The staff is focused in the early drills on firming up the personnel for the offensive line which is considered by several practice observers to be "among the most important units to establish this spring."
The coaches have made some shifts with the depth chart from the winter sessions already with the early threedeep as follows:
LT: Levi Brown, Mark Farris, Wyatt Bowman/Matt Lowry
LG: Gerald Cadogen, Rich Ohrenberger, Austin Hinton
C: A.Q. Shipley, Patrick Weber, Ross Muir
RG: Robert Price, Greg Harrison, Dennis Landolt
RT: Chris Auletta, John Shaw, Joe Toriello
Among the players receiving strong praise is current first-team center, A.Q. Shipley. "Shipley is like a veteran on the line," one observer explained. "He's intense, but he understands line play so well and is the type of guy you want at center for his communication and style of play, not to mention the fact that he commands respect."
Another lineman who observers have said has turned heads in early drills is Rich Ohrenberger. "He sits low and is among the best linemen in leveraging his assignment. He could really make an impact if he keeps it up."
Dennis Landolt is another athlete who has been impressing observers. As one said,"Dennis has power and size. He needs to lower his center and set his base more consistently, but working with Greg [Harrison] should really help him this spring."
Anthony Morelli has "looked great" in drills. "He is tossing well all around," according to one observer. Another explained, "He's bigger, stronger and infintely more confident. This is his team and he knows it. The coaches and players have confidence in him and that in turn has built up his confidence. He is really coming together in his mechanics and delivery — controlling his release and not rifling every pass."
Morelli is working on his long passes, but in particular has been focused on a lot of intermediate passes from 15 to 25 yards or so. He has been working with his primary receivers on curls, slants and post patterns in this range to get down the timing and "understand the tendencies his recievers show when they run and break on routes."
"Kevin just lacks the size, strength and technique of Anthony [Morelli] and Paul [Cianciolo]. You know he delivers some nice balls at times, but he needs to get more consistent with his delivery," as one practice observer shared.
"Paul [Cianciolo] is about Morelli's size. Although he doesn't have the release Anthony has, he has a strong drop back, sets his feet and steps into his passes well. Right now he looks to be the backup, but Daryll [Clark] and the new guys (Brett Brackett and Pat Devlin) could change that this off-season."
Not surprising, the wide receiver position is said to be "the most established unit out of the gate this spring." Derrick Williams and Deon Butler are the current starters with the backups rotating reps.
Here is the current three deep for the unit:
"Derrick [Williams] is running great, catching balls and looks comfortable out there," according to one practice observer. Williams has consistently received high marks on his drill performances.
"The coaches have been on him at times because he likes to play all-out aggressive, like diving for a pass. They don't want him to get hurt again, but they know that his play is what makes him special," another observer shared.
Butler is another receiver who is still turning heads. "He's so fun to watch, even just wathcing him on passing drills — he's such a smooth, fluid runner and makes these circus catches that are amazing," one observer said. "The guy was built to play wideout and does it so well."
The staff also likes the size and hands of McDonald. "The team is excited to have him available this year. He has good hands and should add some nice depth," the same observer explained. McDonald also runs "crisp routes" and has good all around fundamentals.
The three deep at tight end currently is:
Lyons has the size and build to play the position and he has been rotating in on some second-team drill reps, but "he just isn't the type of blocker and pass-catcher that the staff wants him to be." Lyons has "good hands but he's inconsistent."
Center Trent Varva is currently not participating in practice due to a case of mononucleosis.
The passing game continues to practice the spread as its base scheme, focusing on three- and four-wide sets.
The offensive line continues to use the zone blocking approach, incorporating a variety of shifts, pulls and rolls that "were used before, along with some new stuff."
Tony Hunt is currently first team at tailback with Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw splitting second-team reps. BranDon Snow is running first team fullback with Matt Hahn and Dan Lawlor splitting second-team reps. "It's early but Snow has been carrying the ball more in drills," one observer shared.
Want to keep up to speed with Penn State football throughout the off-season, including complete coverage of spring ball, junior recruiting and the NFL Draft? Subscribe to a Fight On State Total Access Pass now at this link.