Nittany Notes: Shifts and Solutions

As the Penn State football team prepares for Northwestern, the squad has players who are expected to be back in action while others are sidelined. Get an update on the most recent happenings from the Nittany Lions' practices.

Earlier this week we reported that the secondary has seen some shifts recently with Mark Rubin back to wide receiver, Darien Hardy at second team safety and the decision made late last week to redshirt Travis McBride, who will remain at safety but will see the bulk of his reps with the scout team.

The team is seeing some more changes this week. Defensive end Jim Shaw is having complications from the high ankle sprain he sustained in the Akron game. According to sources, team doctors believe a problem with his knee may be delaying Shaw's recovery and that surgery may be required to repair the issue with the knee. Whether or not he had surgery, Shaw is expected to miss three to four weeks of action.

On a positive note, freshman offensive tackle Antonio Logan-El continues to improve after having his NCAA Clearinghouse issue resolved earlier this year. Logan-El is going to redshirt this season. Prior to the decision to redshirt, he was seeing second-team reps behind Levi Brown. Currently he is drilling with the scout team at left tackle, but will "have every opportunity to win the starting spot come next spring."

Currently, kicker Kevin Kelly is wearing a back brace to help immobilize his back and aid his recovery. With his injury Kelly's status remains up in the air, although he is expected to kick this week if he feels up to it. The back injury is "hurting his ability to follow-through on his kicks and get under the ball to direct it," according to a practice observer.

True freshman kicker Collin Wagner has similar problems, but apparently not to the degree Kelly has experienced.

Another observer said back issues are common among kickers when they have to go from kicking off a tee (in high school) to kicking off the ground (in college). Kickers often dip their shoulders to compensate. Core strength and improved flexibility are keys to getting over this issue.

The Penn State staff held walk-on tryouts Tuesday but did not take a new kicker from the group. The staff had already added another kicker to the lineup: Joe Hughes, a 5-foot-10, 166-pounder from Downingtown. Hughes is a redshirt sophomore and was suited up for the Youngstown State game.

In last night's practice session Wagner was with the first team kicking unit, however the kicking duties for Saturday's Northwestern game are still undetermined.

Speaking of kickers, PSU punter Jeremy Kapinos struggled a bit through three games. But he exploded against Ohio State last weekend, averaging better than 50 yards per boot and preventing ace return man Ted Ginn from busting anything long. Kapinos was named Big Ten Special Team's Player of the Week for his effort.

So why was he so much better Saturday?

Watch tape of State's first three games and you will see Kapinos breaking a cardinal rule of punting — he was holding the ball too close to his body on the drop and was not making "clean" contact. He worked on moving the ball away from his body last week, and the result was great afternoon Saturday. Look for more of the same as the season continues.

Also, about 30 walk-ons showed up to Tuesday evening's tryouts. Typically Penn State holds their walk-on tryouts at the close of preseason practice, however with the delay in classes and a focus on Notre Dame and Ohio State, the Lions delayed their tryouts until Tuesday evening. This was decided before the season started, and while they worked out some kickers, the current kicking situation was not the decision driver of the try-out session.

The focus of the try-out session was also to identify any talent at running back, wide receiver, defensive end and defensive back.

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