Penn State Football produced its first 11-win season since 2019, in 2023, and reflecting on the Rose Bowl champions‘ campaign, it is time to think about who and what led to the Nittany Lions‘ success.
Here are two coaching MVPs for the 2022 season that played a major role in getting Penn State Football a New Year’s Six bowl win and back to the top 10.
Offense: Ty Howle
When Tyler Bowen left Penn State Football to coach tight ends for Urban Meyer’s staff in Jacksonville, Ty Howle was an internal hire that wasn’t splashy at the time.
A former Penn State lineman, Howle spent the 2020 season as an analyst at Penn State before being promoted to tight ends coach to replace Bowen, a top assistant for the Nittany Lions for years, and the interim offensive playcaller for Penn State’s 2019 Cotton Bowl game.
Howle’s first season on campus was met with mixed reviews.
That season, tight ends had issues with drops and run blocking. After the 2021 season, there were rumblings among fans for Howle to be let go in favor of a more experienced position coach, however James Franklin stuck with the former Nittany Lion for the 2022 season. That decision paid dividends for Penn State this season, as the tight end room made huge strides both in the passing game and run blocking.
This season, Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, Tyler Warren, and Khalil Dinkins accumulated 66 catches, 866 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Their production, however, was almost more impressive in the run game. The top 3 tight ends run blocking mightily improved this season, leading to the breakout of Penn State’s two headed monster backfield, which accounted for almost 2,000 yards on the season.
Overall, Howle’s performance coaching up this tight end room cannot be overlooked as a reason for Penn State’s resurgence into the top 10 and a Rose Bowl win.
Defense: Manny Diaz
Honestly, it was hard to pick just one coach for the defensive MVP.
A case can be made for every defensive coach on the Penn State Football Staff.
Terry Smith worked wonders with the cornerback room, building both Kalen King and Joey Porter Jr. into CB1 material and using multiple corners to replace Porter Jr. after his appendectomy.
John Scott Jr. quietly turned the Penn State Football pass rush into a serious force to be reckoned with, allowing Chop Robinson and Dani Dennis Sutton to break out in their first years on campus.
I went with Diaz, however, for his performance in his first year as Defensive Coordinator, bringing all the pieces together and allowing each unit to thrive.
Diaz’s aggressive scheme led to 42 sacks, 14 interceptions, and 15 forced fumbles. The Penn State defense held opponents to an average completion percentage of 52.1.
In the running game, Penn State held opponents to 3.3 yards per carry on the season and held five opponents under two yards per carry.
Under Diaz’s scheme, freshman Abdul Carter also broke into the starting lineup and earned freshman All American status.
Diaz was a home run hire for Franklin last off-season and, barring a too good to pass up head coach opportunity arising, will play a huge role in next season’s Big Ten championship and national title hopes.