How fast can Penn State’s offense play?

Sean Clifford has said that his 2019 team is going to be “one of the quickest, fastest Penn State football offenses that you’ve seen in a long time.”

“In the spring, we were very explosive, but we left a lot on the table. Our offense is really hungry to prove that we can be a 400, 500, 600-yard offense consistently,” he added.

Now that sounds good to us, but how fast can we expect this Penn State offense to play next year?

Last year, Penn State had the 32nd fastest offense out of 129 teams as judged by our pace of play metric. Pace of play uses a team’s time of possession and number of offensive plays per game to see the average time between two of their plays. The lower the time, the quicker the offense is playing.

Here is the breakdown for all of the FBS teams in the 2018-19 season.

The fastest team last season was Houston, and they averaged a breakneck 19.3 seconds between offensive plays. Compare that to Penn State’s 23.4 seconds, and Penn State can certainly pick up some speed as they head down the field. Indiana (14th) and Nebraska (18th) were the only Big Ten teams that played quicker than Penn State in 2018, but both had worse records. Michigan ranked 123rd in pace of play, averaging a play every 29.5 seconds. Their style is a sharp contrast to how Clifford and Penn State want to play this season.

One thing that might help them accomplish that is the running back by-committee approach Coach Seider has said he wants to take this year. Last year Miles Sanders took over 70% of the designed running back plays, and before that Saquon Barkley took over 80% of those snaps. That lead to late-season fatigue and general wear and tear on these backs that were heavily used.

Between Ricky Slade and Journey Brown, Penn State can afford to split snaps more than they did in the past, hopefully leading to fresher backs at the end of games and the end of the season. This season will be the first for both of these guys to get significant reps, so coming out of camp ready to go is going to be so important – the committee approach to the backfield can’t happen if Slade and Brown aren’t on near equal footing.

It’s unlikely we’ll be able to notice Penn State playing faster with our eyes, but we’ll hopefully see it in the game results. Having fresher backs at the end of games will ideally tire out opposing defenses and prevent the fourth-quarter comebacks from our rivals that have become all too frequent these past few seasons.

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