It’s the time of year when people start giving thanks, reflecting on the good things in life, and moving on from the bad. Penn State fans should be especially thankful as the football season wraps up and the holiday season begins.
This has been a great year for Penn State football; although the win-loss record isn’t exactly where fans would like it to be, the Nittany Lions have had more than their fair share of good tidings this year.
Let’s start from the beginning: After Bill O’Brien announced that he would be accepting a job offer from the Houston Texans after just two years of coaching the Nittany Lions, fans and players alike panicked. O’Brien was the man that essentially glued Penn State back together in light of the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal; he brought stability to a program that was in chaos, and then he left.
Enter James Franklin, a more dynamic, energetic, and involved coach than O’Brien was. Franklin is a good match for Penn State; his attitude is ideal, and better yet, he wants to stick around. He wants to be here, and he’s going to do what it takes to reinstate a winning culture at Penn State. Desire is a powerful motivator and Franklin isn’t interested in leaving. He’s interested in staying and building an era, which is exactly what the university needs.
And fans should be thankful for that.
Next, the NCAA announced that it would lift Penn State’s bowl ban. This didn’t make the team immediately bowl eligible, but it gave them the opportunity to earn the right to play more than 12 games. Given that the postseason was originally untouchable for two more years, this was great news for fans. They now have the chance to watch their boys go bowling, traditionally a “big deal” in the football culture. Regardless of whether or not Penn State gets selected for a big-name bowl, there is still an opening for them.
They still have the chance to play in the post-season, and fans should be thankful for that.
As the season progressed, one thing became clear: Penn State has an excellent defense; it’s ranked in the top five in three national categories. The team isn’t just leading the conference, it’s leading the nation. The brick wall defense, led by talent like Mike Hull, Anthony Zettel, and Brandon Bell, has kept Penn State at a competitive level in light of an ineffective and unconfident offense. With the reduced number of scholarships that Penn State had available, recruiters had to focus on building one strong area and made the defensive line a priority.
It paid off, and fans should be thankful for that.
Tying into that is the return of all 85 football scholarships. To an outsider, losing a few scholarships doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it impacts the team’s overall depth. In a high-impact game like football, injuries aren’t uncommon, and if a player is injured, a smaller bench means fewer people to take over. The team is stretched and overworked, opening the door to even more injuries and fewer wins.
Now that all of the scholarships are reinstated, Penn State will be able to bring in talented players to cover the entire field, not just half of it. No longer will they need to focus on one area over another, but rather, they are now able to build, and Franklin is ready to do just that. Despite some setbacks in the loss of names like Brandon Wimbush and Adam McLean, Franklin is an excellent recruiter, ferreting some big names away from Urban Meyer and picking up 18 verbal commitments in the last few months.
He knows what he wants and he gets it, and fans should be thankful for that.
The Nittany Lions are 6-5, and they’ll wrap up the regular season against Michigan State on November 29. This year has been challenging, but it was supposed to be a lot worse. Experts predicted that 2014 would see Penn State bottom out after the NCAA sanctions, and in some respects it did.
Everyone knows that the team has struggled; fans are tired of hearing that, journalists are tired of writing that. Some are calling the offensive line one of the worst in Penn State history, but eventually, the tables will turn. It’s inevitable. The sheer star quality that the players have almost guarantees that. Franklin just needs time to settle in, mature, and adapt the players to his coaching style. He knows how to win; he did it at Vanderbilt and he can do it here.
Even though Penn State’s record isn’t great right now, it will get better, and fans should be thankful for that.
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