Nittany Notes: Spring Battles 2

With Penn State's spring practice drills nearly 70 percent complete and the Coaches Clinic wrapped up, there are several positions that continue to see impressive battles for starting jobs. Get a look at another handful of the top position battles the Nittany Lion staff has seen so far in off-season drills.

Last week in our first position battle report we compared the clashes between Ed Johnson vs. Elijah Robinson, Spencer Ridenhour vs. Donnie Johnson and James McDonald vs. Jordan Norwood. This time we assess three more spring battles.

Greg Harrison vs. Robert Price

Lowdown: The right guard position has seen a split in first-team reps this spring between Harrison and Price. Harrison is coming off a foot injury which sidelined him in 2005. Back to 100 percent, he is grappling with the senior Price for the starting job, although Price has been penciled in as the starter since spring drills kicked off March 25.

Strength: Price has had "an excellent off-season" in terms of conditioning. He has improved his upper body strength and power. On the other hand observers feel that the redshirt year "has done Greg well." He is stronger and "uses his size more effectively to partition assignments." Advantage: Even

Size: Harrison has a clear height advantage, nearly five inches on Price. In terms of bulk they are comparable in weight, with Price having a slight edge. The height advantage can go either way for linemen, according to observers, but in Harrison's case he "sits low and provides himself a low center [of gravity]." Thereby giving himself greater leverage off the line. Advantage: Harrison

Footwork: Though he only saw action in three games last seaon, Price has a advantage on experience, albeit a slim one. Harrison has been practicing since prior to the bowl game and "is getting his feet back" and improving his footwork coming off a foot injury. Overall Harrison's natural footwork ability is said to be solid and is aided by his impressive athleticism. Advantage: Price

Technique: As we mentioned previously Harrison is "excellent" with his technique. He sits low, sets a wide base and opens his stance outward rather than upward. Having been in the program for three years, Price's technique is all-around solid, although inconsistent at times. "He steps out of his stance and tries to overpower assignments at times," an observer explained. When he sticks with his technique he does much better. Advantage: Harrison

Bottom Line: Though Price has the advantage when it comes to game experience, it is minimal at best. Given time Harrison's athleticism and technique should give him the edge to eventually win the starting role at right guard.

Kevin Darling vs. Patrick Hall

Size: Darling has about an inch on Hall, although Hall has about 10 pounds on Darling. Their sizes are fairly comparable with observers saying Darling "has more leg power" while "Hall has more upper [body] strenght." Advantage: Even

Blocking: Overall Hall is a better blocker with his upper body power and the use of his hands to center and contain his assignment. Darling is effective on blocks, though his sidestep footwork is not as nimble as Hall's on engagements. Some observers have said Hall is "probably the best blocking tight end" the team currently has. Advantage: Hall

Receiving: Where Hall outperforms Darling on blocks, Darling has shown he has soft hands, pulling in a variety of passes, including several of 30-plus yards in the flat. He has solid receiving skills, whereas he "struggles with his catching consistency." Advantage: Darling

Technique: It depends what aspect of the game you are referring to as to who has the better technique. Hall is more effective on blocks, while Darling has the better receiving technique. Though Darling's blocking technique is said to be close to Hall's than Hall's receiving skills to Darling's. Advantage: Darling

Bottom Line: Given the talent in the pasing game outside of the tight end position, the staff seems to be placing the emphasis on blocking here. Having said this, it would seem as if Hall has the edge on the starting role, but watch for Darling to get into the mix, particularly on possession schemes.

John Shaw vs. Chris Auletta

Strength: Both players are strong and have shown they can handle pocket pressure. However, Shaw has been consistently named among the "strongest players" on the team. Advantage: Shaw

Size: When it comes to size these two are mirror images of each other. Both are right around 6-foot-4 with Auletta having a mere five pounds or so on Shaw. Advantage: Even

Footwork: One of Auletta's primary strengths is his footwork. "He glides and is quick — it makes it difficult for assignements to end-around him," an observer explained. Shaw has solid footwork as well, but does not "sit on his toes" like Auletta does consistently. Advantage: Auletta

Technique: These two are said to be pretty evenly matched on technique, which is exactly why the staff has had Levi Brown sitting for much of spring drills in order to give both adequate first-team reps at tackle this spring. Advantage: Even

Bottom Line: These two are pretty evenly matched. With Brown the starting left tackle, the right tackle position should be in good hands no matter which player is selected to start. One observer summed it up best, saying, "The battle between Chris and John has been great for the line."

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