The defense has stressed tackling drills this week.
"The [defensive] players know they've had some major issues recently with wrapping up," another observer said. "Some guys are using this battering-ram technique, and if you don't have the angle or momentum, you're just going to bounce off (the ball carrier)."
Another explained, "It's frustrating given how much this was stressed and worked on during (preseason) camp."
With Eastern Michigan on the horizon, the sentiment is that "this team can't take anyone for granted." As another observer put it, "The coaches are on them to get better with every snap. Everyone needs to avoid the unforced errors."
Here are some notes from the practice field this week:
- The coaches "refuse to commit" to a quarterback as both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin continue to split first-team work. "They both bring different looks and strengths, but neither is grabbing it."
- The consensus is that the offense would like to "just have a decision made" at the quarterback position, "so they can get more time to work with the starter." However, most observers we have spoken with do not believe that a decision is immanent at this point.
- In terms of the receivers, the staff has stuck with same primary set. Justin Brown appears to be "fine" from the injury he sustained at Temple. It was described as a "wrist hyper-extension," although initially there was concern that it was worse. Derek Moye, Shawney Kersey and Devon Smith are still heavily involved in the rotation.
- Wideout Curtis Drake has still been limited in practice. The medical staff has been "keeping close watch" over him and is "taking a cautious route."
- Silas Redd and Brandon Beachum continued to split first-team TB reps early in the week. But Beachum has been sidelined the past couple of days by a foot/ankle injury that may cause him to miss the EMU game. Curtis Dukes "got a little more into the action" this week as a result.
- The offensive line continues to see the same general lineup. The major difference this week is that Chima Okoli has been given some time to recuperate from an "ankle sprain." Adam Gress has stepped in for the bulk of those reps at tackle. Also of note freshman Donovan Smith has been impressing and has seen some select reps with the second team at left tackle. Though most feel he will likely stay in his redshirt unless there's an injury issue.
- The defensive line "is coming together" with Devon Still, Jordan Hill, Sean Stanley and Jack Crawford. Stanley, in particular, "has really shown he can break into the backfield." Still and Hill "work so well together" and their endurance has been pointed to as real area of improvement. "They are able to stay out for longer stretches."
- The linebackers continue to be a strength with a focus on Glenn Carson in the middle. "They are working him in more situations to help with his reads and adjustments." As one observer said, "I don't think a lot of people know how much pressure is placed on the inside position. Glenn's had issues at times, but he has picked that role up as fast as anyone I've seen."
- D'Anton Lynn and Chaz Powell have remained at corner with Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay at safety. The feeling is Sukay "had one of his better performances against Temple and has been much more relaxed with his play." Stephon Morris has also seen some first-team work.
- The defensive coaches apparently did speak to Powell about his personal foul in the Temple games. He was flagged for mixing it up while on the punt return team. "It's all discipline. Everyone gets that you don't want to back down when a guy's in your face, but he's got think think about the team and his role. He's got to get a handle on it."
- Special Teams got additional film and practice time this week. "It's no secret it's been a mess." Both Evan Lewis and Sam Ficken have been on field goals, on which Penn State is one of six on for the year. "Ideally, [the staff] would like to have Anthony [Fera] onlu on kickoffs and punts, but someone's got to step up and start putting it through the uprights."
As for the overall mood of the team? "It's frustration, no doubt. You've got a strong defense, but when they finally start creating turnovers -- which they worked their tails off to get -- they are squandered," as one observer put it.
"I think there's anxiety to fix the problems; I am not sure it's frustration -- there's some of that, but you have guys like Mike [Mauti] and Devon [Still] stressing that they need to support the offense and stay focused. So, they seem to be taking care of that."