Nittany Notes: Defensive Prep

The Penn State defense is preparing for a Minnesota offense that rolled up 572 yards against Purdue on its way to a dramatic 42-35 overtime win. The Nittany Lions are practicing to counter the balanced attack the Gophers present. They picked up 301 yards on the ground and 271 yards through the air vs. the Boilers.

Since the Northwestern win, the Penn State defensive staff has gone right to work in trying to develop a strategy to stop the offensive schemes of the Golden Gophers. As one observer explained, "The defensive coaches realize they didn't apply nearly enough pressure in the first half [against Northwestern] and are focused on coming at them harder with greater disguise and variety."

The Secondary

The Lions have been working a lot reps early on this week out of the nickel and penny schemes, with a focus on plugging lanes between the tackles and running containment on the wings, all in an effort to stop Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney.

The defensive backs have been running tighter coverage in drills, with less "release play" and soft coverage off the line. As another observer shared, "The staff realizes that the secondary has to take away the quick out with snug coverage, they are running a varity of release points to confuse the quarterback and hopefully force some decisions."

The Linebackers

This has opened up some opportunities to send in a variety of personnel to apply pressure on and collapse the pocket more effectively. The key to which has been the linebackers. "The linebackers will play a critical role in this game, both in run-stopping and pass coverage."

Currently the first-team linebackers have remained Tim Shaw (OLB), Tyrell Sales (MLB) and Paul Posluszny (OLB). Dan Connor has also been seeing some first-team reps at outside linebacker this week.

The rotation will likely see these three 'backers with a possible addition of J.R. Zwierzynski.

According on an observer, "Spencer Ridenhour has made some impressive progress in practice. "I am not sure if he will break into the rotation given the outstanding play of Paul [Posluszny], but the staff wants fresh legs from this rotation — Spencer could be ready to help give them that with some limited time."

The Defensive Line:

The defensive ends have been running a rotation of Matthew Rice, Tamba Hali and Josh Gaines, with Mike Lucian seeing some limited first-team reps also. The ends have been focusing on "pocket containment to counter the delays Minnesota likes to run with Maroney — their line runs a lot of pulls that require a lot of adjustments by the ends," one observer explained.

The defensive tackles have seen a three-point rotation with Jay Alford, Scott Paxson and Jimmy Shaw, though Elijah Robinson has seen a small amount of first-team reps as well. "The tackles look good, they are sitting low and have been running drills to help with their pulldown technique for runs between the tackles."


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