Nittany Notes: Preseason Begins

Well, it's here — preseason practice. And that means the 2006 campaign is nearly upon us, too. With the departures of players like J.R. Zwierzynski and Brent Wise and the arrival of others like Chris Bell, Jared Odrick and Tom McEowen, the PSU staff is using the early sessions to form their final assessments of the talent available for this coming season.

By all accounts, the Penn State football team's first practice was a "light" drill session, consisting of runs and basic fundamental unit drills conducted in shorts and T-shirts with no pads. This is typically the case as preseason practice begins, with the intensity of the drills growing as the season approaches with the creshendo coming for the Sept. 2 kickoff against Akron.

So, what's the reasoning for such a light approach out of the gate with the initial practices?

As one observer explained, "The initial practice sessions are traditionally easy-going. The coaches generally used them to find out where each player is coming out of off-season conditioning."

The Penn State football coaching staff also uses the early practices to review the finer points of each player's game in terms of their fundamentals and to determine a general comparison between the various players' fundamentals at each position. "All in all it's when [the coaches] see what they have to work with since spring practice," another observer shared.

The coaches run a variety of fundamental drills to give them a good general idea of the speed, strength and general technique each player has coming out of the off-season conditioning period. Aside from running, which the players did a lot of in the summer, the Lions participate in a series of agility sets which have them focus on their footwork, coordination, speed and endurance. These initial assessments are then used to make any preliminary adjustments to the depth chart, which was assembled at the close of spring practice in April.

This initial depth chart is the foundation the staff uses to identify major depth issues at any position and serves as the catalyst for any discussions around potential position shifts to aid the depth at those identified gaps. Part of this assessment includes any loss of depth due to injury or transfer, like the departures of Brent Wise and J.R. Zwierzynski. It also begins to take into account those players who have arrived on campus since the end of spring practice, like freshmen Chris Bell, Jared Odrick, Tom McEowen and A.J. Wallace, among others.

The staff uses these initial drills to get a current assessment of these new players to determine where they may fall on the depth chart and the chances they have based on their abilties and needs to make an early impact at their respective positions.

As the week progresses so too will the intensity and complexity of the drills with a greater focus on unit sessions, working up to "Drill 6", which is a 7-on-7 workout.

The first two days will feature these fundamental sets in shorts and T-shirts. Then the players are expected to don their shells for the remainder of the week, with full pad practices coming this weekend.

Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for news and notes from practice as we head into the 2006 season.

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