Nittany Notes: Passing Judgement

With the anticipation continuing to grow about Anthony Morelli's abilties, the Nittany Lion coaches have started putting the finishing touches on the passing game for 2006. Get an assessment of how the air attack looks from the outset of preseason practice and some of the focal points for improvement.

With the Penn State football team working in shorts and T-shirts this week in preparation for the upcoming two-a-day sessions, the early work in the passing game has included Drill 6 (7-on-7) sets. These sets have incorporated two-, three- and four-wide receiver looks with a variety of routes, including curl, slant, crossing and fly patterns.

Quarterbacks

In terms of the quarterbacks, the starting job is all but locked up, however here is a rundown of how some of the quarterbacks have looked:

Anthony Morelli: Coming off a 13-for-16, 191-yard and no interception effort in April's Blue-White Game, Morelli's arm continues to be the strongest aspect of his game. "He has such a sharp delivery of the ball; he steps into his passes and has shown consistently fluid mechanics," a practice observer explained.

Morelli has been working on three- and five-step drops as well as rollouts and checkdown passes. As another observer said, "The offensive line looks like it could be good, but without really knowing yet the coaches want him to be able to get out of any breakdowns."

Morelli has been particularly strong on "intermediate timing routes" of 25+ yards. "He's built for a timed passing game, and with speedy wideouts the receiving corp has been well-equipped to make some nice plays." His reads are better as is his ability to "shift gears with his passes."

Daryll Clark: Described as a "physical quarterback," Clark is a dramatically different quarterback from the other passers on the team. A dual-threat QB in the mold of Michael Robinson, Clark is spending time getting back into the swing of things after being sidelined in the spring. "He's a load on runs and is going to plow over some defenders on runs."

You may recall that it was Clark who prepared the Nittany Lion defense last year, playing the role of Troy Smith on the Scout team prior to the Ohio State game. The assessment back then was that he "played Troy Smith better than Troy Smith did."

Though he is not as fast as Robinson, he runs well, has good arm strength and solid footwork off the snap. "The question around his game is how he will fit into a scheme built for Morelli. They'll work him into this once they get the pads on, so we'll see."

Clark tries to do too much sometimes and often looks to run off the snap. The coaches are having him focus on running through his progression and following thrugh on his passes for better control.

Paul Cianciolo: Cianciolo has been described as a "heady" quarterback who makes solid reads. He is good at breakpoints in opposing defenses and is a tough player who "contiunaully works." However, he "lacks the overall arm strength to deliver precision passes and lead his receivers."

Although Cianciolo has gotten better on his passing, he still tends to force balls on tight deliveries. He does show consistent footwork on dropbacks and solid general fundamentals, but without the arm strength he has to depend on his ability to make reads to get the ball in his targets' hands, particularly in tight coverage.

Pat Devlin: Devlin has shown good consistency with his throws, strong footwork on dropbacks and an ability to "shift the velocity on his ball." This preseason he is focusing on running through his progression and waiting for routes to develop.

"He's anxious, which is common with the younger guys. He wants to deliver the ball fast and hard, but needs to get a feel for when to throw what ball. It comes with practice." The consensus on Devlin is that he is has a great foundation to work from and a knack to learn.

Brett Brackett: Brackett has made a positive impression in the program. He is a "sharp, patient player." He has displayed impressive power in his legs with his dropback and passes. Brackett's fundamentals are not where Devlin's are out of th gate, but he has "good mechanics" and "is patient with his passes — he doesn't seem to panic."

Brackett has shown an ability to deliver on intermediate routes consistently, but observers want to see how he does with a full pass rush before they make a full judgement. "He looks good, but these are skeleton sets — it's like backyard pitch and catch — the key will be how he does with a lineman in his face; pressure tells the full story with these guys."

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