Nittany Notes: Illini Prep

Morelli, Clark and Cianciolo, the team's mental state, the offensive line, play-calling — there is no shortage of questions about the Nittany Lions this week as they practice for Illinois. Get some answers here.

How is the team practicing this week?

The practice approach planned for the early part of this week has been described as "light." As one observer said, "The coaches have the guys focused on the details of their games. They have a half season to play and they have to refine their play to continually improve."

The staff is focusing on working a lot on the running game and giving the bulk of first-team QB reps to Paul Cianciolo until the status of Anthony Morelli and/or Daryll Clark is determined later this week.

"The offensive line will focus a lot on lane drills this week. With the QB situation up in the air, [Tony] Hunt could see a big opportunity this week, but the offensive line has to be ready."

How is Anthony Morelli?

"He hasn't drilled yet since the concussion, but he likely will see some non-contact snaps today," an observer explained Tuesday. "I'd be really surprised if he is ready to play Saturday, but that is the medical staff's call."

Morelli is said to look fine and has had no apparent lingering side effects, however, "[the doctors] tend to be pretty conservative when dealing with concussions and head injuries."

How is Daryll Clark?

The consensus among observers is that Clark is more likely to see action than Morelli. "He's been running and looks to be fine. He's a warrior, though, so I am not sure he would let on that he is hurting," one observer shared.

As another observer explained, "I get the impression they are preparing for Clark this week with what the offensive line is focused on. It looks like they are inserting more 2005-type plays through their drills."

Who is running the first-team currently?

Until either Morelli or Clark are ready, Paul Cianciolo will run the first team. "Paul is in a tough spot, he doesn't have the arm strength of Tony or the mobility of D[aryll]. He is a smart quarterback, the coaches just need to put him in a position to make his type of plays."

Incidentally, Kevin Suhey is splitting scout-team reps with freshman quarterback Pat Devlin.

What is the attitude of the team?

"The squad is not happy with themselves overall, they know they missed a big opportunity and the guys like Paul Posluszny and Levi Brown are continually reminding them," one observer said.

"They realize they need to win out to create something to build upon," another observer explained.

Is this team overlooking Illinois?

"Not a chance; they don't have the luxury of overlooking anyone. This team lost to three damn good teams, but if they want to assemble a solid season they have to start right here, right now," according to another observer.

As another opined, "If they end up playing with a third-string quarterback, this team has to step up in every aspect of the game to help him succeed — no matter who the opponent is — the players are focused on that this week."

Is Derrick Williams still returning punts?

Williams is still handing punts and is expected to do so against Illinois. In terms of his fumble against Michigan, "It was a mistake, but I am not sure how unavoidable it was," one observer said. "They've watched the tape a lot and that strip was a right place, right time thing. Derrick is a solid returnman and needs to shake that off."

What is the offensive line working on?

The offensive line is working on "reading and picking up blitzes." As one observer shared, "I doubt this team faces a front seven like Michigan's again this season — that game was a big learning experience for the line and they will get better because of it — I think we are seeing it already in drills. That is not to say they are going to be a dominating line yet, but these guys have studied that game and are working on how they would handle that pressure again."

The offensive line is also working on "setting and holding blocks." Some of the linemen were "not squaring up" and "set their blocks at an angle to gain leverage, but that takes away from their center of gravity." The coaches are working on avoiding the tendency to "shift their stances."

What is Cianciolo working on to get ready?

Keep in mind that it is not set in stone that Cianciolo will start against Illinois; that will likely be determined later this week. However, Cianciolo is working on check-downs, screens and intermediate passes, primarily "first-down routes."

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