The team had its unit meetings to start the day with the morning session focusing on some special teams' work. As one observer said, "I like seeing more time dedicated to special teams, but it's still probably not enough."
We'll have a separate report on the morning special teams session and it was another "high intensity" practice, which has been the theme throughout the preseason. Here is what went down in the afternoon.
The second session on Saturday had the squad heading to Beaver Stadium to bang helmets. The session was "a rough one" for the offense as described by one observer. "They weren't in sync, particularly the [offensive] line."
The defensive line "man-handled" the interior of the offensive line which saw a basic lineup of:
"The tackles held their own, with a few lapses," an observer said. "The inside had some issues with assignment pickups and movement; they weren't communicating enough."
The running backs had little inside running room, but managed some decent pickups on the outside. Silas Redd particularly "has a knack for making the corner and can really lay a hit." Redd had a few 15+ yard pickups. Brandon Beachum has continued where he left off in the spring. The issue for him is "keeping a handle on the ball" and "finding room to run." But he did have a fumble Saturday, which never goes over well with head coach Joe Paterno.
Curtis Dukes also saw some spot-action with the first team. The sentiment is that he gives PSU a different look in short-yardage situations. But as long as they can remain healthy, Redd and Beachum are the likely main backs. Stephfon Green is still working his way out of the doghouse, where he resided for unspecified reasons.
How much the Nittany Lions actually use a power tailback like Dukes remains to be seen. Veteran fullbacks Joe Suhey and Michael Zordich each have the ability to "clear a path." As one observer said, "Suhey's been a good lead [blocker], but Zordich is really coming along. He's thrown some crushing blocks."
But neither fullback excels at carrying the ball, even in short-yardage situations. Yes, Zordich had three touchdowns last season. But he averaged 2.7 yards per carry. Dukes could be the man PSU turns to when it needs a tough yard or two.
With the quarterbacks, most observers feel Rob Bolden will end up with the starting nod over Matt McGloin, but on Saturday "neither looked overly impressive. They each had good and bad moments." Both threw some nice intermediate tosses, although Bolden seems to use more of the field. "I think Rob's been showing he's getting more patient, but he still forces some things."
Both quarterbacks also tossed interceptions. "I don't think the O-line was helping them much with the inside rush, but you're not helping either when you're forcing passes," an observer said.
The wideouts made some "impressive" grabs, and observers like the depth with Derek Moye, Justin Brown and Shawney Kersey. Devon Smith's size and ability to "stay on his feet on a route" remain a concern. There's hope Curtis Drake will be ready, but the staff is remaining cautious with him and contact.
With the tight ends, not having Garry Gilliam is big. But the return of Andrew Szczerba has been promising, particularly with his blocking. He and Kevin Haplea should be able to manage the position. According to observers, Szczerba looks comfortable with his play, a positive after he missed all of last season with a back injury that ultimately required surgery.
With the defense, the line saw a primary lineup of:
The consensus is that the strength of the line is the interior, with the feeling that Still and Hill are a "great disruption combo." The ends have some depth. The question is with the consist pressure they bring off the edges. There's a growing feeling that Jones and Stanley have the strength and endurance to earn the starting roles, but the seniority of Latimore and Crawford "won't be ignored (by position coach Larry Johnson)."
The line "managed to penetrate and disrupt the pocket" in the scrimmage, particularly from the tackle positions. "Devon and Jordan are learning to work together better; if they really start to use each other and understand the tendencies and shifts they could be a fantastic duo," one observer explained. "There were spots where that's starting to happen."
As usual, the linebackers have seen some shifts this preseason, and the scrimmage was no different. This was the look Saturday:
Mauti has seen some inside reps, but the staff seems to like what he provides on the outside given that Carson and Khairi Fortt have shown the "athleticism and aptitude" to handle the middle position. The lineup has yet to be set though a of this point and continued shifts of differing lineups is expected given "the amount of talent" the unit has.
The linebackers contained the offense's progress pretty well in the scrimmage. They had some 15-20 yard pickups, but linebackers have been a bright spot for the squad.
The secondary did a "solid job," but this was also attributed by some to the challenges the offensive line had and the "lack of time the plays had to develop." With D'Anton Lynn and Chaz Powell at corner and Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay at safety "it's a veteran group," although the coaches have been working to get players like Stephon Morris, Malcolm Willis, Alex Kenney and Derrick Thomas into the mix quite a bit this preseason.
Questions remain around Thomas, who missed most of last season due to off-field issues, but "he's playing his part" in practices. "He's not out of the doghouse yet, but I think he's on his way."
The staff opted to give the players Sunday off from the practice field. However the units huddled up to review their progress and take in film sessions from Saturday's scrimmage.
Media Day is still scheduled for Tuesday as of this report.
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