NITTANY NOTES: First Contact

Saturday and Monday marked the third and fourth practices of the spring period for Penn State. Get the latest news and notes on the squad as it heads toward completing the first third of spring ball.

Penn State is nearly one-third of the way through spring drills, with four of the 15 allotted sessions out of the way. Saturday marked the squad's first practice in pads this spring and was held outside for a few hundred attendees at Penn State's Coaches Clinic.

Unlike the clinic practices under Joe Paterno, this year's session was held earlier in the day and was not a scrimmage, per se. Rather, it was a 2.5-hour session with scrimmage sets. But most plays were run from one spot. They were not moving up and down the field. The old staff used to call this type of action a "team" period, meaning offense and defense going against each other live.

Monday the team was back into pads to take in position and individual drills, and got in additional scrimmage work. "The coaches are still on [the players] about precision with their technique," an observer said. "They're getting tougher now because (they've) been at it for some time. They are stressing that time's wasting when guys don't pick up on things."

"It's been a frantic pace," another observer said. "The coaches know they have a lot to get in — there's not a lot of down time at all."

Along those lines, most of the players are keeping up with the pace, which has also been described as "all out," and "very efficient." However, when anyone drops off, they tend to hear about it. "The coaches look at the quick rhythm as part of the conditioning process," an observer said. "They want practice to be just as — if not more — intense than a game. That's a bit dramatic, but you get the approach."

The coaches have worked full scrimmage sets as well as 7-7 and 7-4 setups to test various units.

Here are quick hitters from Monday:

• The quarterbacks seeing the bulk of first-team reps have been Paul Jones and Matt McGloin. Jones has looked consistent with his passing and also shown good balance and footwork. McGloin has also delivered the ball well and excelled in the intermediate game.

Rob Bolden has seen some first-team work, but primarily second-team reps. His focus continues to be on consistency with his release and hitting targets in stride. He has had trouble with the long ball.

Justin Brown is standing above everyone else at wideout. The other receivers starting to emerge are Brandon Mosey-Felder and Allen Robinson. Alex Kenney and Matt Zanellato have also made some impressive catches.

• In terms of the offensive line, the first-team lineup has remained fairly consistent with:

RT: Adam Gress
RG: John Urschel
C: Matt Stankiewich
LG: Miles Dieffenbach
LT: Mike Farrell

Donovan Smith has seen increased first-team snaps at right tackle and continues to build on his consistency managing the edge. Gress continues to receive praise for his progress with more than one observer saying he thinks Gress has turned a corner.

• The defensive line has started to see a rotation come together of:

DE: Sean Stanley / Pete Massaro / Deion Barnes
DT: Jordan Hill / Anthony Zettel
DT: James Terry / DaQuan Jones
DE: C.J. Olaniyan / Kyle Baublitz

Hill has been limited with a mild ankle sprain, which has opened up reps for Jones, Terry and Zettel. However, while the interior seems to be fairly established, the ends positions continue to be assessed. A redshirt freshman, Barnes is poised to make a push up the depth chart.

Massaro is also getting into contact and "picking things up." The staff is giving him time to get acclimated and comfortable on the field as he returns from an ACL injury.

• While Silas Redd is the clear first-team running back, the coaches have Bill Belton, Derek Day and Zach Zwinak splitting the remaining first- and second-team reps. Zwinak runs hard and get through holes quickly for his size. Converted wideout Belton can get to the edge and also has seen a lot of receiving work out of the backfield.

• At tight end, a focal point of Bill O'Brien, Kevin Haplea and Garry Gilliam have seen most of the first-team work. Gilliam seems to be healthy coming off his ACL injury, but is easing back into things. The staff is also using a lot of tight ends to build the two-deep, including Dakota Royer, Kyle Carter, Jesse James and Matt Lehman.

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