Was one of Penn State's players accidentally giving away his team's plays all season?
Penn State has lost two games in a row after racing out to a 7-0 start, and ESPN's Jonathan Vilma thinks he may know one of the reasons why. Vilma thinks that one of Penn State's players, by the way he was lining up on offense, was giving away the team's play call.
Vilma co-hosted The Russillo Show with Adnan Virk on Friday and explained his reasoning. He says he noticed it two weeks ago, but out of respect for Penn State, which was still in the national title hunt at the time, he held back.
Here's what he had to say:
"So for Penn State it all started when I was watching the Northwestern game on Saturday. And I was like "wow, Northwestern is doing a tremendous job against Saquon Barkley." And then Penn State ended up winning, they blew the game open but I wanted to really see what happened in that game so I went and watched the film the next day and I started seeing some tells with the way the offense was lining up and what some players on the offense - particularly on the offensive line were doing.
So I said "okay this must have been something that Northwestern was seeing in previous games." So I'm watching it and I'll go very generic. You knew whether it was run or pass based on one of the offensive tackles. One of the offensive tackles was very very lazy in his stance.
So when it was a pass, he was very upright and you could tell that he needed to kick back and get back for a pass. When it was a run, he was leaning in, he was locked in to make sure he goes and gets his guy. It was particularly noticeable when he started getting tired. As all linemen do, they get tired. He would then start to really lean in on his runs, sit back on his passes. And I said "wow, I could call run-pass this whole game. Run-pass, run-pass." I was right.
So then, I said "okay let me see now on the run plays, where does Saquon line up and how do they run their run plays when Saquon lines up to one side or to the other side?" It's not a left or right thing. It's when you have a 3-technique, I'm getting a little technical, but when you have a defensive tackle that's a 3-technique, as opposed to a defensive tackle that's a 1-technique. So a 1-technique is a defensive tackle that's lined up usually shaded right over the center. And then you have the defensive tackle that's over the guard. To make it easier for people to understand.
So now, when he was on the side of the defensive tackle that's lined up over the guard, more times than not he was getting the ball and it was hitting in a certain area - the A-gap or cutting back. Kind of designed that way.
When he was on the other side, it was truly a zone read and it was a mix of him getting the ball or they would run some of their counter plays and things of that nature. So I'm watching and saying "wow, okay, so anybody that can communicate this to their linebackers or their secondary because the D-linemen won't see it. If you can communicate this to your D-line and secondary and they're aware enough in the games to actually key in on this, they could have a field day. A field day.
And sure enough, I remember watching the Ohio State game's second half. And they lit up that Penn State offense. And I would like to think that it's that they knew they had the tell."
Penn State, now with two losses, is probably out of the running for the College Football Playoff. But if the Nittany Lions finish strong, they could still wind up in a New Year's Six bowl game.