TYM: Countdown to Spring Practice

Penn State's spring practice sessions are tentatively set to begin March 25. With that in mind, we felt it was time to start a special Take Your Marks series, one where FOS staffers Mark Harrington and Mark Brennan discuss and debate each area of the team. They start with quarterback and every few days, right up until the end of March, will tackle other positions.


Key Issues

Brennan: Seeing if the square peg that is junior Anthony Morelli can fit into the round hole of an offense that leaned heavily on a mobile quarterback in 2005. Morelli is a classic drop-back passer, so it appears the offense will have to be modified to fit his skills rather than the other way around.

Harrington: Good call. For the team to succeed out of the gate, Galen Hall and company are going to have to retool the offense to a large degree to fit and accentuate the strengths of Morelli. Though he is not nearly as immobile as some believe, he is no power-runner a la Michael Robinson, so the designed draws and runs will need to be replaced to make him enhance his effectiveness early on.

Off-Season Priorities

Harrington: In regard to Morelli's performance, the staff must look at giving him a solid three to five seconds to drop, set and throw. This will require the offensive line to be a major priority this off-season and for the staff to learn quickly how it must balance the wideouts and backs in the base set, since it may need an extra blocker or two early on back there.

Brennan: Another key is firming up the depth chart at the position. Presuming Morelli wins the starting job, there are three other scholarship quarterbacks - redshirt sophomore Paul Cianciolo, and redshirt freshmen Daryll Clark and Kevin Suhey - who deserve to know where they stand before rookies Pat Devlin and Brett Brackett roll in come late June.

Keep An Eye On

Brennan: We've heard great things about Clark's work on the scout team last fall. Unlike Morelli, he is mobile enough to fit into the same offense Michael Robinson ran in 2005. He is also big and athletic enough to play another position. Wherever he lands, look for him to emerge — eventually — as an impact player.

Harrington: With all of the buzz around Devlin, most have all but forgotten Brackett. This may be setting up another Wasserman-Mills standoff. If you recall, Wasserman was the top-5 nationally ranked California QB who was expected to leave Mills in the dust as soon as they stepped on campus. Open up the PSU record book and see who owns a slew of passing records now. Though Devlin, a Parade All-American, is the home-state favorite, Brackett has proven he has the arm, legs and heart of a winner.

Behind The Scenes

Harrington: Morelli's passing technique has benefited greatly from the 2005 season. When he first got to Penn State observers made a point to say he tried to “rifle” and “force every pass.” This past season he made significant progress “developing different passing gears” and knowing when to shift into each of them. As one observer said, “He has much better control of his arm strength and it's made him a more effective passer.”

Brennan: There are a couple of former Penn State quarterbacks (who were also classic drop-back types) working in the Lasch Building right now — receivers coach Mike McQueary and academic advisor Wally Richardson. Don't be surprised if Morelli taps into those resources.

Setting The Record Straight

Brennan: Veering slightly off topic here, despite constant speculation to the contrary, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno will not ascend the throne when his dad steps down. Speaking of JayPa, for all the heat he took for the struggles of the offense the previous few years, he received little praise for Robinson's emergence in 2005. Fans may be waiting to see how Morelli fares in 2006 before making a final judgment on the QB coach.

Harrington: The word around the Nittany Nation is essentially that Morelli has cinderblocks for shoes. While he is not nearly as mobile as Robinson, Morelli has the ability to scramble his way out of a situation. Don't expect the staff to embrace the QB draw with Morelli, but it's not like he runs a 6.5 40, either.


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