NITTANY NOTES: Early Spring Drills

Get the latest news and notes from around Penn State's opening spring practice sessions. We touch on the offensive line, defensive line, quarterbacks and receivers.

Through Penn State's first two practice sessions of the spring period, James Franklin and his staff have run drills at a "high intensity pace." As one observer explained, "There's no trotting or walking — everyone moves and moves quickly under the idea that every minute counts."

A good amount of the early work has been focused on fundamentals and technique. "As much as it's practice, it's also an evaluation period for the coaches to see what they have to work with."

Franklin moves around practice a lot. While former coach Bill O'Brien often spent much of his time with the quarterbacks and passing game, Franklin "splits his time up much more."

Line Up

Herb Hand has the offensive line working on stance, footwork and hands "with the focus on constructing the best starting line." The O-line has also spent time working to learn Hand's terminology for pre-snap calls, which is different from what the group used under former line coach Mac McWhorter.

The bulk of the early first team reps have seen:

LT: Donovan Smith
LG: Derek Dowrey
C: Angelo Mangiro
RG: Miles Dieffenbach
RT: Andrew Nelson

Mangiro has "snapped fairly well" at center. Wendy Laurent, Dieffenbach, Dowrey and redshirt freshman walk-on Tom Devenney have also worked on snapped with the QBs, as well.

Dowrey, who has moved over from the defensive line, has impressive strength. Most feel he has to work on his feet and hands.

Defensive Front

At the end position the veterans C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes "provide a nice foundation for the staff to build from." Barnes has been focusing on his block-shedding technique and not getting "tripped off the line."

In terms of the younger ends, Garrett Sickels has been consistently mentioned for his ability "get off the snap quickly." He's working on dropping his shoulder and his "rip technique" to "make the corner."

Inside at tackle Anthony Zettel is making a "smooth transition" and seems like a favorite to make an impact. Also Austin Johnson has "shown he can apply pressure," whereas juco transfer Tarow Barney and redshirt freshman Parker Cothren have also turned heads. Barney in particular, "manages his size well and seems to understand how to leverage it."

Passing Judgement

Christian Hackenberg largely "looks like a veteran" and is described as "sharp," "aggressive" and "precise" in his passing. The coaches have not been reserved in their impression of him so far.

D.J. Cook, Austin Whipple and Michael O'Connor have also had a good amount of reps in drills and under center. In terms of the true freshman O'Connor, he's shown he has "good control of the ball" and his mechanics are pretty "solid." As expected, he's making "mistakes on reads and breaks" but as one observer said, "it takes time to get down the routes and tendencies (of receivers)."

In terms of the receiving unit Geno Lewis Matt Zanellato, Richy Anderson and Jake Kiley are getting opportunities with a lot of passes. Lewis in particular has stood out with his consistency. DeAndre Thompkins has "run some good routes," but overall the receivers are a "work in progress" to see who emerges. As one observer explained, "Getting the routes down is one thing, but catching passes from [Hackenberg] is another."

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