With the loss of several key starters and the decision to start scholarship reductions early, the 2013 season could have been a real struggle for head coach Bill O’Brien and the Penn State Nittany Lions. However, several young players stepped up helped lead the Nittany Lions to seven wins on the year. Sure, there were both ups and downs, but overall, O’Brien’s second at Penn State, has to be labeled as a successful one.
Heading into the season, it was hard to tell what to really expect from the Nittany Lions. A true freshman was starting at quarterback and the defense had to deal with the loss of most of its leaders. O’Brien decided to start the NCAA-imposed scholarship reductions this season, limiting the skilled players he could have.
For the most part, Penn State was able to handle the lack of depth. The two places it showed in the most were special teams and the defensive secondary. The Nittany Lions struggled in both the kick return game and especially on kick coverage, as “run-ons” had to take spots usually held by athletes under scholarship. The defensive backfield also struggled at times. Defensive coordinator John Butler could never really find consistency due to constantly switching players around in an attempt to find the right combination.
Penn State’s 2013 season had its share of forgettable moments. The shocking loss at Indiana, the historic pounding at Ohio State and the heartbreaking overtime loss to Nebraska in the home finale are all moments that are better forgotten. On the plus side, there were plenty of great moments that provide hope for the future of the program. The four-overtime defeat of then unbeaten Michigan, the upset victory at Wisconsin and the play of freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg are all positive moments that stand out from the season.
Sure, there are plenty of things to work on between now and next August, but there is plenty to build on too. the early success that O’Brien has found has already had a big impact on recruiting. As shown by Hackenberg and top tight end prospect Adam Breneman, the difficult circumstances at Penn State are not keeping some of the best players away.
So, while there were disappointing defeats and some poor play at times, the season should be looked at as nothing other than a success. The Nittany Lions finished with a winning record and will have momentum heading into the 2014 season.
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