Nittany Notes: Buckeye Prep

With the Nittany Lions facing No. 1 Ohio State this Saturday, Penn State fans are wondering how the Penn State coaches approached this week in practice to prepare for the Columbus clash, a location that has been none too kind to the Lions in recent history. See how Penn State prepared for the Bucks this week.

Mental State of State

Although the 37-3 score of Penn State football's win over Youngstown State reflected a clear dominance, the team was not pleased with the overall performance. "The offense moved the ball at will, but early on several drives stalled out when the really shouldn't have," one observer explained. "Theis week the coaches talked to the squad about their mistakes with playing too tight out of the gate."

Although the staff stressed the need to "open things up" against Ohio State, some observers said they are skeptical. As one observer said, "I think there is a legitimate concern over putting the game on Morelli's shoulders. He had a bad game against Youngstown based on his abilties. He's a tough kid mentally, but the coaches are concerned over how he will react in Columbus - Galen [Hall] wants to get Morelli battle-tested in this one - show he can handle pressure. It's not like they have anything to lose in this situation."

Overall, the offensive unit was not pleased with the YSU performance. "The game wasn't a confidence booster, but it seems to have at least been some sort of a wake up call."

The consensus around the dfense is that they feel they put out a "solid performance," but "know they have to play that well times ten to matchup with Ohio State."

Chase Daryll

One of the big focal points of this week's practice was the coverage and containment of Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. Although the scout team position was manned by Kevin Suhey on several snaps, the coaches saw it was only appropriate to have back-up QB Daryll Clark step into the role he "played masterfully" last year to prepare PSU.

"Daryll is a very similar style quarterback to Smith. He's a little bigger (6-foot-2, 225 pounds vs. Smith at 6-foot1, 217 pounds), but he runs hard and is excellent on breakdowns like Smith is," according to one observer.

This week the team dusted off elements of the "Chase Freddie" drill they used last season to prepare for Central Michigan's QB Kent Smith and Ohio State's Troy Smith. "The drill was great to help the defensive linemen and 'backers instinctively anticipate what a mobile Qb will do," one observer said. "It made perfect sense to use Clark since he can run and pass well."

The interior of the front seven, particularly Jay Alford and Paul Poslsuzny were "effective" in shutting down lanes and flushing him wide on a consisten basis, although they have to "watch the draw, which Smith is so good at running in the right situations." Posluszny bit on some delay fakes which gave enough time to pick up some nice gains.

Morelli's Motivation

Anthony Morelli saw last week's game as "failure in his abilties." This week "he was out early and stayed late working on his passing and progressions. He saw the YSU game as a big opportunity to put up some big numbers and he flat out tried to hard for some big plays. He knows it. He likely matured more from that game than from the ND loss."

The consensus around Morelli is that he is mentally tough, but he gets "too excited over small victories and too disappointed in small losses." As one observer said, "He watched a lot of film to pick up where he fell down and to learn how to pace his game and keep his emotions level."

"He wants to win this game badly, but realizes he has to play to his abilties and keep his emotions balanced. This will be a huge test for him in another hostile environment - it's a big opportunity though," an observer opined.

Improvement Areas

Here are some interesting notes and quotes of areas the team foicused on improving this week in practice:

  • "A.J. Wallace got the ball more this week - they moved him around more. He's the second leading rusher with THREE carries. Think about that for a second. The coaches need to get him the ball more - imagine what he could do with a whole six carries. He got lot of work tyhis week, we'll see how the coaches work him in the game."

  • The kicking situation got a lot of work this week. "The snapper and placeholder were out just practicing delivery and placement. It needs to get second nature. The mishaps last week were horrible, but they switched to unit around mid-stream, so it wasn't shocking," one observer explained.

  • In terms of Kevin Kelly he kicked a lot this week in practice and looked "consistent." As one observer opined, "Kevin had some great kickoffs last week - he was blasting the ball. I am not sold the field goal issues were really his fault based on that and how hew has looked this week."

  • The return game has see Rodney Kinlaw get a lot of work this week. "His fluid running style and cuts make him a threat there. He's a lot more comfortable there now that he's seen some significant action," according to one observer. Wallace's homerun threat abilties could also be used in Columbus.

  • Derrick Williams and Anthony Scirrotto are both handling punt returns still. "The coaches are pretty comfortable with both back there. They can make big returns, but need to improve on their lane reads - it an acquired talent."


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