Get an update from the practice field as Penn State prepares for this week's action in Beaver Stadium. We touch on the mood of the team, key injuries and some young players making moves.
The week opened with typical "light walk-through drills" on Monday and the squad took in its standard film sessions by unit.
Tuesday "the team went hard" and was a "pretty sharp practice." Most observers felt the practices have been "good" this week, but point to quarterback situation as "tiresome," as one observer described it. "Guys aren't going to publicly complain about it, but I think a lot of people just want a decision to me made. I am not sure most even care who it is at this point."
On that note, the coaches have seem to be standing firm on their decision to use both Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden under center. More on that later.
However, the staff, captains and veterans "have been active" in trying to quell any projected favor in the direction of either quarterback. "It's natural people are going to have opinions. I do think it's good that they are trying to keep that to a minimum. But I also think it could be eliminated by simply making a choice," another observer said.
The general mood of the squad is mixed, with "growing uneasiness" with the state of the offense. As one observer said, "They have the personnel to have a decent team that could improve with time. But with personnel issues and mental mistakes, even from the veterans, I think everyone is starting to get a little anxious."
Although the statement "take the win" against Indiana has been tossed around since the team got back from Bloomington, the sentiment is that the squad "was very fortunate" to come away with a victory against the Hoosiers. "They're not about moral victories and I know a lot of the other guys are pushing hard to get to where they should be," an observer said.
Here are some notes from the practice sessions this week:
As alluded to above, the staff has continued its approach of splitting the first-team work between Bolden and McGloin. As for whether the staff will be committing to a signal-caller? "Nothing that indicates they're going to declare the race over at this point."
McGloin has worked on his intermediate reads, "working with a lot of targets," with some additional time with the tight ends. He's also worked on the timing of his "deeper routes." As an observer explained, "He's had some nice passes he should get credit for, but he's been off on some of the outs. The staff really want that as an option in his game. I think that's why they were pushing it [against Indiana]."
Bolden has put in extra time on his reads. "They have him in progression drills. They are working with him to see the entire field — it's not easy, but critical to becoming dangerous." He's also spent added time in "pressure situations" to help him "handle the blitz." As another observer said, "Seeing and reacting to the blitz and not locking onto targets would make him a completely different quarterback. But then again if a horse can just run faster and hug the rail he could be a champion."
Most do not expect to see a change in the starting QB plan and anticipate Bolden to get the nod again. Although one observer pointed out that McGloin has taken some initial reps in practice, he admitted, "it's probably is meaningless."
The receivers got "a ton of balls tossed at them" this week. "They have dropped a bunch and they know it. Derek Moye, Justin Brown, Shawney Kersey and Andrew Szczerba have all done it. They know it."
One receiver who has received some nice praise of late is Devon Smith. "He's spent time with [position coach Mike McQueary] and put in extra time on his own just catching balls. He's still got a ways to go, but he's made some nice movement."
Freshman wideout Bill Belton has been on a "fast track," as one observer put it. "But the worse thing you can do is start pouting." Belton has been impressive since the preseason, enough so to see action against Temple and Eastern Michigan. However, "he wants more and was pretty vocal about it." Belton has been practicing this week with the second team. He did not make the trip to Indiana.
Wideout Curtis Drake has been up and down with the health of his leg. At times he's been "full go," but he's also "shown signs of some discomfort," which has had the staff pull back on his work. Joe Paterno alluded to some academic issues, but that was described as "more of a commitment thing."
As Mark Brennan reported on Wednesday, RB Silas Redd returned home for a few days to deal with a family emergency. Without getting into the personal details, "it really hit him hard." Redd is expected to return to PSU on Friday in time for Saturday's game.
Also, from the backfield, Brandon Beachum has gotten back into some action recently and "could get into the mix" on Saturday.
Fellow running back Stephfon Green, who was suspended for the first five games is back with the squad, although most "don't expect him to see much action" against Iowa. "He's got some ground to make up, and realistically it may be too late" for him to make a run at significant playing time with the progress of Redd and Curtis Dukes, and the likely return of Beachum.
No major changes on the defensive line, with Devon Still and Jordan Hill manning the bulk of the interior reps with James Terry and DaQuan Jones backing them up in the rotation.
There was buzz about Jones pondering a transfer, but that was assessed as "no big deal." As one explained, "Larry [Johnson] talked to him, explained the plan with him and got him fired up. He's on the right path, he's just anxious, which is what L.J. wants from these guys."
The linebackers have maintained a basic lineup of Gerald Hodges (Fritz/Weak), Glenn Carson (Backer/Middle), Nate Stupar (Sam/Strong). Hodges had an impressive game last weekend, which "really gave him a boost in drills."
The staff has limited cornerback D'Anton Lynn and is expected to be caution with him. Most do not expect he will get a green light to play vs. Iowa. He is "pushing" to get back into action, though, and is said to indicate he is feeling fine.
Assuming Lynn is held out, Stephon Morris is expected to start at boundary corner for him, with Chaz Powell on the open side. Freshman Adrian Amos has continued to see some first-team work this week in Lynn's spot as well.
The consensus around the team is that this is a "defining game" for this squad. Most will say "every game is big" and that they "can take none of them for granted," however, this game has been viewed as one that will "set the direction of this team."