Here are more notes from the Coaches Clinic held this weekend on the University Park campus, featuring the Nittany Lion football squad in action. Get more first-hand accounts of the progression of the team this spring as it prepares for the 2007 season.
Friday afternoon's Penn State
football practice session was expected to be at Beaver Stadium, but was moved inside to Holuba Hall due to overcast skies and heavy wind. Despite the indoor work, the team took on some scrimmage drills to show the estimated crowd of 700 coaches in attendance how they are looking so far this spring.
There are so many terrific tidbits of information coming out of the clinic, we are offering a second report on Friday's action. Our thought is fans can never get too much of a good thing.
Here were the primary starters for the Friday practice session on both sides of the ball:
RT: Dennis Landolt
RG: John Shaw
C: A.Q. Shipley
LG: Lou Eliades
LT: Gerald Cadogan
TE: Andrew Quarless
QB: Anthony Morelli
RB: Austin Scott
WR: Derrick Williams
WR: Deon Butler
WR: Jordan Norwood
DE: Aaron Maybin
DT: Abe Koroma
DT: Phillip Taylor
DE: Maurice Evans
OLB: Navorro Bowman
MLB: Dan Connor
OLB: Sean Lee
CB: Justin King
SS: Anthony Scirrotto
FS: Tony Davis
CB: Lydell Sargeant
News and Notes
Observers describe the team as "athletic all around," "not half bad" and "young and very talented." Sounds like they've been hanging around Joe Paterno a little too much.
Sophomore receiver Chris Bell was the "star of the practice" Friday, according to one observer. He made "three tough catches in a row on bad balls by backup QBs." On one slant, he grabbed the ball just before being hammered by linebacker Jerome Hayes and Tyrell Sales. On another, he was hit hard by cornerback A.J. Wallace. The two players got into a bit of "a scrap," but Bell showed maturity in walking away even as Wallace continued to bark at him.
Another observer compared Bell to a "young Bryant Johnson" and said he "looked great" in drills. We're guessing this observer forgot that Johnson struggled early in his PSU career and meant the comparison as a compliment.
Austin Scott "found his goove" on Friday and is described as "fast and decisive." He "hit holes hard and quick." As one observer said, "He won't knock you over, but he will break some tackles." He broke a few 20-plus yard runs Friday in the practice session.
Another report on Scott indicated that he is "carrying his weight well. I'm not sure if he's 220 pounds, but he looks good." This observer described Scott as "a physical runner with good quickness. He is running up inside very well."
Redshirt freshman running back Evan Royster is making a strong push to be Scott's backup. He broke at least one long run Friday, and displayed good "acceleration and escapeability." We know, escapeability is not a word, but you get the picture.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Aaron Maybin played out of a three-point stance and set up off the line at times "to get an angle for his rush." He is taller than Tim Shaw and has similar speed and is about 238 pounds. He's quick when he drops into coverage. The staff had him stepping up and dropping into coverage a lot in Friday's session. "His height should make him more effective than Shaw was at end," one observer opined.
Another observer's take on Maybin is that he is "very quick off the end. He's tall and lean." This observer questioned reports that Maybin is tipping the scales at nearly 250 pounds.
Redshirt freshman receiver Brett Brackett's size is "impressive," although he "needs to play faster." He "creates an instant mismatch in most sets." Brackett played exclusively in the slot at wide receiver on Friday and saw no time at the flex tight end as some have previously predicted.
More on Brackett: Though he checks in at a legit 6-foot-6 and is in his first year of playing WR full time after moving from quarterback, observers were wowed by his hands. "They threw some low balls at him, and he went down and got 'em."
Receivers coach Mike McQueary was running "gun drills" where he would "rifle the ball" at the wideouts and "they were catching them," but "McQueary "still has an arm." But we checked and he is out of eligibility.
Derrick Williams is described as "fast and fit." He "looks like he did as a freshman." Williams was aggressive on his routes and pulled in some "bullets" from McQueary in the gun drill. We think this observer is a member of the NRA.
Brendan Perretta, who has played receiver for most of his career, is at cornerback now, although his height (5-7)"seems to put him at a significant disadvantage with the bigger wideouts." We promise to write at least one positive thing about the much-maligned senior before he graduates.
The defense practiced a good amount of zone blitzing Friday, illustrating different schemes like bringing in a safety or linebacker or a "full package." There were a lot disguised sets as well.
Grayshirt freshman defensive end Eric Latimore is raw, but looks athletic. His size and speed are "impressive" and he "could really be a weapon in a year or two," as one observer shared. Another observer agreed. "He has a great frame, but I think he's a year away."
John Shaw "looks much more comfortable with the shift from tackle to guard." In fact, on one snap he "put Jared Odrick on his back." He handles the rush well "thanks to his sheer strength."
Another observer was more effusive in his praise of Shaw's move to guard from tackle. "He is a beast at guard. He is physical enough not to get overpowered yet quick enough to keep defensive linemen from getting around him in drills."
Speaking of Odrick, the sophomore saw most of his reps on Friday with the second-team defensive line at tackle. He has been splitting first-team reps with Phillip Taylor, who is described as a "future all-Big Ten candidate."
Observers were pleasantly surprised to see redshirt freshman defensive tackle Tom McEowen doing some light running at practice. McEowen is recovering from a torn ACL sustained in winter conditioning. A source close to the program said the staff expects him to be ready to contribute in the fall.
The offense line and defensive line were "pretty even" for most of the practice. One observer explained, "The offensive line got knocked back at times, particularly in the middle — the DTs are monsters — but they opened up some holes and pushed the D-line around when they pulled it together and worked as a unit."
Though Eliades was running first team at guard on the offensive line, most expect returning starter Rich Ohrnberger to be there when the season begins (if not sooner). With Ohrnberger and Shaw at guard, and A.Q. Shipley at center, "it looks like they will have the type of physical interior they haven't hand in a while."
Other defensive tackles who received comments were Ollie Ogbu and Chris Baker. Both are "powerful and quick, but need to work on their general technique."
Another observers pointed out that Taylor, Abe Koroma and Ogbu give Penn State three big, physical tackles who can get the job done in short-yardage or goal-line situations. "They are three guys who won't get knocked off the ball."
Redshirt freshman Pat Devlin was running fourth-team QB behind Paul Cianciolo. He needs to work on the accuracy of his deep balls.
People like what they see of Landolt at tackle, but, as one observer said, "he needs to add some size." Landolt is listed at 294 pounds on PSU's latest roster.
Grayshirt freshman Johnnie Troutman is running second team at left tackle. One observer feels he "may be a year away" from making an impact, "but he does not look like a freshman in the body."
After making the move from cornerback to safety, Tony Davis is having a strong spring. "He'll be an improvement in pass coverage," an observer said. Most agree he must continue to improve his run support, though.
Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for more exclusive reports on Penn State's spring practice, recruiting and more.