Receiver Justin Brown explained in a few simple words this past week one big example of why Penn State football as we've come to know it no longer exists.
"The past playbook was kind of simple," said Brown, pointing out the obvious, "but this one's a lot more creative."
We won't find out exactly how creative PSU's new offense is two weeks from now in the Blue-White Game, since Bill O'Brien and his staff likely won't tip their hands too much. But the spring game will give us some glimpses into the program's long-awaited foray into modern offensive football.
You know, the kind where there's more than one trick play - a reverse to a receiver that could be sniffed out by 100,000 fans in attendance, let alone opposing defensive players.
"Everybody's excited about the new offense," Brown said.
That even goes for the defensive players, who no longer will have the burden of doing everything themselves in hopes of surviving ugly, low-scoring games, even against mediocre competition.
"In practice, with the different looks that we're getting, it is exciting to see that something different is coming from the other side of the ball, that they're trying to score points every time they get on the field," safety Malcolm Willis said.
One of the big things PSU's offense has worked on this spring, Brown noted, has been getting receivers open in space. That's a huge component of a successful passing attack because it leads directly to the all-important stat of yards after the catch.
O'Brien is bringing a New England Patriots-themed offense to Happy Valley, and anyone who watched the Pats extensively knows they excel at gaining yards after the catch. Receiver Wes Welker led the NFL in that category in 2011 (732 of his 1,569 yards came after the reception), while tight end Rob Gronkowski was fourth (656 out of 1,327) and tight end Aaron Hernandez was ninth (519 out of 910).
The NCAA doesn't keep stats on yards after the catch, but that's typically been a problem for PSU receivers. It's tough to pad that stat when the offense relies so heavily on sideline routes and passes in the flat to the short side of the field, where defenders can use the sideline to their advantage.
Joe Paterno preferred that type of safe approach in the passing game because it limited mistakes and turnovers. It also severely limited the offense's ability to make big plays.
Paterno didn't want his offense to lose games.
O'Brien, on the other hand, wants his offense to win games.
That philosophy has been made clear to players on both sides of the ball this spring.
"The main thing about this offense and what coach O'Brien has already said is put points on the board and help the defense out," Brown said.
It seems to be a given that the Lions will throw the ball a lot under O'Brien. It may not be 35-40 times per game, especially with a standout running back like Silas Redd in the backfield, but the passing game will be a bigger factor going forward.
Some fans wonder if a heavy reliance on throwing the ball can work in the Big Ten, where the weather occasionally can be treacherous. But the key word there is occasionally, and frankly, that theory is overblown.
In reality, the overwhelming majority of Penn State's games are played in mild weather, conditions that favor the passing game rather than hurt it.
Last year, PSU's night game against Illinois at home was 32 degrees, but that was the only one all season below 40 and 10 games were above 50. In 2010, the home game against Michigan State was 35 degrees, while two were in the 40s and the rest above 50. In 2009, the home game against Minnesota was in the mid-30s, two were in the 40s and the rest above 50.
Also, anyone who thinks a northeast team can't win relying so heavily on passing needs only to be reminded of the Patriots. After coaching in New England, don't think O'Brien will be too worried about the impact of the weather in central Pennsylvania or the rest of the Big Ten.
The biggest keys to having the kind of offense O'Brien wants to have at Penn State are a smart, decisive quarterback who can make good decisions and deliver the ball on target so receivers can run after the catch, plus a strong offensive line that gives the quarterback time to make those reads.
Matt McGloin, for all of his question marks, does throw the 8- to 12-yard routes very well, and that's a requirement in the Patriot-style offense. Rob Bolden has not shown an ability to throw short passes well, and we don't yet know about Paul Jones.
It will be interesting to see how much time each of those three get with the first-team offense in the Blue-White Game.
The offensive line has been a big problem at PSU for years, but the major change now is that one coach, not two, is in charge of the entire line. Mac McWhorter is calling all the shots as the line coach after Dick Anderson and Bill Kenney split those duties, and all linemen now take part in the same meetings, as opposed to being split into groups life before.
"It is different," center Matt Stankiewitch said. "I like this way. It makes us more of a unit."
The Lions have spent a lot of time this spring working on the no-huddle offense and picking up the pace, which is another change from years past.
"We're going to be out of breath," Stankiewitch said of the no-huddle impact on the offensive line, "but the thing is we're going to keep the defense on the field ... and keep them on their heels."
From now on, all teams preparing to play Penn State will have to be on their heels trying to figure out what the Lions' offense will try to do. Predictability is a thing of the past, and later this fall, no one anywhere in college football will know exactly what to expect from O'Brien's offense.
"It's a very exciting time for Penn State," Stankiewitch said. "It's an exciting time for our football team."
Anyone who enjoys a good, aggressive offense certainly would agree.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.