Nittany Notebook

Fight on State will periodically post our Nittany Notebook, which is a collection of tidbits, notes and information from the PSU football program, with news on players, positions, coaches and more. This edition features reports on players like A.Q. Shipley, Dan Connor, Elijah Robinson, Tyrell Sales and Jimmy Shaw.

Here are some updates on a variety of players coming out of the winter conditioning sessions as they prepare for the spring practice routine which begins on March 28.

A.Q. Shipley:

The praise of Shipley has been impressive all around. Observers rave about him being the whole package -- physically, mentally and emotionally.

Described with words like "amazing," "awesome," and "impressive," Shipley is expected to stick at the defensive tackle position headed into the spring. As we posted in January, he was shifted to the offensive line late last season and had no love for the position. He lacked the emotion and passion for the position (intentionally) that he has for the defensive side of the ball, so he was shifted back over to D. He has the "ideal height" to play tackle at around 6-foot-1. He is built well -- big, but packaged so he is mobile and quick off the blocks.

He has been compared to Anthony Adams thanks to sound fundamentals. He stays low in his stance and sets a good base. His legs provide him "excellent leverage off the line." Last season he was "dominating" the offensive line, beating guys off the snap and breaking into the pocket consistently. The disclaimer tossed out was that the offensive line obviously was not impressive, but he apparently did it consistently enough against various assignments to make folks believe in his abilities. He explodes off the line and often displays "scary aggression" with his style of play.

Shipley's strength is solid and he has shown it consistenly in conditioning sets. He is very aggressive with his conditioning and "pushes himself like very few other guys." He could be a factor this year, though it will likely prove difficult for him to break into the starting lineup against veterans like Jay Alford and Scott Paxson. But he should make the two-deep coming out of spring and provide some nice depth to an already solid defense.

Dontey Brown:

Brown is built fairly well overall, but does not have the physique of other recent linebackers like Deryck Toles or Derek Wake. He also doesn't have the muscle definition or "cut" of guys like Tim Shaw or Paul Posluszny. That is not to say he isn't strong, but his frame is not as "tight" as some of his counterparts in the linebacker unit. The build of guys like Poz and Shaw make it very easy for them to carry their frame.

Despite this he is pretty powerful and does well in conditioning sets. Also, he has good balance between upper and lower body strength. He is also nimble and accelerates well with some good overall quickness. He is more quick than fast, and does a good job of "playing off his toes." There is strong interest in seeing his pursuit angles during the spring and how he reads and reacts to the ball. It's expected he will be more of a run-stopping ‘backer than a pass-coverage guy.

Looking at the linebacker situation, Brown has shot at breaking into the two-deep with a good spring. Posluszny and Connor obviously are pacing the group, and Shaw has the edge on the other starting spot, but the feeling is Brown has a good shot to make some waves this spring.

Tyrell Sales:

Observers project Sales as a defensive end this spring. Currently at about 235 pounds, he is small for the position, but the feeling is he could grow into it. He needs to continue to work on his build, size and physique in order to provide depth for the end spot.

Sales is a far cry from current "prototypical" ends like Matt Rice and Lavon Chisley in terms of size and build, but he has a good "snap off the blocks." Again, with the depth at linebacker and his tweener size it could prove to be challenging for Sales in the immediate future.

Jordan Norwood:

Norwood is considered small at about 5-9. He is among the shorter guys on the team. His overall build is small as well and described as "lanky."

Norwood has some quickness and speed. He is certainly not said to be in the class of a Alan Zemaitis, Donnie Johnson or Justin King, though. His legs are described as the most powerful aspect of his body, but still considered an area he could improve upon to get a stronger stride on runs.

He lacks impressive strength overall and particularly needs to focus on his upper body and has been doing so in conditioning sets. Overall, he is not expected to make an impact this year and is likely to end up at safety.

Jimmy Shaw:

Described as "strong as an ox" with "impressive power," Shaw, like his brother John, is considered to be among the strongest players on the team.

Although many project him to be a defensive end given his playing time with Rice University at the position prior to his transfer to PSU, Jimmy is currently with the linebackers. Whether he stays there remains to be seen.

Dan Connor:

As you probably expected, Connor has tackled the winter conditioning period head-on in an effort to boost his size and weight up a notch or two. Although "not a major amount," he has added "three to four pounds of good weight" to his frame. Coach Ron Vanderlinden wants to boost Connor's size "methodically," so he is adding the "right kind of weight."

The focus is to get him a little more size, power and leverage from his position in the flat and that much more to wield on a hit. We'll see how he enters the spring but he seems to be off to a good start in the staff's eyes.

He is described as a "beast in the weight room" -- not just because of his perfomance, but also because of his dedication and determination. He's focused. As one observer said, "he understands what needs to be done and he's doing it ... 10 times over."

Elijah Robinson:

Robinson receives some nice comments consistently and looks good overall. Observers like the defensive lineman's strength and ability to apply pressure.

He needs to work on sitting low in his stance to gain leverage off the line, something Shipley does very well by comparison. Robinson is viewed as a solid all-around type who will provide depth to the line.

Conditioning Program:

During the current winter conditioning sessions, S&C coach John Thomas has implemented an optional free-weight component to the lifting routine. The players have had the option to participate in free-weight sessions like squats and use of dumbells for conditioning of arms, shoulders, chest, back, etc.

Several players are reportedly participating in these free-weight sessions consistenly, like Tim Shaw and Lavon Chisley. Others have opted out of them.

The sessions are under close supervision by Thomas. It is not clear if this is serving as a sort of test of a more widespread use of free weights in the program or if it is simply a short-term option.

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