The players wrapped up last week with some scrimmage sets which gave the offense extra work with red-zone, third-and-long, third-and-short and goal-line situations. As for how the offense fared? "They got (the ball) into the end zone — they need consistency, though. Some guys just seem to have a rough time focusing at times," according to one observer.
The coaching staff ended up giving the squad a break from meetings, lifts and practices over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which allowed many players to head home for a quick break. However, the Nittany Lions were back in action on Monday.
"It was a decent practice, I think a lot of guys came back recharged, but (this team's issues are) not about practice," one observer said.
Although there were reports of some "open position battles" from last week, many of the shifts seemed to disappear during the Monday session. Here are some notes from the practice:
- The linebackers got a boost on Monday with Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti returning to see some reps. Indications are that if all goes well this week, both could see significant time against Minnesota.
"They have to get back into the swing, but their athleticism alone gives the defense a big boost," one observer explained. "The [defensive] staff is really hoping they are both cleared (to play)."
At his press conference Tuesday, Joe Paterno said Mauti and Bani Gbadyu are good to go for Saturday. He said he hoped to have Hodges back, too.
- The offensive line which saw DeOn'tae Pannell, Matt Stankiewitch and Mike Farrell challenging Quinn Barham, Johnnie Troutman and Chima Okoli at left tackle, left guard and right tackle respectively, is now seeing the basic lineup that was in against Illinois:
"[The staff] seems to think this lineup gives them the best combo, but Matt (Stankiewitch) was pushing. I mean I think the competition was good." There has been debate around restructuring the line. "You got nothing to lose, but Dick (Anderson) and Joe (Paterno) seem to feel this group will eventually gel."
- The secondary continues to see Chaz Powell at corner, however D'Anton Lynn and Stephon Morris have been running as the first-team corners for much of the bye period. Andrew Dailey seems to be recovered from the stinger issue that sidelined him earlier and has been back practicing.
One interesting side note is that the coaching staff has tried to "flip" the safeties, moving Drew Astorino to the free spot and Andrew Dailey at the strong spot. "The are trying to see if the shift suits the secondary better, but they're somewhat different roles, so they have to get used to the assignments and read responsibilities."
As one observer said, "I think the loss of free safety Nick [Sukay] is bigger than many realize. Nick is a [expletive] player who would fight to make a play and sacrifice his body, which is why he isn't playing. He brought a lot of energy that [the secondary] will have to make up for."
- QB Rob Bolden has gotten a good amount of breakdown and check-down work of late. He's also been working on his reads inside the red zone. Observers indicate he looks comfortable and is very "even keeled" and "upbeat."
"A lot of [the struggles] are not on Rob, but he's shouldering it and trying to push the guys," an observer said. "He's got to get comfortable as the field shortens and realize he needs to shift a bit once he gets into scoring distance. But he also needs the line to tighten up his protection and the wideouts to pull in balls -- it's not on him alone."
Observers also feel the coaching staff is completely behind Bolden. "They put their money on him and they seem to be sticking, which is what he needs to succeed," one observer said.
- On the injury front, freshman Zach Zwinack reportedly sustained an ACL injury. Zwinack has not played this season and is expected to redshirt.
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