aspect of O in NFL. If your OC can't "dial em up", u got NO CHANCE! Prep + confidence + feel=good play calling

Two guys -- one smart, one dumb, one paid to analyze football, one who just thinks he should be paid to analyze football -- both expressing the same sentiment in different words: GREAT PLAYCALLING REQUIRES SINGULAR VISION.

Having three guys call plays is like having three guys try to paint the Mona Lisa. You’ll end up with something, but it isn’t going to be a masterpiece.

’15Minutes’ coverage plans

Our plan once both the NFL and college seasons are under way is for a preview/prediction blog on Fridays featuring both Penn State and Steelers content, live tweeting during both games as cellphone service allows, a morning after Penn State wrapup blog and a separate morning after Steelers wrapup blog.

The pick

We’ll be honest. Here’s what we know about Indiana State. It’s in Indiana. Larry Bird played basketball there. And their football team is not going win Saturday. The things we’re interested in learning about Penn State will be hard to gauge against the Sycamores. Is the Nittany Lions defense any faster this year? Has Silas Redd taken the next step toward superstardom? Has Rob Bolden grown up at all? We’ll find out those answers quickly on September 10. But, on this Saturday, we expect a sloppy, choppy, typical two-quarterback game in which Penn State dominates but doesn’t impress – and doesn’t cover … PSU 48-17.

Bleeding Black and Gold...

> It was nice to see Shaun Suisham step up and boom some balls through the end zone Thursday (after a short opening kickoff), easing our mind a bit about the impending cut of Swayze Waters. Speaking of booming, how about the punting of Jeremy Kapinos?

> Wow, Emmanuel Sanders did not look like a guy who hasn’t played competitively in seven months. If he can step in and contribute right away against the Ravens next week, that’s a huge boost.

> It looked to us like Arnaz Battle did plenty to win his roster spot and Chris Hoke didn’t do anything to lose his. The biggest question: Did Weslye Saunders do enough to supplant John Gilmore?

> It’s about the fourth preseason game every year when the novelty of the hilariously bad announcing of Bob “Heimlich Remover” Pompeani and Big Edmund Nelson begins to wear off, the jokes just aren’t funny anymore, and we are fully ready to hear a play-by-play guy who can correctly identify the action and a color analyst who seems to understand it. So long fellas, see you next August.

> Although they’ll downplay and deny it all week, the Ravens are just as banged up as the Steelers entering the opener.

> With all due respect, Maurkice Pouncey looks terrible with a clipboard in his hand. Interestingly, Pouncey's replacement at center Thursday was Trai Essex, who played his fourth OL position after being signed two weeks ago. With all the lineman who've worked at multiple positions in the preseason, you get the feeling the Steelers are ready for the annual spate of injuries there.

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