Get an update from the practice field as Penn State prepares for this week's action on the road. We touch on the mood of the team, key injuries and some young players making moves.
Monday was an "easy" session for the squad with light drill work and film sessions. Tuesday was a "rough and tumble" session which "really worked the guys hard." As one observer said, "Monday had a mental focus on the drills while [Tuesday] had a good tempo and was much more physical."
The general mood of the squad is mixed.
"Everyone's anxious to get into conference play and excited that they're coming off a decent game, but there's still a lingering emotion with a lot of guys on the loss of Mike Mauti," as one observer put it. Mauti was knocked from the Eastern Michigan win with an ACL injury.
According to another observer, "Mauts provides so much pasison and intensity — not just the defense, but the entire team."
Mauti has taken on a "coaching" role this week and may even be in the headphones on the sideline against Indiana. "Even having his sideline presence is huge." Mauti has been working with the linebackers this week in practice, specifically the Sam (strong-side) and Backer (middle) positions.
As for the quarterback situation, little has changed there. Many across the team would prefer the coaches to make a decision. "I say just pick a guy," an observer said. "Everyone has to fight for their positions. Sure, a lot of positions have rotations, but I say just commit."
When it comes to the question of who should start at quarterback there are opinions on both sides.
"Matt [McGloin] gives things a spark. He has a good command of the offense," one observer explained.
As another shared, "I think Rob [Bolden] showed what he can do against an Alabama-caliber team. He needs some time and reps to boost his confidence."
However, most observers are not declaring their specific preference but are anxious for a decision to be made. "It's like shifting gears when you split it up — different timing, cadence, tendencies. … It can take the offense more time to adjust, but I think the offense has done a good job with it overall," an observer said.
"I would not say there are Rob or Matt camps on the team," he added. "I think a lot of guys just want to have a guy they can practice and play with consistently."
Here are some notes from the practices sessions this week:
Bolden and McGloin continue to split first-team reps. "There's been no real movement toward a decision (on a starting QB)."
The staff has had Bolden working on his "delivery and ball placement on deeper routes" and also his "pressure reads."
The coaches have had McGloin focus on working on his check-downs and overall timing.
Both quarterbacks have had the opportunity to work "situational sets" with third-and-long and red-zone looks. Each has also had additional progression work this week.
The consensus appears to be that the staff will stick with Bolden starting against Indiana, since "I haven't seen anything different that would indicate a change this week."
The offensive line has put a focus on run blocking this week with the same general first-team lineup. Reserve tackle Mike Farrell got back into some action after being sidelined the last three games with a sprained knee.
As we reported last week, Donovan Smith has moved up to see second-team reps at O-tackle, which continued this week. However, against Eastern Michigan, when the coaches called for the second team offensive line, Smith nearly went out with the unit. The coaches grabbed him, keeping him on the sideline because the staff wants to redshirt him (barring injury). "He's looked solid, but they ideally want to give him this year." As an aside, Smith is expected to travel with the team to Indiana this week despite the redshirt as an honor for his performance.
Wideout Curtis Drake continues to see limited work. He caught a 17-yard pass last week against EMU, but the extent to which the coaches intend to use him remains unclear.
Running back Brandon Beachum has remained sidelined with an ankle injury. "He seems to be coming along, but [the coaches] want to give him time." Silas Redd is expected to carry the load once again with Curtis Dukes getting in some work against the Hoosiers.
Stephfon Green remains suspended from action this week and is not expected to make the trip to Bloomington.
The defensive line has continued to see Devon Still and Jordan Hill in the middle. They've received strong praise for their performances and "ability to work together" in the interior. Sean Stanley has continued to hold a bulk of first-team reps at end with Jack Crawford.
One other note on the defensive line is that freshman defensive end Deion Barnes has moved up to see some second-team work recently. He did not play last week despite indications on the participation list that he did and is expected to redshirt. But the "coaches are really pleased with how he'scoming along with his management of the edge."
The linebackers have see a lineup of Gerald Hodges (Will), Glenn Carson (Backer), Nate Stupar (Sam). One interesting item of note is that although James Van Fleet has been the primary backup to Stupar, Khairi Fortt has seen some additional reps on the strong-side from his backup middle position this week.
With the news about D'Anton Lynn positive, the coaches have kept him out of action as expected. Look for Stephon Morris to start in his place at boundary corner this week, with Chaz Powell getting the nod on the open side. Freshman Adrian Amos, who is much bigger than Morris, has also seen first-team reps at boundary corner, a position that is counted on to make more tackles.
One reason PSU is going with Morris in place of Lynn this week is because Indiana is a pass-oriented team. If this were a run-oriented team, many thing Amos would get the nod. As an aside here, look for the Lions to play a lot of nickel coverage this week, with safety Malcolm Willis seeing the nickel reps.
Despite the struggles Indiana is facing, the team is "taking no one for granted," and many units have put in extra film time on the Hoosiers. Many are talking that with the Big Ten championship game added to the slate, every game is a "playoff" contest this year.