Nittany Notes: Scrimmage Report 1

Though Penn State participated in scrimmage drills last Wednesday, this past Saturday was the first full scrimmage of spring practice. With 40 percent of the sessions complete, the Lions participated in a full-contact, hard-hitting practice which observer said "had some brutal hitting." This two-part report starts with a look at the defense.

The coaches had the squad in full pads Saturday, participating in the first full scrimmage of the spring sessions. "The guys were anxious to play and weren't holding much back," an observer explained. "The scrimmage had some brutal hitting — particularly from younger guys like [Spencer] Ridenhour and [Sean] Lee."

Defensive Notes

  • The defensive tackles are still running a first team of Elijah Robinson and Jay Alford. Robinson had a "few plays were he broke through and forced [Anthony] Morelli out [of the pocket]. He uses his arms pretty effectively to break into the line and disrupt the pocket." Observers also feel Robinson has good control of his size.

    Robinson is being pushed by Ed Johnson, who has "shown consistency in his bull-rushing ability and overall game basics." Johnson has been called "the most aggressive tackle out there." Through the first week he was splitting reps between the second and third teams, but is "making an impression and working his way up."

    Chris Baker has also showed some progress, but he needs to work on his consistent play on every down. As one observer put it, "Chris is good when he wants to be."

  • Josh Gaines and Jimmy Shaw continue to see first-team reps at end, with the staff using "the scrimmage to see if anyone would emerge to challenge these guys." The early reports on Mike Lucian have been mixed, he "looked good" Saturday with two sacks, a fumble recovery and a backfield stop on Tony Hunt. "Lucian made a statement," an observer shared."If he can maintain that consistently we'll probably see more of him."

    Shaw looked "impressive" with a few end-around breakthroughs, but also "a few overpursuits." Observers like his aggressive style of play, but he also has the tendency to "bite on a juke or shift step." On the other side Gaines "has a lot of potential," but needs to "get his frame low so he doesn't get knocked back off the snap." Gaines has good power, but needs better control.

  • As expected the starting linebackers Saturday were Dan Connor, Sean Lee and Tim Shaw in the middle. Lee made big hits throughout the scrimmage. According to one scrimamge onbserver, "He wraps up [ball] carriers nicely." Lee also had a collision with Austin Scott that made one observers "cringe" watching it. Tim Shaw "was his typical vocal self and showed the younger guys how to plug a hole a few times — with words and examples," though BranDon Snow had a "beautiful seal" on Shaw to open up a run by Scott.

    Among some other players who received praise at linebacker were Tyrell Sales, who "is getting comfortable playing the wing, but still has to work on his outside reads," and Jerome Hayes, who "can hit like a battering ram. He was trying to make an impression — and to me he did — he wants to play," another observer shared.

  • In terms of the secondary, Tony Davis was back seeing some scrimmage reps, "but the coaches wanted him to go easy" after he sustained a dislocated broken finger earlier in the week. He was solid on coverage and did not seem overy bothered by his injured finger.

    Justin King saw first-team reps on the other side at corner, showing "nice coverage on guys like Deon [Butler] — those two are fun to watch." King played "effortlessly" according to one observer. As another observer said, "these receivers are quick and can throw King off a route with a fake or step out, but King's strength is his recovery — he adjusts so well and only gets off the route for a second or so and then gets right back on the assignment."

    Though Morelli delivered some nice balls on post outs and curls, "Justin keeps the window pretty tight and doesn't allow to many YACs [yards after catch]."

    Given that the coaches were going easy on Davis, Knowledge Timmons was seeing a lot of first-team reps and "is getting more comfortable out there." As one observer explained, "He is learning to read the receiver better, he's locking his eyes on him to make reads rather than trying to eye the quarterback."

    The two safeties that received the most scrimmage comments from observers were Spencer Ridenhour and Anthony Scirrotto. "Spencer is taking full advantage of the move [to safety]. Though he can be off with his choice of pursuit angles at times, he delivers some brutal hits." So much so the coaches asked him to pull back more than once Saturday as to minimize the chance of injuries.

    On the other hand Scirrotto is described as "fast and smart" and an "ideal safety who understands how to play angles well and how to support the corners." As a side note, though Donnie Johnson is currently slated as a starting safety, he only saw minimal reps Saturday as to allow for the backups to get some first-team looks.

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