Nittany Notes: Winter Sets

With a week of winter conditioning under their belts, many fans have asked for an overview of Penn State's early preparations for Spring Practice. Get a look at what the PSU players are currently going through as they prepare for the Spring sessions.

With Penn State a week into the off-season winter workouts, many fans have been asking what exactly the team does during this winter period, prior to Spring Practice in April. Get an overview of the Nittany Lions' current off-season preparations, which include lifting, running and a variety of drils.

Runnin' Wild

One of the areas the team has been particularly focused on during the first week of winter workouts is overall endurance and conditioning of the units. Players typically run almost every day, which includes some long-distance sets, but focuses on "all-out sprints."

Aside from their standard jog around the practice field, most winter run sessions involve the players running "110" and "300" sets. Aside from the standard 40-yard dash, the players regularly run 110-yard and 300-yard dashes. These are sprints where the players have to a set time based on their position and presumed abilties.

In some cases players will run individually, but in other instances the entire unit will run and share a countdown for several sets. In some runs the players will break up into groups by position like the following:

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

These group breakups are similar to what is used for the Lift For Life competition - matching players based on their size, speed and agility - and on what their positions demand of them.

In this case Group A, typically the faster of the three groups, will have about 54 seconds to sprint the 300-yard distance. Group B will have 56 seconds and Group C will have 65 seconds, for example.

As one practice observer has explained of the set, "Obviously [the players] will never run 300 yards in one shot during a game; but if their bodies can handle 300 consistently, it's a good bet they can handle 20 or 40 easily."

The players are also expected to regularly beat their times, which are periodically "shaved down" to make the runs more challenging and "to get each player to continually push themselves out there."

Liftoff

A major focal point of the off-season winter months is the weight room conditioning. Players have a set schedule where they work various parts of their upper and lower bodies, focusing various sets on arms, shoulders, torso (chest and back), midsection, upper and lower legs. Like their runs they have weight and rep "milestones" which they are expected to meet regularly.

The players have set stations and exercises for each section of the body. For instance, when working the legs they will focus on exercises like leg curls and leg presses.

Much of the conditioning, aside from preparing the players for the coming season, is also used to get build their physical shape for Spring Practice and the Lift For Life competition in July - a mid-off-season measurement point for the team.

Lifting can take place on a weekly basis upwards of five days per week with each day focusing on a different area of a players physique.

For the Drill of It

During particular afternoon sessions the players are focused on a standard set of drills, which test agility, skill, endurance and fundamentals. These drills are "mandatory" as agreed upon and enforced by the team since coaches are unable to participate in these sessions due to NCAA guidelines.

Early on these drills are conducted in shorts, t-shirts and helmets. Shells and pads are not typically added for a few weeks.

Drill 6: Drill 6 allows the skill players to practice passing schemes 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 are typicaly "focused on fundamentals like clean breaks off the line, route-running, creating separation, and working the timing of passes."

In the first week Anthony Morelli, Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin have all had the oppportunity to run Drill 6 with the first team wideouts, which has seen a rotation of Jordan Norwood, Deon Butler, Derrick Williams, Chris Bell and Terrell Golden.

1v1/2v2: The 1v1 and 2v2 drills are basically one-on-one and 2-on-2 sets where lineman are matched up with 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 leverage.

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. One of the sets involves a player surrounded by six to eight of his teammates and he has a "contact pad" (a pad which resembles a shield). The players in the circle randomly "attack" the player in the center, charging him. The player has to anticipate the hit by shifting positions, setting his base and taking the blow.

Agility Drills: The players will also perodically work on agility drills - timed sessions used to test footwork and hand-eye coordination, much in the manner of the old tire run drills. Often the players are required to quickly traverse obstacles to work their agility.

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