Lions should have fresh(er) start this year

A little nitpicking while eager for the 2016 curtain to go up:

n James Franklin had a good explanation to a question this week on why the Nittany Lions looked so flat against Temple in their opener last year.

He said the lack of depth in practice kept the 2015 regulars on the field longer, in the August heat, which may have contributed to the Lions’ performance.

This year, he said, is different because there are enough subs to spell the starters, which should lead to fresher legs today against Kent State.

It should be apparent, fairly early.

n The idea of risking Saquon Barkley on kickoff returns, from this view, just doesn’t make sense.

Barkley has not even played a full season yet, having been injured last year against San Diego State and missing two-plus games. There are plenty of backups eager for playing time, such as Mark Allen, Nick Scott and

freshman Miles Sanders.

Barkley will be getting the ball enough, even as a receiver out of the backfield. There’s no need to overexpose him, especially with the Lions heading to Pitt next week.

n With the exception of starting guard Ryan Bates, Penn State’s offensive line is pretty much the same cast that contributed to the sackfest of the last two years.

And while the unit, for the sake of continuity, is one that rotates the least, you’d have to believe we’re talking about a short leash here.

For the Nits’ sake, the likes of Andrew Nelson, Brian Gaia, Derek Dowrey, Brendan Mahon can get it done. If not, we could see true freshmen Michael Menet and Connor McGovern sooner than later.

n If things go well today with Joe Moorhead’s new offense, it sure wouldn’t be a bad idea to get backup quarterback Tommy Stevens in the game.

Stevens didn’t get enough work in the Blue-White game, one reason Franklin kept the quarterback competition going until 10 days before the opener before naming Trace McSorley.

But staring down the gauntlet of Pitt, Temple and Michigan with a backup quarterback who hasn’t taken a snap is not overly comforting.

n While the Lions were a good defensive team the last couple of years under Bob Shoop, let’s see if new coordinator Brent Pry’s unit is better at takeaways.

The Lions’ leading interceptors last year were Grant Haley (who dropped one that would have clinched the Northwestern game) and John Reid, each with two. And that was with a better pass rush than Penn State may have this year.

The Lions’ total for the season was 10 in 13 games – not enough. They did a better job forcing fumbles (35) but only recovered 12 of those so the ball reaction overall needs to be better.

Paterno saga …

You might as well accept that any discussion of recognizing Joe Paterno will swing the pendulum of emotions from sea to sea.

Locally, most will say it’s about time. Nationally and on social media, it will bring an outcry of protest due to whatever role Paterno played in not doing more to stop Jerry Sandusky from the abuse of young boys.

Another thing you have to accept is no matter what is done to recognize Paterno, it either will be too much or not enough in the eyes of many.

And the last thing you have to understand is it will trump everything else on the radar that day.

Such was the case Thursday when the university, along with some announcing other promotions this season, included a brief mention of recognizing “Coach Paterno” at the Temple game. It wasn’t specific and didn’t even call him Joe (but we’re assuming it’s not Jay.)

Penn State should have gotten enough feedback to know that handling Paterno is way bigger than anybody or anything on the campus.

Which is why even publicly considering a topic so many are divided upon this close to the season is not fair to the current team.

It’s precisely what drove Bill O’Brien nuts and part of what makes the current Penn State head coaching position one of the most difficult in the country.

Pretty much the entire 2016 squad never met Paterno. That’s true for three-quarters of the revamped athletic department.

Lobbing this “promotion” for the Temple game two days before opening the season ought to send a clear message to the university that anything it does relative to JoePa – regardless of if, how and when he’s recognized – should be long thought out and publicly announced well before, after or at least apart from the season.

The sense here remains to wait until all the fallout from the trials is complete and then determine the most appropriate course relative to the man whose image on the scoreboard still gets the biggest ovation of the day.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or