NITTANY NOTES: Kicking Off Spring

Saturday marked the kickoff to spring practice. Get a feel for how the drills are going to unfold right here.

Saturday was the first spring practice session for the Penn State football squad. You can see some notes from the initial session HERE. Below is a review of some key details for the spring period.

  • Saturday's practice was the first of 14 that will occur over the next few weeks leading up to the April 16 Blue-White Game (currently set for 2 p.m.), which will mark the end of spring drills.

  • The initial practice sessions are slated to see no contact or pads and will be conducted in shorts and T-shirts per NCAA rules. The players focus on individual position drills, agility and footwork.

  • The squad is scheduled to get into its first practice in pads this coming Wednesday.

  • The initial sessions of the spring period are generally used by the coaches to assess what they have to work with in terms of personnel and depth. A lot time in the first few practices is dedicated to gauging the progress the players have made during the winter workouts — "in the weight room, in informal drills and at the training table," an observer explained.

  • The staff is limited to 15 (spring) practice sessions (by the NCAA), so the coaches have limited time to assess the team, units and individual players to determine what needs to be focused on and accomplished this spring.

  • While the strength and speed coaches closely monitor each player's physical condition through winter workouts, and position coaches have small windows in which to work with their players, it is difficult for the coaches to get a real feel for where the players are football-wise until they get to work with them more in spring drills. That makes the period critical for player development and unit depth.

  • The offensive and defensive lines typically focus on footwork and agility sets early on, getting some bag and tackle dummy drills in to work on basic technique.

  • The defensive units are expected to put a lot of time into tackling technique and "tackling through the carrier." As one observer said, "[Tackling] killed [the defense] several times (last season). [The coaches] stressed it last season too, but it never really sunk in."

  • Not surprisingly, the quarterback position will be of particular interest given the off-season storyline related to Rob Bolden's transfer request. At this stage he will be competing with Matt McGloin, Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome for the position.

  • Overall the squad is "generally healthy and in good shape." A few injuries of note: tight end Andrew Szczerba is expected to be held out as he continues to recover from back surgery he had in November. Fellow tight end Gary Gilliam will also likely be held out as a precaution to ensure he is fully recovered from the ACL injury he sustained last season. Defensive back Nick Sukay will also be limited in drills as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle; he spoke with FOS about the injury HERE just prior to the bowl game.

  • A few returnees to the squad include defensive back Derrick Thomas. who was suspended from the team last season. Curtis Drake. who sat out last season with a fractured left tibia is said to be "fully recovered" and is expected to participate in drills. It remains to be seen if the coaches opt to limit him in any fashion, although he has been able to run this winter. He was also involved in a minor off-field incident though no decision has been made on whether that will impact his playing time this spring.

  • There are generally a couple of position shifts penciled in early on that the coaches take a close look at. Currently, one of these is Alex Kenney getting a look at cornerback to "help fill out the depth." Kenney was with the wideouts early last season, but the feeling is that his speed could be a major asset to the secondary.

With Sunday off, Penn State will get back on the practice field on Monday. The Lions are scheduled to have Tuesday off and then get into pads for their first contact session of the spring on Wednesday.

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