Friday, November 2, 2012

Carter, McGloin and Robinson lead assault on Penn State record book

One of the byproducts of Bill O'Brien's new offensive system, with its increased passing efficiency and uptempo pace creating more plays each game, is the sudden endangering of many PSU passing and receiving records.

Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler, prepare to step down.

You too, Darryl Clark.

O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram, your days are numbered.

Penn State’s vibrant and versatile uptempo passing attack under new head coach Bill O’Brien is about to shake up the PSU record book - specifically, the records set by the aforementioned Lions legends.

After only eight games, it’s clear almost all major PSU single-season passing and receiving standards - established over 130 years of football - are in jeopardy.

TE Kyle Carter, WR Allen Robinson and QB Matt McGloin are closing in fast on Penn State records.

Carter: Quarless set the TE single-season reception record in 2009, with 41. Carter has 35 catches for 441 yards (12.6 avg) with four games to go. Only injury (knock on wood!) can stop him from surpassing Quarless’ record.

Carter also is likely to take out Mickey Shuler, whose 600 receiving yards in 1977 are the most by a PSU TE. Though Carter has just 2 TD catches, the PSU TE record is just 5 (by multiple players), so he has a shot at that, too.

McGloin: Clark was the QB throwing to Quarless in 2009 when both were seniors. That season Clark threw for school-record totals of 3,003 yards and 24 TD. McGloin has 2,115 passing yards and 16 TDs so far this season.

McGloin is averaging 264 yards a game. He’ll need more than 222 a game the rest of the way to eclipse Clark. McGloin’s TD pace - two a game - would tie him with Clark at 24.

McGloin, if he stays healthy, is a sure thing to eliminate Anthony Morelli’s 234 completions and 402 attempts (2007) from the record book. McGloin is 189-for-304, 62.2%. (Kerry Collins’ 66.7 completion percentage in 1994 is out of reach.)

One more single-season standard within McGloin's grasp: TD-to-int ratio. Tony Sacca’s senior year, 1991, yielded 22 TD and 5 int. McGloin currently has just 3 int to go with the 16 TDs.

Some PSU all-time great WRs are sweating right now. McDuffie ('92) and Engram ('95) share the receptions mark with 63, and Engram holds the yardage (1,084 in ’95) and TD reception marks (13 in ’93).

Robinson’s stat line through eight games: 52 rec, 631 yds (12.1 avg), 8 TD.

The PSU single-season reception record soon will belong to Robinson, probably sometime during the second half at Nebraska on Nov. 10, or early vs. Indiana on Nov. 17.

The TD catches mark (13) is attainable, but would take an uptick in production, which is unlikely. The receiving yards total is very unlikely unless he has a couple of monster games.

However, Robinson could become just the fifth Lions WR ever to reach 900 yards receiving in a season, joining Engram (’94, ’95), McDuffie (’92), Bryant Johnson (’02) and Freddie Scott (‘94).

Why are these PSU passing/receiving records under assault in 2012? It’s all about O’Brien’s new offensive system. It emphasizes a varied passing game to the WRs and TEs, and an uptempo pace that allows PSU to run more plays each game.

While the previous regime played at a moderate pace, this regime accelerates like Brad Keselowski.

The tempo difference can add 10, 15, 20 plays a game. Which means more pass attempts, completions and yards. Which means broken records upcoming for Carter, Robinson and McGloin.

That said, the former regime, overall, was nowhere near as archaic, outdated and ineffective as pundits would have you believe. It just had a different philosophy.

That philosophy worked well enough 409 times over nearly 47 years to get the job done. The key to success no matter what your preferred style is staying true to your philosophy and executing it well.

Of course, you have to have the personnel to do the job, too.

In the threesome of Robinson, Carter and McGloin, O’Brien and staff have unearthed and developed players surprisingly capable of doing the job well.

The heretofore unknown, under-respected and/or unheralded trio of PSU offensive stars have pretty much shocked the college football world. None was a highly regarded recruit, and at the end of last season, none figured to be critical to this season’s success.

Yet here they are, leading an offensive revolution in central Pennsylvania.
  • McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing yards and is second among Big Ten QBs with at least 120 attempts in pass efficiency rating, 136.0.
  • Robinson leads the league in receptions and receiving TDs, and is second in receiving yards.
  • And Carter tops conference TEs in receptions and yards.
McGloin, for all of his much-chronicled progress under the guidance of O’Brien and QB coach Charlie Fisher, probably was underestimated coming into 2012. Because as bad as McGloin was at times last season - the PSU passing game floundered miserably in 2011 - he was fairly good the year before.

It is long-forgotten, but McGloin played fairly well in 2010. The numbers speak for themselves.

After taking over for an injured Rob Bolden at midseason in 2010, McGloin threw for 1,548 yards in six-plus games, and the Lions threw for more than 200 yards in 5 of the 6 games McGloin started, all but at Ohio State. His pass efficiency rating was a solid 128.5, despite the 5-interception calamity in the Outback Bowl vs. Florida. He threw just four picks in the six games before that.

(11-6-12 note: McGloin's underestimated 2010 season is helping him climb the PSU career passing charts. His 321-yard game vs. Purdue, his third 300-plus this season, gives him a school-record five 300-yard games for his career, besting Kerry Collins' four, and his 40 career TD passes are just three shy of Darryl Clark's career mark of 43 with three games to go. Zack Mills, Tony Sacca and Todd Blackledge all had 41.)

He was in need of an overhaul, though, after the miserable 2011 season.

The previous regime gets little credit and much derision for a lot of things these days (mostly undeserved), especially the former offensive coaches, but they actually did a better job with McGloin re one thing: getting him on the move.

McGloin is adept at rollouts - it usually buys more time to throw and keeps defensive linemen out of his grill - as he is capable of throwing on the run, or quickly setting his feet and throwing downfield after a rollout.

One other thing to keep in mind while comparing eras and regimes: The previous seven years of offensive football by Penn State are vastly underrated, due in large part to false perceptions perpetuated by the media, and the recency effect: Last season’s offense, and particularly the passing game, was really bad and predictable.

And that’s what everyone remembers.

The previous several years? Not bad at all.

How quickly so many forget the 2002 remarkable exploits of Larry Johnson and Bryant Johnson; the 2005 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year season of Michael Robinson, who finished 5th in the Heisman Trophy balloting; Clark’s record-setting 2008 and 2009 seasons; and the juggernaut 2008 offense that was a break or two from leading PSU into the national championship game.

So, PSU QBs and offenses did better in recent years than perception.

But O’Brien clearly is taking the offense up a notch, or two or three.

Recent former Lions such as Brett Brackett and Derek Moye, big targets who could run, must wish they could finagle one more year of eligibility. Or three.

Surely Justin Brown must look back at Robinson and wonder what he left behind by transferring to Oklahoma.

This is McGloin’s final season, and while he will set many PSU passing records the next few games, his record-setting days will end this month.

But can Robinson, a sophomore, and Carter, a redshirt freshman, take aim at the PSU career records for their positions?

Due in part to the extra year of eligibility he holds, plus extremely reachable career TE marks, Carter is the more likely to shred the PSU record book. Only the unforeseeable can stop him from being the dominant pass-catching TE in PSU history.

Two-time All-American Ted Kwalick (’66-’68), All-American Kyle Brady (’91-’94) and Quarless ('06-'09) all have similar career statistics atop the PSU TE chart, with Quarless making the most catches (87), and Kwalick leading in yards (1,343) and TDs (10).

Multiply Carter’s current totals - 35-441 and 2 TDs (and the TD rate should pick up a little bit) - by four years, and it’s clear he can smash the TE records.

As for Robinson, the WR career marks will be tougher to take down, in part because Robinson’s true freshman season last fall yielded virtually no stats.

So Engram’s 3,026 receiving yards is unassailable by him. Engram’s 31 TDs is possible, but would require Robinson to remain the clear No. 1 target, to remain healthy, and for PSU to remain very prolific on offense, for the next two seasons.

Robinson’s best chance for a career receiving record is Deon Butler’s 179 catches ('05-'08). Robinson will need to stay healthy and average nearly 5 receptions a game to do it. So far this season he’s averaging 6.5 a game, but that figures to come down a little over the long haul.

PSU is focused on beating Purdue right now, not records. But over the next few weeks, get ready to hear about Carter, Robinson and McGloin etching their names into the Penn State football record book.

Who saw that coming?

Follow Pete Young on Twitter @AllPSUfootball.

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