NITTANY NOTES: Preseason Kickoff

Penn State's preseason practice is finally upon us. Check out some news and notes from Thursday's action.

Thursday's opening drills veered a bit from the approach the Penn State staff has taken in recent years. More often than not of late, the coaches have opened with a "lighter" introductory session.

Not this year.

Although the team was still in shorts, T-shirts and helmets with no pads to start, Thursday's practice was "faster paced." It involved more running and fewer breaks.

After a spring practice period that saw next to no time outdoors due to the wet conditions, the Nittany Lions finally got out of Holuba Hall this off-season and outside to conduct some work on grass field next to Lasch Building. The field was completely re-sodded in the spring for the first time in seven years, so it is a great track.

"It's a fairly big deal," an observer said. "The indoor turf does a number on legs and this team likes being out on the real stuff."

The staff has previously taken an approach where it "dials up the intensity" over the first week or two, but this time "they really pushed [the players]" from the start.

These early sessions are used to assess the off-season player progress, abilities and overall depth the units have. As one observer said, "There was talk last year that [the process] took too long, so I think [the coaches] are tying to accelerate that process."

The Thursday session had "good energy" although the value of the NCAA's mandated "no-pad" early sessions remains mixed among the squad.

"It's too long and unnecessary," one observer explained. "Do players really need a week to get used to wearing pads?"

As another observer said, "It allows the team to ease in and focus on the basics to start. It depends how you use them."

The Nittany Lions are scheduled to have 29 practices prior to the season opener on Sept. 3 against Indiana State.

The squad kicked off drills around 3:30 p.m., opening with some runs and agility work and got in some initial unit fundamental drills, including linemen 1v1s, snap drills, read-react drills and passing work.

A few notes from the session:

  • Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden both took snaps at QB. There were no first-team drills per se, but they are expected to split starting reps this preseason.

  • Bolden has added some size, but he's also "more confident and vocal."

  • At this point neither quarterback stood out, but the passing drills were very basic.

  • A player who continues to get buzz is Silas Redd, but not just for his on-field abilities. Certainly not an unknown now, Redd's maturity and penchant for "continually pushing guys" has people talking about his leadership. "He's a rare one."

  • Veterans Justin Brown and Derek Moye led the way with the receivers. Moye in particularly "had a great off-season," as one observer put it referring to his physique. Also, Shawney Kersey and Brandon Moseby-Felder got several words of praise for their sharp routes in drills.

  • Secondary player who initially stood out were Stephon Morris, Derrick Thomas and Chaz Powell. Thomas particularly got some nice comments related to his energy in the opener.

  • In terms of the defensive line, several are pointing to Devon Still as a "driving force" for the group. "He is all over guys to hit it hard, which you need." Also, other defensive linemen who got "look-good" comments were Sean Stanley, Jordan Hill, Luke Graham and DaQuan Jones. Kyle Baublitz got comments on his overall impressive size.

  • The linebackers are again viewed as among the deepest units in terms of atheleticism. Aside from Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, Mike Hull and Khairi Fortt are "really put together." As one observer said, "The depth of this group is awesome to see. The disappointment is that there's so much talent that will be on the sideline."

  • Offensive linemen who got some praise included Johnnie Troutman and John Urschel, who "got a lot from the weight room." They are considered the two strongest linemen on the team.

  • In terms of injured guys like Nick Sukay, Andrew Szczerba and Curtis Drake, the staff is going to "ease them in and keep an eye on them."

There is always hesitation when it comes to early freshman assessments, but some of the rookies who who caught some eyes include:

  • The buzz around offensive lineman Donovan Smith is about his size his feet. "He moves pretty well for as big as he is." He's also shown he's got some strength.

  • DE Shawn Oakman is another guy who "doesn't look like a freshman" with his size. Although they like his frame there are some who want to see his endurance.

  • Another freshman who was noticed is athlete Bill Belton, for his running, which was described as "fluid" and "strong." The reservations are seeing his routes and hands.

  • LB Ben Kline also got a mention for his "build" and how he "held up" in the early drills.

    Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for continuing coverage of Penn State football's preseason practices.

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