TYM: Spring Practice Review

Welcome to Take Your Marks, the occasional series where FightOnState.com staffers Mark Harrington and Mark Brennan discuss and debate topics related to the Penn State football team. In this installment, they tackle general issues as spring practice hits the midway point.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE RECENT OFF-FIELD INCIDENT?

BRENNAN: I get the sense the side of the story we are hearing is being exaggerated to some degree. For instance, if someone were "knocked down and repeatedly kicked in the face," as one witness to the incident purports, wouldn't the alleged victim have sustained life-threatening injuries? Yet we've not heard one word about any such injuries. I've never been kicked in the face by a major-college football player, but I can't imagine anyone walking away from such an attack.

That's not to say the accusers don't have a legitimate beef -- they may or may not. It is only to suggest if one part of the "truth" is being stretched in this case, what other on-record statements feature embellishments? It is good that the police are taking their time with this investigation.

Along those lines, until a credible source implicates anyone in regard to this incident, I don't believe it is fair to speculate about the fate of specific players.

HARRINGTON: What, you can't take boot to the face a few times and just shake it off? The speculation and flat-out guessing we have seen about this situation is really no different from what we witnessed with "Arrowgate" and "Phonegate." That's not to say it is appropriate or even fair to those involved, or not involved for that matter. However, when the facts of this situation come out I don't really expect it will be nearly as bad as many fans have anticipated it will be, with some jumping off a ledge and chalking up the 2007 season.

I am somewhat confident we will see some players reprimanded or even suspended for a period during the season, but I am skeptical that the situation will have a tremendous long-term impact on the team's two-deep situation.

IS THERE A PLAYER WHO STEPPED UP THIS SPRING WHO NEEDED TO STEP UP?

HARRINGTON: A couple come to mind, but I'll have to say Jared Odrick. With Tom McEowen sidelined with a knee injury and the staff having to replace defensive tackles Jay Alford and Ed Johnson, Odrick slid over from end and has made a smooth transition. The coaches want him to add a bit of size to his frame this off-season to get up around 290 pounds or so, but his speed off the snap and general technique have made his pass rush effective so far this spring. "He's well suited for the inside shift," one observer told us. "Add in his attitude and the fact he's a sponge when it comes to whatever [Coach Johnson] tells him and he could be a major weapon inside."


Jared Odrick

BRENNAN: I'll go with left tackle Gerald Cadogan. That is not to say he's going to make people forget NFL-bound Levi Brown. But Cadogan moved over from guard and by all accounts has adjusted well to the new position. While he does not have the starting position locked up, he's handled himself as well as could be expected this spring.

ARE THERE ANY SURPRISES YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT?

BRENNAN: I'm knocking on wood as I write this, because everything we're hearing is that tailback Austin Scott has developed a physical style that belies his well-deserved reputation for being injury prone. One of Scott's weaknesses has been an inability to block effectively. The focus on becoming a stronger back should help in that area. Midway through spring drills, here's hoping he can -- for once -- stay healthy enough to reap the rewards of his hard work once the regular season gets here.


Austin Scott

HARRINGTON: You know I have been concerned with Scott's durability for some time now, but I have to go with defensive tackle Abe Koroma. This is a guy practically no one knew about when he was recruited and now the 300-pound redshirt freshman is running first team and playing consistently well. He is now refining little things, like getting into his stance off the snap. But he sets a good base and knows how to gain leverage with his legs and hands.

JUST FOR FUN, IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE PLAYER'S POSITION, WHAT MOVE WOULD YOU MAKE?

HARRINGTON: I'd shift cornerback Lydell Sargeant over to the offensive backfield. He's improving as a DB, but, unless the injury bug hits, don't expect to see him see significant time while playing behind A.J. Wallace and Justin King. With durability questions about Scott and Rodney Kinlaw, and considering that the only other tailbacks on the roster are redshirt freshmen (Evan Royster, Brent Carter), it sure seems like Sargeant could make a more immediate impact in the offensive backfield instead of the defensive backfield.


Phillip Taylor

BRENNAN: I know they need him in the middle of the defensive line in 2007, especially if McEowen is not back to full strength by the preseason. But I keep wondering how imposing sophomore Phillip Taylor might be at offensive tackle. He is 6-foot-4, 330 pounds and moves well for his size, especially now that he's lost some weight. With Antonio Logan-El out of the picture, I don't see anyone else in the program who projects as a long-term answer for the tackle spot left vacant by Brown.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE STRONGEST AND WEAKEST UNITS ON THE TEAM AT THIS POINT?

BRENNAN: After something of a sophomore slump, the wideouts are poised for a breakout season. I'll go with Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, Derrick Williams and company as the strength of the team. I know those primary pass-catchers still don't bring a lot of size to the table, but figure Chris Bell, Terrell Golden, Brett Brackett and tight end Andrew Quarless will help ease the pressure in that area.

As for a weakness, at this moment I believe there are still a lot of question marks on the offensive line. The entire left side is new. And right tackle John Shaw has been injury prone.


Tony Davis

HARRINGTON: I know most people are pointing to the linebackers, with names like Dan Connor, Sean Lee, Tyrell Sales, Bani Gbadyu and Navorro Bowman stepping up. But I like how the secondary is coming together. With King and Wallace you have two potential shutdown corners. Toss in some combination of physical safeties from a group that includes Anthony Scirrotto, Tony Davis, Travis McBride and Spencer Ridenhour, and this unit could be a special one.

When it comes to weakest unit I have to go with your pick of the offensive line. The unit has some experience with A.Q. Shipley, John Shaw and Rich Ohrnberger, but the line is instrumental to the success of the offense - how they go so goes the offense. They have to protect Morelli, give him time and protection and open up holes for the running back - whoever is back there. It's a tall order that' been of paramount concern for the staff this spring.

HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL SHOW UP FOR THE B-W GAME?

HARRINGTON: I think it will be sunny every year and have been completely wrong the last two. So why not try a bit of reverse psychology? I'll call it overcast with light rain this year, so 46,000 and change decide to brave the elements. Hopefully that prognostication results in sun for the fans who show up.


Nittany Nation fans

BRENNAN: I didn't realize Mother Nature was an FOS subscriber. In that case, listen, lady, Penn State fans are due for some good weather for the spring game. (I'll say 56,876 will show -- give or take a couple.)

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