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Penn State’s offense should be far from vanilla as Franklin unleashes the wildcat

James Franklin

Penn State may have a number of question marks about its team heading into the 2014 season but the one things most seem to agree on without hesitation is the Nittany Lions have no issues under center. Sophomore Christian Hackenberg took some lumps in his freshman season but hit his stride as the year progressed. His season finale performance at Wisconsin offered a mighty glimpse of something special for the next few years in State College. If there is one position nobody is terribly concerned about, it is the quarterback position. That said, new head coach James Franklin should not and apparently will not shy away from trying some new things to mix things up on offense.

Yes, the wildcat will be back in State College this fall if Franklin has anything to say about it (and he does, being the head coach and all).

Speaking at an event Thursday, Franklin was asked about the wildcat and he was prepared to share some details about what could potentially happen. Franklin mentioned receiver Geno Lewis and speedy running back Bill Belton specifically, and for good reason. Lewis has some quarterback experience and Belton offers plenty of speed when healthy and has room to work. The spring game served up some potential plays that could make it to the playbook this fall.

In order for the wildcat to be effective though, Franklin stressed the need to have a threat to pass coming from Lewis or Belton or whomever may be running the offense. Hackenberg will rarely be a threat to run, so having Lewis or Belton give the defense something else to think about will be critical to the success of the wildcat. This is true not just at Penn State, but for any team looking to run the wildcat.

This video of Franklin talking about the wildcat was shared by The Patriot News (;

Bill O’Brien brought some new looks to the Penn State offense each of the last two seasons and really changed the way Penn State’s offense had been operating in a short period of time. He was not afraid to do things that had never or rarely been done at Penn State under former head coach Joe Paterno. When Paterno was fired in the midst of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Bradley and the coaching staff wasted little time in trying a few new things as well, and that included the wildcat a little more frequently.

This is not going to drastically change Penn State’s offensive philosophy. The Nittany Lions should still have a dependable running game and a solid passing game with Hackenberg, a tight-end heavy corp and a respectable stable of running backs, but Franklin is known to mix things up a bit. That applies here as well.

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12 Responses to “Penn State’s offense should be far from vanilla as Franklin unleashes the wildcat”
  1. planecrashguy says: Jun 6, 2014 1:19 PM

    Anyone aware of performance metrics of plays run from the Wildcat in 1A games?

  2. kosarkid says: Jun 6, 2014 1:36 PM

    He needs to unleash the boys being held in the shower rooms.

  3. musketmaniac says: Jun 6, 2014 2:02 PM

    I guess it takes awhile removing all that grime from porcelain and steel.

  4. seminolez says: Jun 6, 2014 3:13 PM

    the wildcat is overrated and hardly ever works

  5. planecrashguy says: Jun 6, 2014 3:46 PM

    “Overrated” and “hardly ever”? Opinions, not data. That’s why I’d like to see metrics/stats on the wildcat to quantify just how effective it has been.

  6. dmvtransplant says: Jun 6, 2014 4:24 PM

    @ planecrashguy

    In 2009 Villanova won the FCS National Championship where 80% of their plays were the Wildcat. I know that technically isn’t a metric, but the result speaks for itself.

    Also Navy does it all the time and it seems to work for them.

  7. musketmaniac says: Jun 6, 2014 5:02 PM

    don’t care about the wildcat, did someone just use Navy and Villanova as an example. Villanova are the wildcats! Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes movies, maybe.

  8. auburntigers34 says: Jun 6, 2014 7:21 PM

    The wildcat is about as vanilla as it gets. I wish that Auburn would stop using it.

  9. sportsguy3434 says: Jun 6, 2014 9:56 PM

    For some reason this is feeling like the path of Rich Rod moving to the b1g.

  10. dkhhuey says: Jun 6, 2014 10:05 PM

    Whoooooaaaa – what’s next – names on the back of their jerseys? Just crazy talk!

  11. dmvtransplant says: Jun 7, 2014 6:00 AM

    @ auburntigers34

    Didn’t Auburn just play for the national championship?

    @ sportsguy3434

    Unless Franklin installs a defense that lets anyone score he’s not Rich Rod

  12. auburntigers34 says: Jun 9, 2014 4:17 PM

    yeah, but the Wildcat didn’t have anything to do with it. Malzahn might break it out for 1 or 2 plays a game. but i can’t remember a single instance over the last 5 years or so where a play out of the wildcat led to anything more than a 2 or 3 yard gain.

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