With Week One in the proverbial books, the players and staff in Happy Valley are reviewing film and preparing for a huge test at home against Alabama. Before they take the field again, let's look back at what we learned in Week One against Indiana State.
1. Silas Redd is as good as advertised. Redd quickly rose up the depth chart last year, finally landing as the No. 2 back behind all-time leading rusher Evan Royster. With Royster's departure for the NFL, Redd inherited the top back spot. While he showed flashes of greatness last year, questions still remained as to whether he could be the primary back in what should be a run-heavy offense. In the opener, he did not disappoint, carrying the ball 12 times for 104 yards and two scores. Seeing as how the game was a runaway quickly, Redd was not needed to shoulder a full-game load. However, with arguably the top defense in the nation coming to town, Redd will see a marked increase in action next week.
2. Penn State is nowhere nearer to choosing a starting quarterback than it was last week. The season opener was supposed to answer some questions for the coaching staff, but the two signal-callers didn't do much to separate themselves from one another. Rob Bolden officially got the start, but both he and Matt McGloin split time throughout the game. The offensive playcalling appeared to be tailored to each quarterback, while the pass protection for both was mediocre at best. Bolden suffered from a couple of dropped balls on long pass plays, while McGloin could have had an easy interception with a boneheaded throw in the second half. The outlook for next week remains murky.
3. The linebackers will be something special in 2011. Sitting in the stands, I made a point to keep track of which linebackers were on the field each defensive series, and it became apparent very quickly that the staff was rotating linebackers with reckless abandon. I lost track of how many different combinations of the talented linebacking crew there were, but everyone on the two-deep and beyond got some quality playing time.
4. The STEP program was to blame for a weak opening-day attendance. The new ticketing policy was met with immediate concern from fans who were displaced, disgruntled, or displeased with the university. In the past, it was typically the student section that would take the longest to fill up, at least for the opening cupcake games. But by the end of the first quarter, the students were there in full force, while the edges of the season ticket sections were scarce. A full house is expected for Alabama, but people are clearly not happy with the new policies.
5. A healthy Penn State team can go places. 2010 was a season decimated by injuries. With renewed health, 2011 has the opportunity to be a great year for this team. There were only a few injuries of note heading into the game, and some of those players are expected back for the Alabama game. During the Indiana State game, tackle Mike Farrell went down with a knee injury that will likely keep him out of at least a few games. The optimism level at the moment is high.
Next Week: Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0, 0-0 SEC)