Nittany Notebook: Offense Update

With spring practice in the home stretch, the Nittany Lions are working to fine tune their game on both sides of the ball. However, with the defense in solid shape, most attention has been focused on the progress of the offense as PSU heads toward Saturday's Blue-White Game.

Wide Receivers:

The wide receivers are "a good group" which is "progressing nicely" throughout the spring. Although the unit continues to be challenged by a good secondary with the likes of veterans Alan Zemaitis, Anwar Phillips and Chris Harrell, some of the younger defensive backs like Tony Davis and Justin King are also "providing some improvement opportunities" for the wideouts.

Although the receiver unit is young, it has been characterized as a "definite improvment over last year," thanks to the "speed and talent of the players." Most of the young wideouts have had their ups and downs. Terrell Golden started the spring off with dropped balls and loose routes. As one observer shared, "He is coming along. Terrell is running better routes and handling press coverage better."

As for Derrick Williams, "He is getting more consistent — going up against Alan [Zemaitis] regularly has probably been the best thing for him." Zemaitis has worked consistently with the freshman receiver, challenging him and helping him to understand the tendencies cornerbacks can have and how to exploit them. Williams too is improving with the aggressive press Zemaitis throws at him. As one insider explained, "He [Williams] has never played against a corner as good as A.Z. — it frustrated hm at first, but he is determined to be the best, so he is focused on trying to beat Alan. If he can do that — he'll be well on his way."

Mark Rubin's size (6-foot-3, 213 pounds) continues to make him one of the biggest challenges for the corners. He is bigger and stronger, but not as quick as the other wideouts. Given this they have used him more on intermediate routes than deep outs. "His size adds another dimension to the passing game — it's almost like having another tight end out there."

Deon Butler also continues to receive praise for his speed and technique. He is still described as the most natural wide receiver on the squad. His sharp cuts and tight routes make him difficult to cover. Despite his size he "adjusts well and meets his passes." He also jumps well and is aggressive.

The offensive staff has thrown a four-wideout set into the scheme at times this spring. Whether they implement it come fall will be another question, but the consensus is that the receiving unit has the speed and personnel to run it. The biggest question still revolves around delivery of the ball and whether the quarterbacks will have a solid pocket and time to work with.

Offensive Line:

The offensive line continues to see the same starting lineup we have reported on for the majority of the spring:

LT: Levi Brown
LG: Charles Rush
C: Lance Antolick
RG: Robert Price
RT: John Wilson

Although this lineup has been running with the first team most of the spring, some of the younger guys are making an impact and "improving thanks to their reps against this defense."

A.Q. Shipley is getting the hang of the center position. He is getting better and "more fluid" with his snaps. "He's been working on them a lot," one observer shared, saying "it it clearly getting more comfortable for him, but he still has to continue working at it." Shipley has an excellent trasition from snap to stace, setting a good base and sitting low. He just needs to "make sure he delivers the ball cleanly to the QB."

Another young lineman who has received a lot of positive comments is Greg Harrison. Currently at right guard, Harrison is powerful and battling with Robert Price for first-team reps. "He is a little light," currently at about 283, and "has had some issues keeping on the weight, but he should be up to around 295 by the preseason."

Lots of folks have been wondering about Tyler Reed and Andrew Richardson since we first reported their return to practice last Monday, April 11. Currently, Reed is running fourth team right guard and Richardson is fourth team right tackle.

There have also been questions circulating around Rich Orhnberger, who was seeing time at right guard, backing up Price, earlier in the spring. In fact he was said to be "looking good and expected to make a run at the two-deep." However, he has not practiced since the first week in April.

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