In the week leading up to every Penn State game, Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin speaks with the reporters on the PSU beat and answers whatever questions they may have. He also provides a brief rundown of their upcoming opponent.
Franklin runs through names, histories, personal interactions, and any other kind of minutiae that comes to his mind.
He did the same on Tuesday, starting first with the Ohio State offense.
“Obviously they do a great job, got a ton of weapons,” he said of head coach Ryan Day and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. “Some people are saying their quarterback is leading the Heisman votes at this stage. But they are challenging, not only through scheme, but also the weapons they have.”
It’s always interesting to see which names among the opposition that a head coach will mention. Those are the players that jump off of the film at first watch and then stick in the craw long afterward.
There are more than one of those guys among the Buckeyes, but it starts with quarterback CJ Stroud.
“The quarterback, C.J. Stroud, the wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and the other wide receiver, Emeka Egbuka, could mention a bunch of guys,” Franklin said. “Running back TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams, and then they have an offensive lineman, one guy that jumps out, Dawand Jones, who we recruited as well, 6-8, 359 pounds and very light on his feet which is kind of crazy to say.”
Every level of the Ohio State offense has talent that will be difficult for Penn State to handle, but it all comes back to the quarterback.
CJ Stroud leads the nation in pass efficiency (203.85). His 28 touchdown passes are four more than anybody else in the nation, and his 10.6 yards per attempt is bested only by Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker’s 10.8 yards per attempt.
Stroud had one of his toughest games last year against Penn State, and still completed 65% of his passes for 305 yards and a touchdown.
Whatever statistic you want to use, Stroud stands out among a crowd. But it’s not the stats that Franklin and his team have to replicate in practice — it’s the Ohio State offense, and how Stroud operates within it.
This is a task for the Penn State scout team, and it’s task that is too tall to ask from any of the Nittany Lion scout-team quarterbacks.
“Yeah, I don’t think you really can [replicate CJ Stroud],” Franklin said. “I mean, obviously we do that. Like when we build the scout teams each week, you’re literally saying, ‘okay, this guy should play him, and this guy should play him.’ You know, there’s not too many people in the country that have a quarterback like that, let alone a quarterback like that on the scout team.”
It’s film work off the field and rep work on the field, and doing whatever a coach can to replicate what his defense is going to see on Saturday. The Nittany Lion defense is going to experience a quarterback they’ve only faced once before, and they don’t really see anything like him in practice.
They’ll be prepared as best as they can, but it’s a lot easier said than done. There is only one CJ Stroud, after all, and he’s already got a team.
“That’s hard to pull off,” Franklin admitted. “And that’s where, trying to replicate it as much as you possibly can in practice, but then also doing some of the good-on-good work every single day, so they are getting the speed of it. That’s helpful, too. But there’s no way to completely replicate it week-in and week-out.”