Players to Watch: Week 9 Penn State

Penn State

Christian Hackenberg, #14 Quarterback-  Hackenberg was the gem of Bill O’Brien’s first recruiting class as head coach of Penn State.  Hackenberg was the number one ranked pocket passer according to 247Sports, and he has not disappointed the Nittany Lion coaching staff with his progress.  So far this season Hackenberg’s stat line reads: 58.3% completion, 11 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and he’s averaging 7.4 yards per attempt.  While these numbers are nothing like Florida State phenom Jameis Winston, Hackenberg has shown glimpses this year of being the superstar QB he was touted to be out of high school.  Hackenberg is a smart kid with a big arm and some mobility.  His downfall comes with his accuracy.  His last three starts against Kenn State, Indiana, and Michigan, Hackenberg has had an average completion percentage of 47.9%.    Those performances would indicate the normal growing pains for a true freshman quarterback.  However, after riding the momentum of a great 4th quarter drive against the team up north, and given a bye week to prepare, Hackenberg may start to turn the corner and become the elite passer he was touted to be.  Look out for this kid, he is going to special.

Allen Robinson, #8 Wide Receiver-  Robinson is the favorite target of the true freshman quarterback.  He has hauled in 43 receptions (21 more than the second leading receiver), for 705 yards and 5 touchdowns so far this season.  Robinson is a big, imposing wide receiver measuring 6’3 210 pounds.  However, don’t let Robinson’s height and weight fool you, the kid has got some speed on him as well.  He’s a very good route runner with great hands, and an ability to go up and get the ball.  Shutting down Robinson will be vital for the Ohio State secondary.  Robinson moves all over the field.  He’ll receive tunnel screens and take them the distance, he can also beat press coverage on the outside.  He’s an NFL talent and can single handily destroy a secondary.  Just look at what he did against Syracuse below.

Bill Belton, #1 Running Back-  While Zach Zwinack is the workhorse for the Nittany Lions run game, Belton is the kid Buckeye fans should look out for.  The junior running back is a slashing type of running back.  He has a quick first step, and can make defenders miss in space.  He is a also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.  That will be a large concern for the Buckeye linebackers who may have to cover him in space.  Belton can beat a defense multiple ways.  He is averaging a team best 5.7 yards per carry, and has recorded 5 total touchdowns so far this season.  He also was responsible for scoring the game winning touchdown against Michigan.  Belton is no where near the caliber of running backs such as Melvin Gordon or Mark Weisman, but his versatility makes him a threat to any defense.

Ohio State

Bradley Roby–  Prior to Roby’s ejection from last weeks game, it looked like Roby was starting to get back to his old ways.  He was flying around the field, looking to hit anything that moved.  He finally looked like he stopped thinking and decided to go play football.  I think the bye week did Roby some good.  His year of facing good to great wide receivers does not get any easier as this weekend Robinson rolls in to town.  Robinson will be one of Roby’s toughest tests.  As stated above Robinson can hit a defense from anywhere on the field, so it will be important for Roby to be on his game.  If the front seven can take care of the run game without any extra reliance on Roby then it will take a lot of pressure off of him and allow him to focus on shutting down Robinson.  Roby’s play style and athleticism match up very well against Robinson.  Roby has extremely smooth hips, he is very very good in press coverage, and as long as he stays disciplined on the double moves, Roby can keep up with Robinson speed wise.  This will be the match-up to watch all night long as these two All Big Ten players battle it out.

Braxton Miller–  If Braxton watched the Penn State game against the team up north, then he should be salivating.  Penn State struggled to contain Devin Gardner as Gardner rushed for 121 yards, and threw for another 240 yards.  Not only that, but Braxton had his way last year with this Penn State defense, and this years Nittany Lion defense is a shell of what is was last year.  Miller, and the offense, looked to be getting in to rhythm against Iowa, and I expect them to be full speed this Saturday night under the lights.  His knee looks good to go, and his arm/mechanics looked fantastic.  As long as Herman does not continually attempt to force the issue against Penn State, and instead take what the defense gives them, I would expect Braxton to have a huge night through the air and on the ground.

Ryan Shazier–  Shazier has had a quietly productive All-American season so far.  He has recorded 56 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 sack so far in the 2013 campaign.  Last year against Penn State Shazier had a huge game as he had an interception return for touchdown along with:  8 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.  He will be important in the pass game as Penn State is willing to utilize the tight ends, and after seeing the amount of success Iowa had against OSU linebackers doing that, Shazier should expect to see some action his way.  If not he will somehow, some way, find a way to affect the game and have his nose in the backfield of Penn State.

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