Much has been made of Derrick Williams and his deluge of touchdowns Saturday night against Illinois. Much has also been made of Penn State's lofty #6 ranking. But before you begin praising Williams and purchasing tickets for the BCS national championship, let me give credit to other factors behind the Nittany Lion's success: Jay Paterno and quarterback Daryll Clark. JayPa successfully installed a brand new offensive system that features a (basically) first year quarterback throwing to a wide range of receivers out of a plethora of formations. And Clark, who is described as an athlete who just happens to have a great arm, has mastered this new offense and made a large amount of beautiful throws on NFL-like routes. Clark might be having one of those Brad Banks years when an athletic quarterback just happens to fall into an offense that allows him to throw and run effectively.
The Penn State Spread HD, as it has been called with so many voyeuristic winks, has been described by Paterno as including: 1. Multiple receiver sets, 2. zone reads, 3. option options, 4. rollouts, and 5. more passing than ever before. In this Spread, Clark has been asked to make throws that a first year QB in a new offense might not be so confident about.
One challenging throw is the 15-20 yard pass to a tight end or wide receiver streaking down the middle of the field. This is a popular NFL play because pros are so big and will go up in space to get the ball. Watch the first highlight here, where Clark hits WR Brett Backett with a perfectly thrown ball between four defenders. Jay Paterno has also instilled wheel routes (like the one Derrick Williams scored on v Illinois) and sideline routes when receivers get in 1 on 1 situations. Finally, Clark has spread the ball around efficiently, with Andrew Quarless, Mickey Shuler, and Evan Royster making key catches against Oregon State and Illinois. The outcome of this effective and varied passing game is a stretched out defense, better running lanes for Royster and Stephfon Green, and the Big 10's number one offense.
The Nittany Lions will certainly face tougher games, like road tests against Wisconsin and Ohio State. But JayPa's gamble on a spread offense with NFL passing options has paid off so far...and he can thank Daryll Clark for that.