Nittany Notes: Defense

Three practices into the spring session, the Nittany Lions put on the pads Monday for the first time this spring. Catch up on the news and notes from practice and how some of the position shifts on defense are panning out.

Monday the Penn State players engaged in their first scheduled contact session, substituting their pads for the shells theyy donned in the opening practices Friday and Saturday. With more contact came more intensity ... and aggression all around.

Dan Connor

"Everyone is antsy to start hitting, which is great. You want these guys revving their engines," one observer shared. "The downside is that some — usually the inexperienced ones — are so focused on getting their energy out that they get sloppy with their play; they loosen up their technique, they overpursue, whatever. It's a good learning experience, though. The coaches were all over the sloppy ones [on Monday]. They learn pretty quick when they have a coach riding them and focused on their play for a bunch of snaps in a row."

Here are some notes Monday's practice:

  • Tony Davis' transition from corner to safety is "coming along." As one observer explained, "He's a very physical player. His doing pretty well on reads. As far as angles go, he's getting there. It's about trusting his instincts more, but he's done pretty well out of the gate." The coaches have Davis working on "holding on" in a hit rather than "just trying to level a guy to take him down."

    Tony Davis

  • A.J. Wallace "looks the part at corner." He is "sharp" and "covers with ease thanks to his speed." Some of the more experienced wideouts have "thrown him off" at times. Wallace is working on "mirroring his assignment — reading their body — which can be tough in tight space." Justin King has been working with him on this aspect of his game. Overall though he "looks like he could be impressive with a little work."

  • Willie Harriott has been running at second team corner behind King. "Willie has the speed — I think he needs the confidence, which comes from practice and play," according to an observer. "He needs to work on his angles when he breaks on a ball — it needs to be more second nature."

  • The consensus on defensive leadership is that Dan Connor playing the primary figure in that role. "He's got a different style than Paul [Posluszny]," another observer said. "Connor gives a good example with his play, but he is more vocal — he's more tough-love and will get on a guy and ride him to get it right." Connor is adjusting "well" to the shift inside. "He's working on polishing his call-outs. He was in this job his freshman year, but it has changed a bit, but he seems to really love it." His added size have "improved his run stopping skills significantly. Engaging a guy like A.Q. [Shipley] or Rich [Ohrnberger] in the middle is easier at 235. And he seems to be carrying the weight well which always has [the coaches] concerned."

    Jared Odrick

  • Jared Odrick's shift from defensive end to defensive tackle has "had its ups an downs" through the early going. Odrick's base, technique and leverage are "suited for the move," however the biggest issue added some size. "He came in at around 285 pounds. To play end he shed some weight and got down just south of 270 to help with his speed," according to one observer. "I'd suspect he'll work to end up at around 290 as his playing weight, so he'll likely add 10-12 pounds this summer. With his speed he good be special at the position."

  • The ends "look strong" with Josh Gaines, Maurice Evans and Aaron Maybin in the mix. Gaines' experience is a "real asset" to the line, seeing action in all 12 games last season and starting in eight of those contests. With Evans he has "impressive speed and very aggressive off the corner." The consensus is that the end spots are in "good shape at this point."

    Maurice Evans

    Other Notes:

  • The intensity level was high on Monday with several "skirmishes" breaking out — "most were just verbal exchanges, but some got physical." Some of the scuffle matchups to date: Shipley vs. Odrick, Connor vs. Rich Ohrnberger, Jerome Hayes vs. Johnnie Troutman, Abe Koroma vs. Austiin Hinton, Gerald Cadogan vs. Maybin and Sean Lee vs. Austin Scott. "It's not a big deal," one observer said. "You want these guys to show life out there and mix it up."

  • The team is expected to continue their pad drills this week. The remaining practice schedule for this week is Wednesday and Friday afternoons and Saturday morning. The team's first scrimmage is expected to be during this weekend's session.

    Stay tuned to for more practice and recruiting reports around Penn State football.


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