PSU Redshirt Watch: Part II

We continue our Redshirt Watch feature, reviewing the progress of several Penn State rookies who sat out last season, including overviews of their practice performances in 2005 and where they may impact the depth chart headed into spring practice and the 2006 season.

Redshirt freshmen are essentially a second recruiting class, players who have been kept under wraps since they stepped on campus last summer. Given that these athletes have not had the opportunity to contribute and have had a year to brush up their skills, there should be a lot of excitement around them. Yet the buzz around the current recruiting class typically overshadows the excitement around these redshirt freshmen.

We received periodic progress reports on the redshirts throughout the 2005 season and beyond from practice observers. Here are some updates on a few of the redshirts who have made impressive strides in conditioning and practice. You may want to keep an ear out this coming off-season for any buzz around these players and their progress.

And stayed tuned to FOS for more redshirt reports in the coming weeks:

Kevin Cousins: Cousins saw his reps last season at wide receiver with the scout team. One observer described Cousins' progress this past season, saying, "He has the size and build to be a good wideout. He is not the fastest receiver out there, but he is a good possession target."

Cousins spent the 2005 season focusing on improving his fundamentals, particularly route-running and getting off the line "cleanly." Observers point to the depth of the wide receiver unit as a factor which has coaches wondering where Cousins will end up. "He complements the quick and smaller receivers in the lineup like Williams and Butler," another observer shared. "His hands have improved and he is defintely more comfortable in the spread, but he will have to battle to break into the depth chart this year."

Some observers feel he may get a look on the defensive side of the ball, possibly at one of the safety positions. "The key to a move like that will be his pursuit and tackling. He isn't familiar with the position, so it may be a chellenging move. He is better suited catching balls," another observer explained.

Francis Claude: At 6-foot-5, 252 pounds, Claude saw his reps at tight end with the scout team this past season. Originally, the staff had him pencilled in at defensive end, but felt his blocking and build had him better suited for the offensive side of the ball.

Described as "big" and "a load," Claude has shown solid blocking technique and fundamentals. "He played tight end back home, so he is well versed in the position. He has been focused working on developing his catching technique this season," according to one observer.

Claude's build is said to be similar to Isaac Smolko's. In terms of skills he is said to have a better blocking technique, but not as good of receiving skills as Smolko. "He'll be in the mix at tight end this spring with guys like Lyons," once observer shared.

Jerome Hayes: Hayes received tremendous praise throughout the season with words like "outstanding," "intense," "explosive" and "flat out fun to watch." Though he started 2005 on the scout team, Hayes was promoted to second-team linebacker by late September.

As one observer explained, "There wasn't a lot keeping Hayes off the field this year — yeah, he's that good. The overall depth of the 'backers was the main factor in the decision. He's a special player, in ability and attitude, and is expected to make a significant impact this year."

Hayes, along with Sean Lee, has been getting lessons from Paul Posluszny in practice on situation reads, technique adjustments and his overall approach to the game. As another observer put it, "It helps to have the best backer in the country working with you. It will make Lee and Hayes that much better."

Jeremy Boone: Boone backed up Jeremy Kapinos on punting duties last year. But he was not needed in game action, so he took a redshirt. He focused his conditioning on leg strength and flexibility to get more power and hangtime out of his kicks.

"Boone has good kicking technique, he booms his kicks high, but has to work on the overall distance of them," an observer explained. "He's improved this past season and learend a lot watching Kapinos. He is also working on ball placement, which is not easy, and understanding the relationship between the power and distance of his kicks."

See Redshirt Watch: Part I.


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