Nittany Notes: Pressing Questions

With a stagnant passing attack and a shaking kicking game in a loss to Ohio State in Columbus, Penn State football fans are asking a slew of questions about the offense and special teams as the team prepares to face Northwestern this week.

What is wrong with Anthony Morelli?

Despite completing 64 percent of his passes against Ohio State, Morelli could only muster 106 yards through the air in Columbus. "The coaches are trying to get him some piecemeal success — small victories grow into big successes. However, in their effort to do this they are taking him out of his comfort game and piling on the 10- to 15-yard passes. He's so anxious to make a play he's drilling those passes," an observer shared. "He needs more time and space to go through his natural throwing motion and deliver some basic passes to the wings."

One point of consensus among observers we to with is that Morelli's mental state is a point of concern. "He's incredibly passionate. When he hits a big play he is on Cloud Nine; when he doesn't deliver as expected he sinks emotionally. He needs to be more even-keeled — building success for him and putting him in a position to find success is essential to his play. If the phrase 'success breeds successs is true for anyone it's him."

What's wrong with the kicking game?

The kicking game has been plagued with injuries lately. Both Kevin Kelly and freshman Collin Wagner have been suffering from lingering back injuries. This limited Kelly's practice last week and Joe Paterno pointed to it being a reason for Kelly's struggles in Columbus.

"The staff is looking at each aspect of the kicking game. They replaced the snapper, the holder and now if Kelly isn't 100 percent and showing dramatic consistency improvements, they may need to look at that part of the game," according to one observer. "But the unit doesn't have a lot of depth — essentially one backup right now."

On an interesting sidenote, the coaches will be looking at some walk-on kicker candidates this week to see if they can add any additional depth for the unit.

Where's A.J. Wallace?

There is a lot of confusion around the play (or lack thereof) of Wallace against Ohio State. "A.J. is one of the most explosive players this team has ever seen. He's fast and fluid and is a game-changer; he looked solid this past week," one observer opined. "The only thing I can chalk it up to is concerns around his freshmen inexperience — although I can't say that is a legitimate reason to have him on the bench."

Wallace has 261 yards through the first three games, or 87 yards per contest, or 37 yards per touch. "Who else in the Big Ten comes close to that? None that I am aware of," another observer shared.

Several observers shared that Wallace was getting a lot of work during the OSU prep week in the backfield, but that the coaches chose not to use that work in the game. "At the very least the guy is a huge decoy out there."

Is Joe Paterno OK?

"Joe is fine. He didn't feel too good late last week and had one of those 48 hour bugs. A lot of guys were steering clear of him (laughing)," one observer shared.

It was suggested that Paterno stay home for the game given his illness, but "he would have none of that." By all accounts Paterno is fine and "looked better when they got home — I guess Columbus does that to you (laughing)."

Other News and Notes:

  • The secondary has seen some minor shifts recently. As FOS first reported this last week, Mark Rubin has shifted back to wide receiver. Also, Darien Hardy, who has seen action in each of the first four vgames, is now running second team safety. The coaches just made the decision last week to redshirt Travis McBride, who will remain at safety but will see the bulk of his reps with the scout team.

  • Rich Ohrnberger is an "outstanding overall player who was on his way to challenging for the starting job," one observer said. "He needs to get a handle on the basics — snap counts, assignments — he has the physical tools. That false start [in a key spot at Ohio State] was an example of what they coaches have been trying to get hm to avoid."

  • Tuesday the team will hold a walk-on try out where approximately 30 hopefuls will strut their stuff for the staff. The coaches will partiuclarly be keeping an eye out for kicking talent.

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