Nittany Notes: Pressing Questions

With the season-opener against Akron nearly upon us, there are many questions circulating about the Penn State football team. Here, we tackle several of the issues concering the fans who make up the Nittany Nation.

What can fans expect to see offensively against Akron?

If you're looking for a wide open, high-flying offense, you may be disappointed this weekend by what Penn State tosses out for the Zips. Although the PSU coaches continued to work a wide array of three-wide and four-wide sets through last week, the offense is exepected to be "very vanilla out of the gate."

As one observer explained, "They will get some work in for [quarterback Anthony] Morelli, but the focus will be on the ground game early on. They won't abandon the pass, but the variety of routes and schemes will be limited this weekend."

Several fans are wondering about the use of Derrick Williams. "He'll be moved around some; maybe out to the slot or take some limited snaps from the backfield, but the creativity will be minimal."

What role will the 3-4 play this season?

Every off-season there are story lines which seem to be blown out of proportion — remember when it was reported Deon Butler was allegedly begging to move to cornerback? The 3-4 scheme has become one of those story lines.

Penn State ran the 3-4 in 2005 for about 75 snaps or so. It is and will remain a situational scheme much like the nickel, penny or dime defense. As one observer opined, "The 3-4 was never realistically considered as a base defensive set. I am not sure where it came from, but the personnel just aren't there to run this scheme snap after snap."

Who will play nickelback for PSU?

As we reported last week Anthony Scirrotto has moved into the first-team free safety position, ahead of Nolan McCready. If this shift remains, which it is expected to, McCready would be the likely candidate to play the nickel back spot.

"Nolan is a smart defender who is excellent with reads and call-outs. He is sharp on reading desguises or shifts and would be an asset in the nickel," as one observer said.

Scirrotto is described as "more physical" and "aggressive" than McCready, which has set him apart at the free safety position.

What does the starting offensive line look like"

Keep in mind that observers do not expect the offensive line for Akron to remain in tact for the subsequent game against Notre Dame, which is why FOS posted out depth chart predictions for the game against the Irish last week (Defense, Offense).

Right now the starting offensive line looks like:

LT: Levi Brown
LG: Gerald Cadogan
C: A.Q. Shipley
RG: Robert Price
RT: John Shaw

"The coaches feel good about the week side of the line [with Brown and Cadogan], but the makeup of the right side will depend on how they continue to play," according to an observer. "I expect Rich Ohrnberger to earn more and more reps at right guard and Chris Auletta to push Shaw, although Shaw seems to have a good grasp on the spot."

Will any true freshmen see playing time out of the gate?

According to observer comments, the top five freshmen who have impressed through the preseason are Chris Bell, Jared Odrick, Andrew Quarless, Tom McEowen and A.J. Wallace. It is tough to say who exactly will avoid a redshirt and see reps, but "all of them have the abilties to get them on the field this year."

The bigger question is how the staff wants to use them. Bell and Wallace look like great candidates to see action. Watch for Wallace to see possible time on both sides of the ball as the coaches try to determine exactly where to place him for the bulk of his career. "He has shown so far that he could play either side — he's that good. Lots of guys on the team compare his abilties, not his style of play, but abilties to Justin King."

With the situation the defensive ends are facing, Odrick also has a good chance to break into the rotation. Plus there have been mentions that McEowen could possibly avoid a redshirt given his progression, but there is disagreement on this currently.

Quarless is another player who has drawn varying opinions. Some say he needs to "get his endurance up" while others feel "he has the abilties to see action early on."

How does the backup quarterback position look?

Although this has been positioned as a contest between Daryll Clark, Paul Cianciolo and Kevin Suhey, observers have consistently stated since mid-preseason drills that Clark "is clearly the backup."

His "strength and confidence give him a great pocket presence." Although he is expected to be Morelli's backup, he will also likely be a test for the defense, once again playing the role of Troy Smith on the scout team before the Ohio State game.

Who will be returning punts and kicks?

The staff "isn't holding much back with the return game." The three kickoff returnmen from last year, Derrick Williams, Justin King and Rodney Kinlaw are the front-runners. With the staff keeping a close eye on Kinlaw, "Williams and King look to be the favorites. They have been running a two-man return set — it's pretty exciting."

As for punts, a variety of athletes have seen reps this preseason, including Scirrotto, Lydell Sargeant, Williams, Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Justin King. "The coaches want to get Sargeant on the field, so that may land him the job. I wouldn't be shocked to see King or Williams in the mix either, though," one observer shared.

How does the backup running back position look?

Although Kinlaw is questionable with his sprained knee, Austin Scott and Evan Royster "are fine" from their injuries (ankle and shoulder respectively).

The question that needs to be answered is the condition Scott is in related to the knee injury he sustained in the spring. Observers do not feel he is 100 percent healthy yet. If he is recovered he will likely remain as the backup. If not, a redshirt is plausible which would open the door for Royster to get into the mix, until Kinlaw is healthy.

What is the situation with Antonio Logan-El?

As we reported last week, Logan-El is still with the team countrary to circulating rumors. As we stated Friday on the TAP board, there is an NCAA Clearinghouse issue which needs to be resolved and hence is keeping him out of practice.

Much like the Daryll Clark situation in the spring, we won't comment on the nature of the issue other than to say it has been described as "minor."

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