"The coaches know they have a ton talent to work with, but they haven't been talking up the youth angle as an excuse," one observer shared. "The team met and the coaches, particularly [Joe] Paterno, told them what he believes they can be. The question remains if the players and leaders believe it. The leadership has been very vocal, stressing that every person on the squad has to elevate their individual game to raise up the team."
So, what's the attitude of the team?
Immediately after the loss the team was described as "dejected," "disappointed" and "frustrated." Several observers have stressed that Paterno realizes that he has the talent to "pull a run together," but that the players and coaches need to "build off the Notre Dame game and decide what kind of team they are going to be."
The talk around practice has focused on the 1982 national championship team, which lost on the road to Alabama 42-21 in the fifth game of the season, but came back to win the title. "There has been a lot discussion with the defensive side of the ball around this," according to an observer. "That '82 team gave up 42 points against 'Bama, but through the remaining six games that season gave up a total of 48 points. The defense was a huge reason for the turnaround and this situation is no different."
Several veterans, including Paul Poslusnzy, Tim Shaw, Levi Brown and Dan Connor, are stressing with the staff that the Youngstown State game is a defining point for the team's attitude. "They can go out there, punch them square in the mouth and win like they are expected to win, or they can go out and lumber around and felel sorry for themselves. Their reaction to this game will set the tone from here on out. The players are talking a good game — upbeat and rah-rah — but they have to show it on every down."
What is up with the holder situation?
A ton of fans have been asking about kicking miscues. While Jason Ganter has had some bobbles this year the opinion among observers is that there is an issue between the snapper, Jay Alford and the holder.
Alford is also a starting defensive tackle.
"Jay [Alford] is snapping, and honestly I don't think he's the best snapper on the team and I wonder if he has the energy to deliver the ball in a game like that. Ganter will get the blame, but that snap [in the Notre Dame game] was way off." As another observer put it, "Guys like Chris Mauriello, Nick Daise, Jordan Lyons and Joe Cinaciolo all snapped this off-season. The coaches need to decided to give it to a guy who can focus 100 percent on the job."
As for Ganter, quarterback Kevin Suhey has also handled snaps since the spring and is seeing work there currently. "Jason needs to get it together and focus on his job — his only job — he's got to prove he can do it with solid consistency or we'll likely see Suhey step in."
What is up with the tight end situation?
Well, for starters Patrick Hall is seeing some second- and third-team reps. "Hall is a good tight end, who can pick up the blitz and catch a ball when he needs to." Hall missed the first two games for unspecified disciplinary reasons.
Observers are concerned that the focus on blocking has made the tight end situation "too one-dimensional," although "no tight end has proven he can pull in the ball regularly." Currently, while tight ends like Lyons, Jevin Darling and Andrew Quarless are seeing action, only Darling has a reception.
"Quarless looks like he could be impressive in the position," one observer opined. "[Anthony] Morelli has been tossing to him a good amount this week. He seemed to be caught off guard by the velocity Anthony puts into the passes."
Is Austin Scott red-shirting?
As we have maintained since Scott's spring knee injury, we have not been sold that he has been 100 percent despite conflicting reports throughout the off-season. Paterno confirmed that Scott is still not 100 percent in his press conference this week, saying he expects to redshirt Scott if he is not fully recovered soon.
As one observer shared, "Austin has not seen a lot of action since the preseason. He runs, but not as much as a major back would be expected to in practice."
Why run the option with Anthony Morelli?
"I think the coaches thought they could really catch [Notre Dame] off guard with that play," according to one observer. "The problem is they haven't practiced it enough to use it in that situation. Morelli looked lost and for good reason — the play was practically foreign to him. We're just lucky all we lost was a fumble on that one."
The coaches have been working the option with Daryll Clark, so observers have shared their confusion around the call.
Where was the defensive pressure vs. the Irish?
"We saw it early and it was working. I think the staff got concerned with gassing the players and pulled back, which was obviously a fatal flaw."
The consensus among observers we spoke with is that they expected to see a wide array of blitzing in the game given the amount of work Penn State put into it in the week's leading up to Notre Dame.
Whether the consistent pressure from the defense returns is debatable among observers, but as one said, "They can lay off the pressure with YSU and get by. But it's a crime to not leverage the speed and aggression of this D against a team like Ohio State."
What's wrong with Paul Posluszny?
"Nothing," one observer shared. "He's got a brace on that requires some time to get used to, but the big change is where and how he plays."
Another observer shared, "The coaches have asked Paul to play a dramatically different role. He has a very defined space. When he steps up to stop the run he is in a very crowded area, sharing it with four linemen — at a minimum. Ever wonder why Tim Shaw had about a third less tackles than Paul last year? It wasn't because Shaw is a lesser 'backer."
As another observer put it, "Paul has 19 wrap-ups and Danny [Connor] has 25. The difference is about half of Danny's have been unassisted because he practically gets half the field all to himself."