Since the start of the season, when he has been allowed to practice, Dan Connor has seen action with the scout team. The bulk of his practice reps were at middle linebacker, with a stint at fullback in preparation for the clash with Cincinnati.
This week Connor has been promoted to the second team defense in practice, playing the middle linebacker position. Connor is described by observers as "hungry," "tenacious," and "hasn't missed a beat."
As an interesting aside, there have been some personnel shifts from the second and scout teams this week. Outside linebacker backups J.R. Zwierzynski and Joe Cianciolo have moved down to the scout team and true freshmen Sean Lee and Jerome Hayes have taken their spots on the second-team unit.
Observers do not believe that Hayes or Lee will play and feel they are both expected to redshirt, however, as one observer explained, "Those are two very talented guys and with the way the freshmen have injected this team, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to see them play if they can show they deserve it."
Jimmy Shaw was knocked out of action during the first half of the South Florida game with a knee sprain.
Last week we reported that the defensive tackle was "very close to being ready" to practice. Well, Shaw is back in action this week, seeing reps with the second team at defensive tackle. The staff has been easing him back into action, but as one observer explained, "He looks good — has shown good mobility coming off the injury."
If his progress continues as it has during the early portion of this week he is expected to be ready to join the defensive line rotation for Northwestern. Joe Paterno also said Shaw should be OK to play this week.
Center of Attention
E.Z. Smith has been seeing second-team reps at center since his return during the second week of September. Though he saw some first-team reps during last week's practices, the number of those reps have increased so far this week.
As Paterno said in his press conference, he intends to play Smith this week, but he will not start. As one observer shared, "Lance [Antolick] has held his own out there, but E.Z. [Smith] just has a better handle on the line communication and the position as a whole."