It sounds counterintuitive at first. Penn State’s top two quarterbacks this spring have spent a combined 12 months on campus. But the Nittany Lions are still going right ahead and expanding the playbook while they search for a new starter under center.
“We’ve expanded. Definitely,” second-year coach Bill O’Brien said. “We’ve added more to our language, and I think the QBs have adapted well. It’s all about how hard they go learning it and how well you teach it.
“I think that we’ve done a good job of teaching it, and they’ve worked really hard to learn it. So we’ve been able to add quite a bit.”
Now in the fourth week of spring practice, O’Brien isn’t any closer to deciding on a starting quarterback for 2013. That may not come until preseason camp in August. But despite that uncertainty, progress marches on for the Lions’ offense.
From O’Brien’s perspective, one inexperienced position — even if it is quarterback — isn’t reason enough to slow things down for the rest of the squad.
“The majority of your offense is a veteran offense,” O’Brien said. “Last year was the foundation of the offense. We have to add more because our opponents have seen it for a year.
“We’re a different team. Whoever the quarterback is will be a different guy. We have tight ends who have played a full year who know what to do. … We’ve added and we’ve adapted it to the type of team we have.”
The Lions return their starting tailback, both starting receivers and an army of tight ends.
Other than quarterback, the only spots to replace are on the offensive line at center and right tackle, and those holes are projected to be filled by a pair of fifth-year seniors in Ty Howle and Adam Gress, respectively.
“This spring, we’re just much more comfortable with each other — the players with the coaches, the coaches with the players,” said guard John Urschel, who is also entering his fifth year. “Now we’re really trying to add some things into the offense and really improve upon the things we did last fall.”
Tight end Kyle Carter has not been able to do much on the field since suffering a severe wrist injury at Nebraska back in November.
Carter revealed Wednesday that he suffered torn ligaments in his right wrist as well as dislocating it. He will not play in the upcoming Blue-White Game on April 20 but is ahead of schedule in his recovery and should be 100 percent for preseason camp.
Friend and roommate Allen Robinson said Carter has done everything to keep up.
“He would catch tennis balls, doing footwork (drills). And slowly but surely he was back out there with us,” Robinson said. “Knowing the guy that he is, he definitely wanted to press the issue and get back out there as fast as he can. And he’s done that.
“I could see early on how an injury like that would put him in a little bit of depression. Just from being around us all the time putting in extra work and him not being able to do the same. He definitely did as much as he could.”
Carter and safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (shoulder) have been held out of contact drills during spring ball. Linebacker Ben Kline (shoulder) has missed the entire spring session while recovering from surgery.
Beyond that, the Lions’ injuries have been minor. At Wednesday’s practice, tackle Garry Gilliam (calf), tailback Bill Belton (toe) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (back) spent time on the sideline.
O’Brien said he has been more cautious than usual with his players this spring, dialing back some of the physicality to keep players as healthy as possible.
“If we’re (practicing) on a Saturday, we’ll tackle on Saturday,” O’Brien said. “If we’re not going on Saturday, then we’ll tackle on Friday. We don’t tackle during the week. It’s April 11. And Aug. 31 is when we need to be ready to tackle and have our best players ready to go.
“That’s where I have to personally – I can’t depend on anyone else but me — to do a great job of making sure we stay on top of that. There’s nothing more important this year, next year, the year after than the health of the football team.”