Nittany Notes: Free Preview

The lowdown on the defensive players who seem poised to make an early impact for the Nittany Lions in 2006. We offer this free version of our "Nittany Notes" practice update series as a preview for our non-premium members. Enjoy.

With the light T-shirt and short sessions wrapping up and the pads going on Saturday, some Penn State players have come out of the gate "fast and hard" and turned heads in practice.

The coaches currently feel they have a "good problem" on their hands, according to one observer, with several athletes looking strong in practice and "coming to play." Here's a look at a few players who are expected to make an early impact thanks to their preseason performances so far.

Jared Odrick: Odrick is in "fantastic condition" at around 280 pounds, "carries his mass well" on runs and is "surprisingly agile." He consistently shows an aggressive, intense practice style Above all else he is a "focused player who is very coachable."

The comments about his play have pointed squarely to his motor. "The coaches love his style of play, he doesn't quit — no matter if it's a sprint, agility drill or 1v1 set, the guy pushes through it every time and never gives up," an observer explained.

The "beast," as he's been described, is in great physical shape and "has impressive endurance." Odrick has seen the bulk of his reps through this past week's practice with the defensive ends, a position which needs to see players step up. "Jared has shown a lot in the first week," one observer shared. "He sets a good base, he has the right attitude, he just needs to work on coming out of his stance more cleanly and using his hands more effectively — the foundation is there, though."

Tony Davis: The "other" corner back opposite of Justin King, Davis saw limited action in nine games during the 2005 season, pulling in four tackles. Called the "best unknown player on the squad," he's "fast, aggressive and smart on coverage," one observer explained.

His overall package of coverage skills improved greatly in the off-season thanks to his work with receivers like Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood.

Davis has good backpeddle skills and a smooth transition into his route-running. His focus this preseason is on knowing where to "play the line" in order to read shifts and motion plays. He is a "smooth runner" who "plays tough" and has the potential to be "an outstanding corner with some work."

Spencer Ridenhour: A fast, hard-hitting "collision back," Ridenhour had been battling with Mark Rubin, prior to Rubin breaking his clavicle earlier this week. Ridenhour is "impressively built" and plays a "very physical style of game."

Although he has good speed and aggression, his preseason focus is on his read-react skills and tackling trechnique. "Spence needs to wrap up ball carriers more consistently — he's got to set his whole body on takedowns and not just depend on his arms."

Ridenhour's most significant asset may be his mental approach — "he plays crazy," an observer explained. "He's like [Sean] Lee — he intimidates guys — some of them think he is nuts because he is so aggressive. It's a weapon for him."

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