Nittany Notes: Power Drills

With Penn State's bowl practice underway and about a quarter of the campus practice sessions complete, get an update on the team's early preparations and drills as it prepares to take on the Volunteers in Tampa.

Practice Schedule

Last week we reviewed the Penn State Bowl Practice Schedule. Here is an overview of the practice schedule Penn State will follow prior to its departure for Florida on Dec.22 and 23:

Week of 11/27: Friday, Saturday
(fundamentals, light workouts)

Week of 12/4: Monday, Friday, Saturday
(moderate contact, unit drills e.g. Drill 6, line matchups)

Week of 12/11: Monday, Wednesday, Saturday
(full contact drills)

Week of 12/18: Monday, Friday, Saturday
(full contact drills)

Finals are Dec. 18 to 21 and commencement is Dec. 22. Keep in mind that the format of each practice can change due the progress or need the team is showing in practice.

Practice Report

With three practices under their belt so far, the Nittany Lions have focused on "light sessions" (e.g. conditioning runs, technique and unit drills) primarily conducted in shorts and T-shirts with no pads in the first two practices with a dramatic shift in Monday's session.

Here is a run down of a variety of drills the units have been working on in the light sessions:

Individual Drills: These are basic drills that are designed to improve a variety of fundamental aspects of each player's individual game. If you have ever watched the pregame warmups, often these types of drills will be used to loosen up the players prior to kickoff.

Conditioning Runs: Designed to enhance endurance and stamina, each player participates in a specific class by position type, broken down like:

Group A: WR, DB, RB
Group B: LB, FB, QB, DE, TE
Group C: OL, DL

These classes run varying distances (e.g. 40 yards, 110 yards, 300 yards) against a set time.

Agility Drills: Designed to test and enhance footwork and speed, there are "two primary types of drills — technique and quickness." These drills are designed to get a player's technique down like "playing on their toes and keeping those feet moving."

These drills involve a variety of setups, including a "two point drill" where a player moves from point A to B at varying distaces at full speed, "working their speed, but more importantly their body control," as one observer explained.

Hand Drills: These are similar drills run for most units with slight variations. For example, the running backs will take handoff after handoff to "just build their comfort with handling the ball and get it to be second-nature to them." Wideouts will take short passes to work on their "hand position and pull-ins."

Defensive backs will work on "pass disruption or interceptions." Defensive linemen and linebackers will practice "getting their hands up into the passing lane."

Unit Individual Drills: Each unit also has its own set of individual drills to work the technique of each position. For example, defensive backs will work their "snap coverage," described as "back-peddles and their transiton into a full stride." Wide receivers will "practice short, sharp routes to get down their reactions and receiving skills." Also, "[Line]backers practice drop-backs and step-ups to help their reads reactions."

Despite what the initial practice schedule said, Monday's session took a "180 shift," with the team adding full pads and full contact drills. As one observer said, "Monday was hell. Every unit was in full pads and the coaches ran every drill you can think of. The practice was packed with next to no down time."

Assignment Drills: These are competitive drills where each player has an opposing assignment to test their skills in a competitive situation.

Drill 6: Drill 6 is a "skeleton drill" that allows the skill players to practice passing schemes and coverage in a 7-on-7 format. It allows the quarterbacks, wideouts and tight ends to work in a variety of offensive looks while matching up against defensive secondary assignments.

These drills work each player's fundamentals, like "getting off the snap, clean cuts on routes, timing, body control and footwork."

Anthony Morelli has been getting significant work in Drill 6 in these early sessions. As one observer described, "Overall he's been working on his comfort level — when he's comfortable he plays significantly better. They have him working on his reads and progressions. They will change up the defensive coverage at times and pull over a double team and see how he reacts. He is watching film to help him get rid of the forced balls."

Daryll Clark has been seeing Drill 6 action with the second team. "D[aryll] is getting better and better. He gaining poise, but he forces balls here and there — he can't forget about his legs. To be fair, Drill 6 is a passing drill, but he needs to make sure he uses his mobility."

The wideouts, namely Deon Butler, Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood, Brendan Perretta and Terrell Golden have been rotated through three- and four-wide sets with Morelli. Freshman Chris Bell has also been rotated into these drills with the first and second teams.

The tight ends — Andrew Quarless, Kevin Darling and Jordan Lyons — have also seen work with Drill 6 to work their receiving skills on various routes.

1v1: The 1v1 drills are basically one-on-one sets where linemen are matched up with opposing assignments and are tested on their ability to engage, shift, roll or pull on the defensive lineman. These drills focus on the offensive linemen's skills around engaging, setting and holding their blocks and on the defensive linemen's ability to "break the block" and "create a surge."

All the linemen on both sides of the ball have been working on these drills regularly in the early goings of practice. The first-team offensive line unit has also seen rotations with Levi Brown, Rich Ohrnberger, A.Q. Shipley, Chris Auletta, Gerald Cadogan, Elijah Robinson and Robert Price.

Read-React: The read-react drills test a player's instincts and "the second nature of their reactions." There are a variety of drills of this nature that various positions can use.

Wideouts and tight ends are tested with "short point passes," quick multiple passes thrown at them in sequence and "whistle drills that have them change direction."

One of the drills for linemen and linebakers is where the player has a "contact pad" (a pad which resembles a shield) and is surrounded by mutiple teammates in a circle. The players in the circle randomly "attack" the player in the center, charging him. The player has to anticipate the hit by shifting his feet, setting his base, maintaining his balance and taking the blow.

Stay tuned to FOS for more practice reports as Penn State prepares for their Outback Bowl clash with Tennessee.

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