NITTANY NOTES: Second Scrimmage

Get a review of the squad's performance and progress from Thursday's action on campus. The Nittany Lions had yet another double session heading into moving day.

Thursday marked third double-session of the week for Penn State, as the team passed the two-thirds mark of the preseason. With only 10 practices remaining after Friday — and 15 days until the Sept. 3 kickoff vs. Indiana State — the thought is that coaches will "ratchet things down some" heading into next week.

Friday morning saw another session focused on fundamental work and situational drills for the units. "The coaches are getting to a fine-tuning stage with a lot of the veterans. The younger guys are focused on picking up the scheme and understanding their role and how the positions and units work together," one observer explained.

Thursday's afternoon session had the team back in Beaver Stadium for the second scrimmage of the preseason. After a dominating defensive performance in last Saturday's first scrimmage, the defense still had a "good outing" on Thursday. But the offense — in particular the offensive line — managed to "hold it's own," which was a "big step from what they showed" on Saturday. That's not to say it was a dominating performance by any stretch, but "they had some good runs."

Here are some notes:

  • Although the top two quarterbacks continued to split first-teams snaps, observers indicate that Rob Bolden seems to be getting a greater number over Matt McGloin. Several still believe that Bolden has the starting job in the minds of the coaches. "Guessing what Joe [Paterno] will do is impossible. But I just see the time and attention Rob is starting to get and I just suspect it," an observer said.

  • The squad spent time on third-down and red-zone situations. In terms of the red-zone, several players were pointed to as being significant weapons. WRJustin Brown is getting things done through the air and FB Michael Zordich has "had some nice short-yardage carries."

  • Also, Brandon Beachum "has been running hard and looks strong in tight spaces." Beachum has been practicing at "full speed and he seems fine." Observers point to this as being key for the backfield. "Silas Redd cannot be the lone back; he needs support and the offense needs different looks," as one said.

  • With the offensive line it appears to be coming together in terms of the two deep. Here is where the basic lineup appears currently:

    LT: Quinn Barham, Nate Cadogan/Adam Gress
    LG: Johnnie Troutman, Khamrone Kolb
    C: Matt Stankiewitch, Ty Howle
    RG: John Urschel, DeOn'tae Pannell/Frank Figueroa
    RT: Chimae Okoli, Mike Farrell

  • Since he makes the line calls, Stankiewitch is continually working on the communication aspect and is putting in extra film time to help. "A lot of it comes with experience. They're pushing him, though." Despite the "steady signs of improvement" it continues to be a point of focus and concern.

  • Andrew Szczerba and Kevin Haplea have been splitting first-team reps at tight end. Having Szczerba back in the mix and Haplea bigger and stronger than he was as a rookie have both been bonuses for the offensive line. PSU really didn't have a strong blocking tight end in 2010.

  • A few notes on special teams: Punter Anthony Fera is still out of the mix and expected to be "suspended for the first few games" due to off-field issues. Alex Butterworth is handling punts and "getting his rhythm down." Observers feel he has a strong leg, but "not to Fera's level."

  • With kick returns Chaz Powell and Devon Smith have been the first-teamers with Alex Kenney and true freshmen Bill Belton in the mix. Both have "great speed and have shown they can hit a hole." Observers are impressed by Belton's "physical play and overall quickness" and "that he's shown he has a good view of the field." Kenney has always had great speed. But while redshirting last season, he significantly improved his strength.

  • The defensive line seems to be settling into its rotation with a few question at defensive end. Here's the general two-deep lineup they have been working:

    DE: Eric Latimore, C.J. Olaniyan
    DT (three technique): Devon Still, DaQuan Jones
    DT (nose): Jordan Hill, James Terry
    DE: Jack Crawford, Sean Stanley

  • A couple other players in Luke Graham (DT) and Kyle Baublitz (DE) have shown enough progress that they could add some depth as things progress. "Both guys are young (redshirt freshmen), but are starting to pull things together. That would be big with (possible) injuries and giving [position coach Larry Johnson] more to work with."

  • The first-team linebackers appear to be set with Mike Mauti (strong side) and Gerald Hodges (weak side) on the outside, and Glenn Carson in the middle. The top reserves are Nate Stupar (strong side), Mike Hull (weak side) and Khairi Fortt in the middle.

    Though Mauti and Hodges appear to be the clear leaders of this bunch, Carson and Hull have both been turning heads with their aggressive play and improved technique.

    "[LBs coach Ron Vanderlinden] deserves a lot of praise for reloading time and again. Carson's looking like he may be able to handle the middle spot. We'll see, that's a big position," one observer said. "Hull has a nose for the ball. There's a lot in front of him, but he gonna be tough to keep off the field."

    If Carson has a weakness, it is in coverage. Don't be surprised if Fortt rotates in on obvious passing downs. Likewise, look for Hull to handle one of the linebacker spots when Penn State goes nickel.

  • The secondary starters — or at least the primary contributors — have been established. D'Anton Lynn is the man at one corner spot, while Chaz Powell figures to get the nod at the other. Stephon Morris is also in the mix for first-team work. The top safeties are Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay, with Malcolm Willis pushing for more playing time.

    The key reserves at corner include Derrick Thomas, Mike Wallace and Kenney. Wallace and Kenney, a redshirt sophomore and freshman, respectively, have limited experience. Kenney, in particular, has "shown impressive speed and raw skills," but "will need time and reps to refine his play."

    Providing support at safety is Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, who saw action in all 13 games last season. Obeng-Agyapong has been focused on improving his "reads and angles."

Overall the offense did a better job of ball protection in the scrimmage. "They were coughing it up left and right" in the previous action. The offense had a couple issues with fumbles, but managed to put together some scoring in the red-zone work. "Bolden had some nice deliveries. If he has time and starts to see the field — and use his progression — he can do it (in the red zone)."

Friday is a "big day" for the Penn State players as they move out of their preseason Nittany Hall housing and into their room assignments for the fall semester. "It doesn't sound like much, but everyone just wants to get settled into their own places," one observer said. "It's exciting like this every year."

Friday morning will saw units huddle to review scrimmage film from Thursday's session as the "coaches work to set the two-deep." The squad will also have a "light" early practice "in tops," which is expected to have "teaching focus" based on what was seen in the scrimmage.

The afternoon will be open for the player to move into their room assignments.

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