Penn State: Breaking Down the 2012 Offensive 'Replacements' Through 4 Games
Replacing talent from previous years is something that all college football teams must go through. However, the 2012 Nittany Lions have had to face more than just the normal losses from graduation and NFL draft entrance.
Due to the NCAA sanctions, the Penn State Nittany Lions saw several key offensive players leave the school before the start of the 2012 football season. According to the sanctions, players can switch schools until August of 2013 without penalty.
Running back Silas Redd and wide receiver Justin Brown were two of the biggest names to transfer.
Head coach Bill O'Brien has had to scour his roster to find replacements at those key offensive positions. Through four games, some of the players who stepped in have been phenomenal. Others have left something to be desired.
It's never easy finding replacements for key players with little notice. Both Redd and Brown waited until the summer to announce their transfers. O'Brien has done a good job of finding the right talent to fill in where needed.
The following slides look at those players who have stepped in to fill the holes left by the transfers.
Wide Receivers: Allen Robinson and Alex Kenney
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Who was replaced: WR Justin Brown
Brown's 2011 statistics: 517 yards receiving with two touchdowns
Robinson's 2012 stats through four games: 404 yards receiving with five touchdowns
Kenney's 2012 stats through four games: 105 receiving yards with no touchdowns
Allen Robinson, the Big Ten's leading receiver, is have a great year for the Nittany Lions. Robinson has turned into a major weapon in the Penn State passing game. The sophomore receiver has already put up better numbers in just four games than Justin Brown did in all of 2011.
Robinson has shown the ability to not only get open down the field, but to take a short pass and turn it into a long gain. There is still a large part of the season left to play, but Robinson already figures to be a Biletnikoff finalist. The Biletnikoff Award is given to the nation's top wide receiver. Robinson is currently on the watch list for the award.
It's safe to say that Robinson has done more than expected and has evolved into a true No. 1 receiver in the Penn State offense.
Wide receiver Alex Kenney has also stepped in to help the Penn Sate offense. Kenney has proved that he has playmaking ability on short, quick passes. Kenney's true value comes in the return game. The Lions were not sure who would replace Brown in the return game. Kenney has done an admirable job for the Nittany Lions.
While Brown's transfer seemed like a major blow to the Penn State passing attack, that is not the case. Guys like Robinson and Kenney have stepped in and done a solid job for the Lions.
Kicker: Sam Ficken
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Who was replaced: Anthony Fera
Fera's 2011 statistics: 20-of-20 extra points, 14-of-17 field goals, 62 total points
Ficken's 2012 stats through four games: 10-of-12 extra points 2-of-6 field goals, 16 total points
It's not a stretch to say that kicker Anthony Fera may be the most missed player of the 2012 season. Fera, a kicker with a strong leg, was very dependable in the kicking game in past seasons.
Fast forward to 2012, and one of the biggest negatives of the Penn State season has been the kicking game. Kicker Sam Ficken has hit on only two out of six field-goal attempts. Ficken is well known by fans for his four missed field goals in Week 2 against Virginia. The Lions lost that game, 17-16
Teams never realize how valuable a kicker is until a reliable one is gone. Though Ficken has shown some improvement in recent weeks, he's got a long way to go to be a solid replacement for Fera.
Tight End: Kyle Carter
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Who was replaced: TE Kevin Haplea
Brown's 2011 statistics: 21 yards receiving with one touchdown
Carter's 2012 stats through four games: 190 yards receiving with one touchdown
When Kevin Haplea left for Florida State, there were several candidates who could step in as the No. 1 tight end in 2012. Kyle Carter has now taken over that title. Carter, the second-leading receiver on the team, is a great fit for the Bill O'Brien pro-style passing offense.
It's no secret that O'Brien loves to use the tight end as a receiver. Carter, a big tight end with solid hands has proved to be a reliable target for quarterback Matt McGloin, especially in the red zone.
Carter has given Penn State an upgrade at the tight end position and has been a big boost for the 2012 offense.
Running Backs: The Committee
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Who was replaced: Silas Redd
Red's 2011 statistics: 1,241 yards rushing with seven touchdowns
Carter's 2012 stats through four games: 442 yards rushing with no touchdowns
Perhaps the toughest position for the Nittany Lions to replace was running back. Silas Redd was a star at Penn State who left a huge hole when he transferred to USC. Replacing Redd has not been easy, especially considering all of the injuries that have racked up for the Lions at running back.
The Lions have taken a true "running back by committee" philosophy.
Bill Belton was expected to be the starter and carry the load for the Lions on the ground. However, he has not played since being injured in the second half of the Week 1 game against Ohio. Belton has 53 yards on 13 carries this season.
Derek Day stepped in for Belton, but was injured in Week 2 at Virginia. Day, who has carried the ball 26 times for 83 yards, has not played since Week 2.
Bill O'Brien decided to move fullback Michael Zordich to running back for the Week 3 matchup with Navy. Zordich had 53 yards against the Midshipmen and followed it up with 75 yards on the ground in Week 4 against Temple.
Running backs Curtis Dukes and Zach Zwinak have also seen time at running back this year. Dukes has 21 carries for 71 yards. Zwinak had a solid game against Temple, rushing 18 times for 94 yards.
The one glaring statistic for the Penn State ground game is that they have scored just two touchdowns. Ironically, both rushing touchdowns have come from quarterback Matt McGloin.