Nittany Notes: Defensive Work

Although the Penn State football coaches have had the squad in "lockdown" this week, FOS has gathered notes around the defense's preparations for the Irish. Get the lowdown in the latest version of our Nittany Notes.

Earlier this week FOS brought you a look at where the offense and special teams have been focused during their preparations for their trek west to clash with Notre Dame on Saturday. This time we look at where the defense has spent a large amount of their practice time in preparation for matchups with Brady Quinn, Darius Walker and the rest of the Irish offense.

Secondary Work:

The first team defensive backs, comprised of Justin King, Tony Davis, Donnie Johnson, Anthony Scirrotto and Nolan McCready, focused on read-reaction drills and tackling technique. "Quinn can get the ball out fast - he's going to have success, but Coach Norwood has stressed punishing the ball-carrier and making those hits - limiting those yards after the catch and making the receivers wonder where they are going to get hit from."

The safeties have also been working on "playing the quarterback" and "anticipating his tosses." According to one observer, "The corners need to play the receivers while the safeties play Quinn. In other words they have to keep a close eye on his play and learn his tendencies - does he run through his pregression, does he like a particular target, does he feel more comfortable throwing in a certain pattern or direction - this will help them anticipate on support through the game. They've already spent a lot of time mapping Quinn's tendencies."

Special Delivery:

Penn State released "one dimensional" pressure by design. "There's a reason Dan [Connor] got 13 tackles last week - opportunity. He was pretty much the only back player they sent to pressure the pocket."

This week the defense worked on the rotation blitz where two to three players (primarily linebackers and safeties) will take turns moving quickly up to the line, which are similar to the packages that were thrown at OSU last year. The objective of this approach is to "create disruption and confusion" among the offense, and specifically the quarterback.

"We're sure that Quinn has spent more time watching last year's OSU game than last week's Akron game," one oberver opined. This blitz scheme will engage wider array of players with a multitude of options, including Dan Connor, Sean Lee, Paul Posluszny and Donnie Johnson, among others.

Other D Notes:

Despite his ankle injury last week, Jim Shaw has seen action and is expected to "help the rotation" Saturday. As one observer said, "They haven't pushed him as hard [this week] to just make sure he is ok, but he's telling the staff he feels good."

The staff has been dropping Poslusnzy less into coverage this week than what they had him doing against Akron. Polsuszny's assignment is to "stuff up Walker or direct him to the wings."

Dan Connor is "crazy for this game" this week, As one observer said, "Danny's always pretty nuts and reckless out there, but he's talking a lot about stepping things up (that's the nicest way I can put it). "Dan's choice came down to us and ND, so I don't know, I guess he has a special bond with them."

Tim Shaw is expected to remain at defensive end and has worked there all week. He has continued to play in the two-point, upright stance and could be a "major asset against Sam Young" with PSU's pas rush.

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