NITTANY NOTES: Eying the Owls

Get the latest on Penn State football's preparations for this week's game against Temple, including lineup changes and practice focal points.

After a rough set of practices last week the coaches "pulled it back" on Monday. But then it dialed things up on Tuesday. "Kent State was a decent game — OK — but there's a lot of work that need to be done," an observer said.

All in all, the team seems pretty excited for the Temple game. "They're undefeated — everyone is talking about that," another observer said. "Temple's sky-high and amped for a win and the [PSU] player are all looking to knock off an undefeated team."

Driving Defensive

The defensive coaches have continued stressing fundamentals; tackling technique, block-shedding, footwork and reads. Kent State was described as end Pete Massaro's "welcome party" and he has been seeing increased first-team reps this week. Observers feel that he and Sean Stanley are seriously pressuring Jack Crawfor and Kevion Latham.

Position coach Larry Johnson is not expected to name the starting ends until later this week.

There is a lot excitement about the cornerbacks with one observer calling Stephon Morris and Derrick Thomas "two of the best athletes on the team. D'Anton Lynn is "your lead-by-example guy" described as "quiet off the field, but all-business on it." All three have been a strength for the defense in terms of the "play and passion."

Strong safety Drew Astorino, who was pulled last week for missing tackles, is no longer running first team in the base defense. Andrew Dailey, who replaced Astorino vs. KSU, is now with the first team. But Astorino continues to be part of the nickel package.

The coaches have continued to take a harder line with the players week, pulling guys for missing "easy tackles or blocks." This is described as a "change in philosophy," which is surprising to many players.

"But I tell you, a lot of guys are all for it," an observer said. The consensus is that it will make the team better in the long run.

The major concern with the defense is at linebacker. Observers feel they have the athleticism as a group, but they are playing tentative. The coaches have been on Bani Gbadyu and Chris Colasanti to "react." "Chris has good strength and power and Bani is athletic, but when you lose your keys on a route and freeze for a moment, you're playing catchup," an observer said.

Toeing the Line

"The staff is telling the [offensive] linemen that they have a lot of progress to make," one observer explained. "I think they hate the sound-bite that they haven't given up a sack because they don't want anyone hanging their hat on this."

The offensive line has focused on run blocking this week but still had its share of pass protection. "They've used a lot of max-protection, keeping the tight ends in, but their going to have to get away from that once Big Ten play starts," according to another observer.

The line has remained the same, except for Johnnie Troutman having "grabbed" the left guard starting spot. The coaches feel that Quinn Barham has shown promise at the left tackle position, but are working on his hands and feet to get ready for the speed of the Big Ten ends.

Running Wild

Not surprisingly, Evan Royster continues see a lot of first-team running back reps this week, although Stephfon Green is "getting a lot of work too." Many observers feel that Royster had a fairly solid game against Kent State, and point to the coaches abandoning the run game as the bigger issues. As one observer said, "Evan's athleticism is fine, it's his attitude … that's all I have to say about it."

"I think Steph did well with the opportunity," another observer said. "He's pushed himself to get more physical and it showed."

The staff is also working to get Silas Redd a limited number of first-team reps. Observers love his speed and aggression. "He has a great burst and movement in open space. He's got to see the hole better, but also work on his patience. But he's exciting to watch when he hits a lane."

Passing Lane

Rob Bolden has been getting added work on deeper routes and slants this week, but also seeing continued work with check-downs and posts. "They continue to put blitzing pressure on him to help him read the breakdown," according to one observer. "There's been a lot of stress on avoiding turnovers and forcing passes. He's pretty patient, though. He's not overly anxious to force a play."

For what it is worth, the staff has spent additional time walking through situations where he "can use his legs." As another observer put it, "[The staff] put in some designed runs (last week). There's a lot of concern for his health, but his mobility could be a real weapon."

As an aside, the coaches are also "preaching to Rob to protect himself" on the field. "Everyone loves his fire, but there's no need to take or give a big hit that could sideline him. He ran a lot last year (in high shcool) and loves giving hits. They want to break him of that."

Should I Stay or Go?

In case you missed the earlier TAP board update, Shawney Kersey was not at practice Monday or Tuesday. But has yet to sit down with the staff as of this report. Get more details and get into the discussion here.

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