Nittany Notes: Pressing Questions

What's going down as Penn State prepares to face the fourth-ranked Wolverines in a prime-time showdown Saturday? Get the answers to all of the questions that have been on the minds of the Nittany Nation.

With Penn State coming off a close call at Minnesota, fans around the Nittany Nation have been asking a lot of questions about injuries, preparations, personnel and more related to the Michgan game. Here are some answers.

Is Derrick Williams OK? It seemed like he was injured last week.

"Derrick is running fine. Opposing players gun for him, but he is tougher than tough," one observer shared. The receiver was dealing with a minor hip injury sustained in last week's practice, which caused him to miss spot action against the Gophers.

"Last year he caught a lot of teams off-guard," another observer said, "Most teams don't make that mistake now, which has opened things up for Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler. Derrick is a huge asset just standing on the field because he draws coverage."

Through six games Williams has 94 rushing yards and 221 receiving yards, which is 89 percent of his rushing total and 76 percent of his receiving total through seven games last season.

What is the status of Levi Brown? Will he play Saturday?

"Levi is fine. He could have played against Northwestern and Minnesota, but frankly the staff didn't see thee need to risk further injury," according to one offensive line observer. "He will start this week.

What is happening at the left guard position this week?

Robert Price has been sidelined with a "shoulder strain," but is seeing more reps this week. An observer feels that "Price and Gerald Cadogan will likely split reps on Saturday."

Another observer thinks Cadogan "has started to come around in the past few weeks" and that he "looked much more comfortable against Minnesota."

Is Tony Hunt OK?

Hunt had a "minor hamstring pull" in the late goings of the Minnesota game. However, the trainers "helped him stretch it out — and he was fine." Hunt is expected to start against Michigan.

What happened on the sideline with fullback BranDon Snow and Levi Brown?

As one observer put it, "It's nothing really. Look, these guys are competitors — they are always fired up and they all want to impact the team. No one blames Snow for that, but Levi did the right thing and defused the situation."

Another observer said, "Snow felt he represented the right personnel decision" on the touchdown pass to Matt Hahn. "He went over to [assistant coach Mike ] McQueary to share his thoughts and Levi stepped in — that's what you want in a captain."

In terms of Snow and Brown, "they are cool with each other."

What were the coaches trying to do with Brendan Perretta?

When Derrick Williams went out in spots due to the minor hip injury, Perretta "took over the role of Derrick." As one observer put it, "While that makes sense on paper, the play-calling didn't. Perretta can catch some balls, but he is not nearly as quick to run Derrick's position out of the backfield. They should have changed up the calls."

Is Anthony Scirrotto hurt? He looked like he struggled Saturday.

The consensus among observers we spoke with is that Scirrotto had "probably his worst game yet, but every player goes through those early on. The great ones learn from them and make them fewer and fewer."

Scirrotto was "challeneged at times by Minnesota's scheme," however, as one observer said, "he's tough as nails — the type of guy you want at safety. He'll make fewer and fewer mistakes and in the end he'll be among the best [defensive] backs PSU has had here."

Scirrotto's specific issues related to his tendency to "cheat on his guesses." He essentially guesses where he thinks the ball is going and edges over to that defender, which "tends to open up some lanes that a smart QB is going to see."

What does Mario Manningham's injury do to the game plan?

"Nothing. Is he really out? I don't think we can really tell," one observer shared. "No, the secondary will continue to prepare for him and will matchu p against some big targets on the scout team (like James McDonald, Mark Rubin and Brett Brackett). Justin King seems primed for the match-up, but if it isn't Manningham than it'll be [Adrian] Arrington or [Steve] Breaston."

Even with the news that Manningham will miss the game after undergoing knee surgery Tuesday, Penn State is taking a cautious approach. Just to be safe, the defense is acting as if Manningham will be "playing at 100 percent and will be a threat they have to address."

Any changes to the red-zone scheme?

Obviously, the kicking game is getting a lot of work in this week on snap-set-kick drills. "The sets have been a focal point. They have to get it down because a lot of these remaining games can come down to kicking — last week did."

In terms of the red zone, the staff has focused on Tony Hunt running, but "the coaches have been working packages that draw coverage and create a lane, like what we saw on the Hahn touchdown. They drew the coverage to the right with the receivers which allowed Matt to slip to the left. They need to use decoys given the amount of attention guys like Williams, Bell and Wallace demand out there."


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