Nittany Notes: Tossing A Life Line?

With the Nittany Lions' offensive line struggling last week against Illinois last Saturday, fans have been asking all week about the state of the line in practice this week. Here's an update on the unit.

Shape of the Line

As Joe Paterno said in his press conference on Tuesday, "We probably worked them a little bit too hard last week because of the fact that we didn't know whether we would have [quarterbacks Anthony] Morelli or [Daryll] Clark, and we had to get enough reps in there for Paul Cianciolo and Kevin Suhey."

Observers indicated that the backups were getting significant time under center last week given the unknown situation with the QB position. One observer said this week that the offensive linemen "were flat out winded [against Illinois]."

We asked observers if they felt the offensive line was worked too hard in preparation for the Illini last week. "They definitely saw significantly more snaps since the [coaches] were assuming [Anthony] Morelli and Daryll [Clark] would not be available. I am not sure they worked them too much — I mean it's past mid-season, these guys should be in prime shape — but, yeah it's possible. They certainly looked tired out there, which was odd to see against that 'defensive] line."

First Team Work

This week the staff has mixed up some of the offensive line positions with various personnel. "They are looking for the right combination," one observer shared. "Who can stick with their assignment, set and hold a block?"

This week the only positions that have seen one player focused on the reps are the "left tackle and center spots."

Here is who has seen first-team reps at the various positions:

LG: Levi Brown
LT: Robert Price, Gerald Cadogan
C: A.Q. Shipley
RG: Elijah Robinson, Rich Ohrnberger
RT: Chris Auletta, John Shaw

As one observer said, "Price has to hold his blocks more — the season's practically done, he's a senior, he needs to get it done or step aside. It's ridiculous."

The assessment for Ohrnberger and Shaw was also brutally honest from this observer. "John is as strong as they come. It's useless though if you can't get to your guy and lock on him. He thinks strength will compensate for footwork — it won't. With Ohrnberger he just needs to focus, focus, focus. He gets distracted; you have one job, put your total attention on that single job and forget about worrying about the wideout routes or where the back is running or whatever it is that he's looking at."

Practice Performance

In terms of the unit's performance this week, opinions are split among observers. As one put it, "They look better, particularly Auletta on the end. They are moving the pocket better."

On the other side, "You got me," an observer said. "I think they look good in practice and then we see the [edited] they put out there last week. Talk is cheap and frankly they are going up against a Purdue defensive unit they should be able to more than handle. No excuses, just get it done."

Levi Brown Update

FOS recently learned that Levi Brown actually had surgery during the week leading up to the Minnesota game. He sustained a meniscus injury in his knee and had his knee scoped to repair the damage. This was the basis of the staff's caution in playing him in subsequent games.

Check out our audio file on the front page for more details.

Paterno Riled Up

After repeatedly calling the offensive line "lousy" after the Illinois game, Paterno calmed down a bit at his Tuesday press conference. But observers say he has been as intense as ever in practice and in the Lasch Building.

"It can't be easy working for him this week," one said.

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