The Nittany Lions got into more contact drills Saturday with the first scrimmage of spring practice. Described as a "spirited" and "brutal" session by observers, get a rundown of the event and how the team benefited from it.
Saturday marked the sixth practice of the spring and the first contact scrimmage session of the period so far. As one observer said, "[The players] are always excited to get back into game situations. Going full contact, full speed is where it all comes together."
The session gave the recent enrollees — Nick Sukay, Jon Ditto and Ako Poti — a chance to test their skills and see where they stand and where they need to work for the remainder of the spring.
Ako Poti: Poti saw the bulk of his scrimmage reps with third team at guard with some time on the second team and some limited reps at tackle. As one observer said of him, "Ako has good control of his massive frame — he's strong and gets a good initial surge. He sets his block well, but needs to follow through and commit to holding it through the whistle. He has a good foundation, though."
Jon Ditto: "He's big and deceptively strong. He needs to work breaking off the line more, but in the flat he uses his body well and is aggressive — he's not afraid to get in the face of a linebacker. I like his atitude — fearles." Ditto has seen third-team reps at tight end, but "could see some time at wideout — he's not a speed wideout, but that size could be effective in the slot or out of the backfield."
Nick Sukay: Sukay impressed observers with his first scrimmage. Described as "intense," he used the opportunity to bat down some balls and pull one in. "His speed is deceptive, he's got a good closing burst." The biggest areas Sukay will have to continue to focus on are faster decisions on his pursuit angles and "keeping his feet moving." As another observer told us, "You can't plant your feet and wait, you have to keep your momentum up and keep your feet moving."
The defensive front line is "still ahead" of the offensive unit, but "the OL benefited from this session." As one observer explained, "Their overall communication and shift reads are getting better and better. They have to get it to be second nature and eliminate the metal junk, but they are understanding their assignments."
The first-team scrimmage offensive line was RT: John Shaw, RG: Rich Ohrnberger, C: A.Q. Shipley, LG: Elijah Robinson/Lou Eliades, LT: Gerald Cadogan/Dennis Landolt. Robinson is getting aclimated to the guard position, but Eliades "looks more natural and comfortable there. If Lou can nail down his assignments with better consistency he could really shore up that spot."
Anthony Morelli continued to take a vast majority of first-team reps at quarterback. He continued to show comfort with his progression and "move the ball around. As one observer said, "He still looks to [Andrew] Quarless or [Deon] Butler a lot, but he hit a lot of different of targets." The coaches had him work in a good amount of intermediate routes on Saturday, but hit some long outs to Butler and Williams. There was also some limited work across the flat with "slants and inside post patterns."
The standout receivers of the session were Quarless and Jordan Norwood. "Andrew is a mismatch off the line and knows how to tuck the ball in and lower a shoulder." The coaches have him working on his blocking and "engagement foot work." Norwood "made a few circus catches — on one 25-yard out he made a nice one-handed diving snag. The guy catches everything around him, but he is not always aware of the defender on him and has taken some big hits, which the coahces have talked to him about being aware of."
Tailback Rodney Kinlaw has had some good early sessions in practice, showing good speed and vision out of the backfield. "Rodney had a tough time in the scrimmage," one observer said. "He tries to do too much at times and he was knocked back on a handful of runs. He tries to burst outside instead of cutting in and using a blocker — most of these ends are way too fast for that."
Austin Scott had a "solid scrimmage," breaking open some impressive runs. "He had on 25-yard run on the outside that had him against Sean Lee — that was a collision that made my teeth hurt." The coaches have been working with Scott on "committing to a lane" and "reducing his dancing in traffic."
The first-team defensive front seven were DE: Josh Gaines, DT: Abe Koroma, DT: Jared Odrick/Chris Baker, DE: Maurice Evans. Koroma turned a lot of heads, breaking into the backfield and "giving [A.Q.] Shipley and Ohrnberger a handful." Odrick is getting used to the tackle position shift and is adjusting to the "change in assignments." Odrick's "speed is a big asset there — he's out of the blocks quick. He created a good challenge for the line, although he needs to keep his feet spread since he was knocked back a few times."
The linebackers "were hitting like [Mack Trucks]" Saturday, with Sean Lee and Dan Connor colliding with the likes of Austin Scott, Matt Hahn and Andrew Quarless. "The coaches had them pull back a little — the intensity is great, but they need to remember these guys are on their side." Connor had a "good session" inside and is "picking up his calls well.
In terms of the secondary, the corners A.J. Wallace and Justin King were "impressive." Wallace had two interceptions because the quarterbacks "tend to throw away from King." Tony Davis' move to safety has had ups and downs. "He has the speed and is very intense, but he needs to watch the over-pursuits," one observer said. "On two or three snaps he took himself completely out of the play since he tried to be a battering ram on the ball carrier instead of wrapping him up."
Stay tuned to FOS for continued coverage of Penn State football's spring practice progress.